Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Day 39

There was a buzz of excitement amongst the group as we got ready to ride the start of the Pamir Highway today, also known as the ‘Roof of the World’ as it was once claimed to be the second highest altitude international highway of the world. But I am not sure if this still stands true today.

The overcast of clouds meant that the temperatures kept cooler than expected but the mist that was hanging around meant that any photos taken appeared duller than I would have liked.  A short wet spell meant that the TKC 80 tyres struggled for grip, especially on the concrete surface sections but grip was restored once it dried out 30 minutes later.

On one of our rest stops I noticed a sign warning that the area was mined showing the image of people with their lower legs blown off.

However, the next hazard was the guns being pointed at us, laser guns in the hands of the local cops who were pulling people over left right and centre for allegedly speeding., some paid fines and some didn’t. Luckily for me, I avoided getting stopped at all, but that is not to say I wasn’t speeding, just that I was being good in the right places.

There was a few military checkpoints on the road today and luckily for us when we arrived at one particular one the support van was not far behind so the fixer jumped out and sorted it out without us all having to give our passports over. This was just as well because they were about to close the mountain pass so we all got going again quickly. However, a few miles down the road the road works had already temporarily closed the road so there was a backlog of trucks and the rest of our group already waiting there.
Once we were given the go ahead to get going again the bikes got to the front and rode through the gravel surface between the plant machinery. The problem was that to our right was some great scenery, so I made a few rapid photo stops, not sure whether I was supposed to be stopping or not in the road works area, but the views needed capturing so I did anyway. Once clear of the road works my stops became more frequent and longer, taking the time to soak up the atmosphere of this amazing place.

When we got to our destination the local garage was serving fuel by the bucket, with 10 litres in each bucket load, before the man went back into the office to refill the bucket from the dustbin full of the 92 grade petrol.  The office raked of fuel and it certainly wasn’t the place to light up a cigarette!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Day 37-38

It was an early start to the day in order to get to the border crossing where it was expected to be another slow exercise. The Uzbekistan border guards searched our bikes and luggage probably more thoroughly than when we entered. They were really only interested in two types of thing, drugs/medicines and photos/videos. They first found some multi-vitamins that I had stored in a plastic bag and this raised concern until I got the small bottle of them out and showed them the label and that they were the same thing. Then I had to power up my laptop so they could check that, but I just showed him the standard ‘Pictures’ and ‘Videos’ folders in the user profile which were empty as I store them elsewhere so he was somewhat disappointed. He kept saying videos of sex and I said, ‘sorry, no porn on here’! He then wanted to see my iPhone and spent an age just looking all through the photos asking me where I took this one and that one, so I just said some random country names we had travelled through because I figured he probably didn’t know anyway. That was still not good enough for him so he then asked where are the pictures of home, which I showed him some photos of my bike on my driveway at home, after a few more minutes being frustrated that he didn’t find anything he wanted to see, he handed my phone back and said close it all up and go.

I was glad to leave Uzbekistan, of all the countries we have visited on this trip, this was my least favourite. I was glad to have experienced it but wouldn’t choose to come back again.

Our border process still wasn’t over as we still had to enter Tajikistan and after going through passport control they then had some sort of power cut so could enter any vehicle data into the computers and we had to wait with our bikes outside in the scorching temperature. So Pete got his clippers out and offered haircuts to anyone interested and I took him up on the offer and had a very short back and sides haircut.
When we left the border we rode in convoy to the hotel with our fixer in the support van up front due to us all having only a temporary import certificate for all of our bikes. It was not a long ride, but it was hot and I struggled to keep awake but being in a convoy I couldn’t really pull over so I just battled the urge my eye lids had on closing to maintain a limited amount of vision in order to get to the hotel. The hotel was very nice and we were told to make the most of it as we won’t be seeing these sort of facilities over the next week.

On our rest day was spent having a lazy start to the day with a fantastic buffet breakfast, followed by a trip to the local supermarket before taking the bikes to the local fuel station for a treat of 95 grade fuel and a thorough bike wash where the chap washed my bike about 3 or 4 times, as after each wash I would look round and point out a place he either missed or didn’t clean to my required standard, and each time he seemed to enjoy cleaning more and more just wanting to make me happy.

Later that evening we learnt that we had all paid twice the local rate for cleaning cars but that still only equated to £5 and if it made their day by seeing some different people then made a bit more than usual  then I think it was well worth it. And as Kevin puts it, ‘You are helping the local economy’.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Day 36

The first photo stop of the day was whilst heading up towards the mountain pass where I stopped to take some photos of an unusual rock formation, which had graffiti all over it but made for a good photo none the less.

On the way to the next stop, one kid through a half empty bottle of water at me and he was quite a shot as it bounced off my pannier. I couldn’t quite make out whether he threw it to be funny but by the there was no smile on his face, so I guessed he was just being mischievous!

The next stop towards the top of the pass was at a small market, chance to take a few more photos before moving on.
There was a few other photos taken along the way today which was just as well as there was not much to see here in Termez.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Day 35

Due to the festival in Bukhara today, the police had some of the roads blocked off which scuppered my plans of an early get away before evryone else as when I drew out of the hotel parking I was stopped by a policeman and told that we must all leave together under a police escort. Well at least that meant I wouldn’t get lost!

My bike had more of a spring in its step today, this must have been due to Dom and Pete giving it some TLC by changing the oil & filter yesterday and put on the TKC80 tyres. Bring on the dirt !!

It was only about 170 miles to our next destination of Samarkland and I arrived there just before noon so avoided riding in the heat of the day. There was no photo stops on the journey today but I did have a walk around and took a few photos for you to enjoy...


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Day 33 - 34

The road out of Khiva was much better than the road we took going in, and what’s more, we eventually got onto a concrete 2 lane road in excellent condition which lasted for mile after mile cutting its way through the desert terrain. There was little point on photos as it all looked pretty much the same with the exception of a bit of water in a few places, great to look at but I didn’t think it would look so good in a photo so didn’t stop. But all good things come to an end as did this lovely road  and quite abruptly too, which all of a sudden turned into a normal cracked, pot holed and rutted surface and so the game of dodgems began once again. The desert road is often long straight and boring so not may photos.

Fuel was scarce, well petrol anyway, most stations seem to sell LPG gas (either Methane or Propane) as they have plenty of that here, but hardly any of them had petrol in stock, well not that they would admit too. I eventually came across one small station that advertised it had some and indeed it did, but it just seemed a bit a bit dodgy to me. You had to say how many litres you wanted, pay an over the odds price for it and then they dispensed it out of a pump that didn’t recorded how much was being put in and you just had to take their word for it. But I paid for 15 litres as I was extremely low and did not want to run out in this heat of high thirty’s. However, many of the group didn’t get fuel and arrived at the hotel close to empty.
At the evenings group meeting we learnt that petrol was available on the black market and that our fixer was going to arrange for the petrol to be delivered to us at the hotel during the rest day. So what is all this about, some sort of corruption scheme going on?
On the rest day we had walking tour of yet another interesting Silk Road City of Uzbekistan, and like Khiva, the Bukhara old town is all listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, only larger with more mosques and madrassas to see…