Creswick to London » Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

Written by Jess Dan. Posted in Georgia, Uzbekistan

We spent the last of our som coins wisely in the morning that we crossed to Uzbekistan – on two bricks of ice cream. We then swapped all of our notes over – we were carrying a lot of cash at this point as we had just found an ATM and were surprised to be given a massive wad of cash in return, we had exchanged for 643,000 uzbek som, which came entirely in 1000 and 500 som notes (worth around 50c and 25c each). Our panniers bulging we decided to front the police at the border and attempt to conceal that cash so as to avoid being bribed. We were successful and only had to open a few panniers for inspection in the end. To give you an indicator of how backwards the government policies are in Uzbekistan – it was important to cross into Uzbekistan and declare more money than we were going to leave with. If we left with more money than we came in with, we would be up for a $200USD fine.

Uzbekistan is full of rules like this, they keep a close and suspicious eye on foreigners. You must register at a hotel every night. You must show your passport every 50km of road t the police check point (they then decide that they want to photocopy the passports, but realise they don’t have a photocopier, so have to drive a car to the next town, photocopy and return an hour later). We broke most of the rules regarding accommodation, but we did register every 72 hours as per one set of instructions we said, but others had said register every night. We were invited into the home of a lemonade store man and stayed our first night with them. It was brilliant. We played frisbee with ten kids ate dinner, and then went for coffee and teas and shyshlik and icecream that evening in a borrowed chevrolet just for the occassion. We saw messi kick the winner of the world cup match that night, much to the despair of the Uzbeks cheering on nearby Iran.

When we haven’t been invited to stay with families, accommodation has been expensive. We have forked out for two proper nights to get registered, and haggled down to 80000 som for each of those nights. We also paid 10000 soms another night for a room in a restaurant so that we could watch aus v spain that night, but that night didn’t provide us with another elusive and expensive price registration slip.

We rode through and stayed in kokand, the only town in the world where every cyclist seems to have a tri bar. Weird. Kokand is a pretty old town with no internet, well there was one spot, but the power was out, so no internet. We had a nice stay there, but soon departed and found us making the final ascent towards Tashkent, a 50km climb up a valley.

We battled up, our legs are spent. after the aussies went down 3-0 the night before to the spanish, of course the first people we run into for the day are two spaniards. Thankfully they hadn’t seen the game! we hid ourselves off the road for the night, unsure of the consequences of getting caught camping in Uzbekistan, and rode on to Almalyk the following day. We stayed in an ancient old soviet building with a massive hallway and we found ourselves at the end in a room with no fan, air con or television. The toilet leaked, the sink leaked. However its saving grace was a plugless bath. We fashioned some plastic and the ashtray into a plug and both had a relax in there. Good for the legs. We were in the bus station part of town so had a very negative impressions – it was ugly – until we explored in the morning to find some internet. We left town around 3pm and found another hiding spot (I mean camp spot) in a field of sunflowers for the following night, before finishing off the ride to Tashkent.

We made it to town early the following morning and arrived at Ali Travel, a hostel. Well, we were soon to be told, not a hostel. But we could stay there for a price, and have a room for whatever price we were willing to pay. We could also have as much vodka with Ali as we pleased. But we couldn’t be given a registration slip. We decided to settle in anyway. After a little probing it turned out that Ali had been closed down by the government for hosting “spies” at his hostel. He agreed that he had, but was still upset by it all. He told us of a place we could fetch a registration slip for 28000 soms at train station. So we stayed with Ali, and went to the train station the following day. Ali gave us a tour of the town in his Damas van before taking us to his other house on the fringe of town to swim, eat and drink. Ali likes a drink, well two drinks, and they are vodka and beer. He pours them into small bowls, drains the vodka a couple of shots at least, then sips the beer. “I drink beer and vodka, if have one without other, don’t enjoy. You have more now”. The bottle of vodka was finished by 11am and we were a little worse for wear. We had a nap and a knock on the door woke us to reveal that Ali’s kind driver had sourced two bike boxes for us and brought them back to the hostel for us to pack. Instead we went back to sleep and saved the dreaded task of packing the bikes for the following day.

In the morning everything worked out and the bikes were packed eventually, making the small boxes bulge. We bought some packing tape and did lap after lap around the box to hold it together. We were dropped at the airport early on Sunday morning and met the Air Astana crew who wanted a sizable fee to take the bikes on to the plane for us. We felt a little swindled paying an extra $220 USD for the bikes to make the journey, but we boarded the plane back to Almaty to meet our connection to Tbilisi. A rather uneventful trip although Jess still managed to produce a fan club of about 10 young Russian speaking girls while on the plane. At the other end the bikes met us with no problems, and we decided to sleep on the floor of the Tbilisi airport to save a little money. We had a very uncomfortable sleep on the floor and chairs, when we could see a couple other people sleeping on the fake turf under the elevators. Unfortunately we had way to much baggage to get up there so had to be content where we were. At least we weren’t disturbed by the security who stayed true to the internal airport advertising “Tbilisi airport loves you”. The money we saved on accommodation was rapidly turned into a burger king breakfast to inspire the destruction of the cardboard boxes and re-creation of our bicycles. After a chat with a photographer from National Geographic we left the airport in search of a better place to sleep. We found ourselves soon at the Nest Hostel and promptly had a nap in our 12 bed dorm before venturing out into the city.

Tbilisi is a beautiful old city built in a European style, the first city of our trip to look this way. We found a bike shop ten km out of town to fit our mudguards back on (still not carrying a spanner) and fiddle with a few bits and pieces, he didn’t charge us. We rode on out of town and found a camp spot for the night to save on accom. The we returned to the nest hostel and greeted our buddy Ewan that night. Ewan has flown over to ride with us for three weeks – Tbilisi to Samsun, Turkey – and he came bearing many gifts. We are so glad to have a friend from home come to meet us and we are looking forward to the ride out of town today to experience rural Georgia and the Black Sea.

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Comments (1)

  • John Berry

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    Hi Dan, Jess (and Ewan)

    Met you on the 14th July near Eydesil, Turkey, after you had already stopped to talk to a German couple. I was eastbound for Tbilisi.

    Just to let you know that I have read and enjoyed some of your blog, and to hope that you are now nearing “civilisation” (not sure that Istanbul counts!)

    I reached Tbilisi on the 19th July after a final dash. Spent a couple of days there, and then my friends from Telavi, Georgia, picked me up and I spent a gloriousweek with them before flying back to Sweden on the 28th July. I;ll be here until Aug. 12th, when I fly back to texas – I’ve got one of those tickets that you can’t change without a stiff penalty. I’m using the time to put all the records of my trip in order and to contact all the people I said I would. Hopefully, I’ll get some blogs posts done too – they should eventually appear on my web site, http://www.johnlberry.com (that’s an “L” in the middle of the URL.).

    Happy trails – I’ll be checking on you.

    John

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