After a few strange but interesting days in Turkmenistan. We set out today for the 391 km to Bukhara Uzbekistan. This is one of the oldest inhabited cities in central Asia.
It was 32 when we left the city at 9 am and we finally arrived to the border at 1. The first stop before leaving Mary was to gas up so we would have no issues with fuel and not having local cash in Uzbek.
More camels by the herd!
Lots of KM of NOTHING! Except maybe one tiny town where we could get shade for a break and of course camels.
The trucks do some serious damage to the roads.
We did have a few Manat left from the guys score at the bazaar so we stopped in Turkmenabat for some really nice chicken stew. The owner gave us a break on the price or 42 Manat as we only had 32 after buying gas twice today. We offered him USD and he still said no it’s OK.
About 5 km from the border we were pulled over for a passport check (1). We arrived to the end of the M37 in Turkmenistan and there is a chain blocking the way. The officer comes out and wants to check all the passports (2) and then he lets us in the gate were there is another officer who checks and records the passports (3). You then drive about 300 meters to another check point where the officer asks for the passports sand then checks your ID with sunglasses off please (4). You then drive another 350 meters and park in the customs area. You have to go to the left or entry side since the right is a disaster and under construction. There are a few trucks here, but its basically deserted otherwise. We are directed into the office on the exit side and an officer asks for the TVIP papers. You then go into the customs room and there are several officers that look about 16 behind the desk. One of them asks for the passports (5) and registration. From here you proceed to passport control for an exit stamp (6) and they check your finger prints and facial scan. Now back out to the bike for customs check. They ask again for the passports (7) and the declaration papers. The kids inside did not do this and so one of the senior officers takes the passports back in (8) and returns with them and new declaration forms. They asked to look into a few of the pieces of luggage and asked if we had any guns, weapons, or drugs. We were finally allowed to leave the customs area. You ride about 200 meters to another check point and they asked for the passports again (9). Nine passport check and this is just to get out of the country. All this took just over an hour.
Now you ride another 300 meters up to a gate locked with a chain and pad lock. There seems to be several large trucks parked on the other side. An Officer came out to check the passports (1) and then told us to go in the out gate and park by the first building. Here the “doctor” who said he was an epidemiologist and he wanted to see the passports (2). He then asks if you have any illness and then points a non contact infrared thermometer at your forehead and tells you if it is normal. Both Dan and Trevor were over normal of 37.0, but he said they were ok. I measured only 37 despite wearing all my gear and sweating. He insisted i was hyperthermic and kept repeating it. i took off my jacket and cooled down and then it was 36.6 and he let me go.
In the next room an officer records your passport (3). From here you drive 250 meters to park beside the customs office. Here you go in and present the passports (4) and vehicle registration. Another officer came out to give us declarations to fill in in duplicate (one for exit) . We then went into his office to of course have the passport checked (5) and he filled out the TVIP paperwork. This we had to sign. He then asked us to bring in all the luggage for x ray. Orvar went back to clarify and after some discussion he said ok just the big bags. That done he then wanted to see all the medication we had. He specifically wanted to know if we had narcotics or sleeping pills. He also asked if we had weapon or guns. After all this we are then directed to the exit gate and here we got one more passport (6) and ID check. he even made Trevor take off his helmet.
Now we are very thirsty and hot and have no money, but as usual there are 6-7 money guys hovering outside. The official rate is 3900 :1 USD. Trevor was given 7000:1. There are 100 km of pretty much nothing to go. The road has stretches of 200-400 m that are good and then it goes to mostly holes. We finally found a small shop after 60 km to get water.
Arriving to the city of Bukhara Orvar was leading and his GPS said go straight when ours said turn left. We followed him and ended up at the end of a road blocked by a concrete barrier. The local ladies sitting there said to just go thru straight so we did. We could just get by down the steep sides and then found ourselves in the pedestrian zone.
We could also just squeeze by the posts on the otherwise and found ourselves 200 m from our hotel.
We hid out inside until after 7, but it was still 32 degrees then. We made our way to the centre, which has a large pond surrounded by restaurants and shops. It is very touristic here but we have not seen that in a while. There are lots of local tourists and their families here on holidays. For money exchange here the hotel’s rate is 8000:1 and the highest we were offered by the souvenir vendors was 8700:1. Can you say out of control inflation.
This is fairly small city and most of the sites can be seen by walking. We had a map printed at the desk and did a bit of a walking tour. Unlike Iran most of the old buildings are free to access.
An exception to the entry fee is the museum in the old fortress, but this was only 38000 for 4 of us. They have a nice collection of artifacts, some habitat and agriculture dioramas, and lots of historical photos.
By 2 it was time to sit in the shade by the pond in the spray of the fountains for some lunch.
Now we were again hiding in the air con until after 8 when we ventured out for dinner. The food here is much better that we had in Iran and we even had really amazing Kebab. For 4 people with beer it is about 20$ US.
We had filled up with gas before leaving Turkmenistan and so we had plenty of fuel to make it to Samarkand. We had however not seen a benzene station either. We should have guessed there was an issue when the money changers asked us if we wanted benzene.
Today we have 287 km north east to Samarkand another of the oldest cities in central Asia. The road is pretty good, but some sections are a disaster. The drivers here however and for the most part normal and courteous. We did get a lot of honks and waves. There are plenty of fuel stations, but none sell benzene. 90% of the vehicles here run on methane or propane. If there is any benzene for sale at a station they line up for hours and then drain the tank. Most of it is smuggled from Tajikistan.
We stopped about half way to buy a cold drink and parked in the shade outside a house. Within 2 minutes the grandmother was out talking to me in Uzbek. She called to her grandson, who spoke a few words of English. Her granddaughter the arrived who spoke English well. They offered us fresh fruits and to visit their hoe for shade. They wanted us to stay so they could prepare the Uzbek national dish for us Pilaf , but that may take hours and its 38 degrees.
The only other strange thing was a particular car with 4 shady looking men in it who followed us for at least 150 km. I guess they though they were being covert, but we all saw them. When we took a last minute left at a fork in the road they went right, but obviously turned around and continued to stock us. They followed us an stopped at a distance when we stopped. This included at the hotel. The one we had on our itinerary turned out not to be where we were booked. We were in another hotel of this group 1.5 km away. This was good since it had secure parking and the other did not. They followed us to the second hotel too. Very creepy. After parking i went out front and they were gone for now!
There were as I said a ton of service stations in the 287 km, but we never saw an open one that had benzene. We had enough gas to go all the way, but we gave some to Trevor from the jerry can to top us in the last 6o km.
The hotel has as usual poor internet, but great air con. I was totally overheated and a cold shower and a rest fixed that. The guys went down the street and had a kg of bbq chicken, 3 big beers, and 6 vodka shots for 9$!
This evening we walked 400 m to the Registron complex. This a 600 year old site in the centre of the city. This city has excavations that show human activity that is 40,000 years old. It was sacked by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE and Genghis Khan in 1220.
Today we went for a walk to see some of the other main sights of the city, but retreated at 1 because of the heat. We ventured out for another chicken feed at 6 and then did complete the walking circuit. We ran into several English students we had met last night and again had some practice time with them.
No sign of our stockers all day….Now the issues we need to deal with is we need benzene and to exchange some cash. Luckily the manager of the hotel can call a guy!! 1030 pm he shows up with his trunk full of bottles of benzene and a stack of bills for exchange. That was easy.
It is 34 degrees already at 9 am when we set out north 308 km to Tashkent. It is very humid today as well.
We did stop once for drink and once at a methane station to hide in their shade.
About 75 km from the capital Dan spotted the guys in the grey car again. He dropped back to them and made it obvious to them that we knew they were following us and then when they passed me I made it obvious that I was filming their plate and faces. They then sped off. We will see…
This must be the most civilized ride into a capital city every. There was gas for sale on the side of the road on the outskirts. The traffic is not bad and they follow the rules of the road here. We have found disrespect for the planet and other humans goes together. So places covered in garbage have terrible drivers. This country is CLEAN! We arrived to the hotel and it is 42 degrees.
We did not venture out until after 7. We walked in to the city centre, but the entire area of the independence square and parliament was blocked off at every entrance by police. You could not get in to the park at all. We made our way down to Amir Square to find some dinner.
Today we walked 3 km in the heat to the main Bazaar, which is fruits and veg and a lot of cheap stuff from China. Luckily we could get the metro back.
Can you say money changer?!
Canadian Chicken Wieners???
We chilled out in the hotel until 3 when we were to meet the travel agent Aliya at Caravanistan and to whom we had shipped the speed sensor. She was kind enough to drop it off.
A few days ago we noted what looked like a small nail in the rear of the 650 it was below the tread and we decided not to pull it out until we were in spot for a while. Today was the day and it was actually a huge nail. We tried the mushroom plugs we have, but they did not work at all. I wonder if they are damaged from the high heat? Luckily Orvar has some normal rope plugs and that worked great. First flat in 5 years.
Tonight we took a taxi to “Caravan” a traditional Uzbek restaurant for some Pilaf.