Tag Archives: Cycling Uzbekistan

Day 99 : Last stop in Uzbekistan : Andijon!

8 Aug

It has been a bit emotional to say goodbye to the family in the morning, but we had to go : Kyrgysztan was waiting for us! The next town was Andijon, a city that is sadly famous for the fights that happened here in 2005. Surprisingly, the road was going down and was in a good shape as well. We quickly went through our 120 km to get there, stopped for fish (!!!) next to a river, and did several breaks to eat nectarins, peaches and apples, which are incredibly tasty.

Nice spot on the way to Andijon

Fresh and tasty

Best fruits ever

In order to get a last stamp in Andijon, we stopped in a hotel that had been recommended to us (Villa Elegant), and were delighted to see it was nice and big, with even a clean swimming pool and ping pong table -Incredible-. We met 2 french cyclotourists who were there for the same reason, and went to eat with our last uzbek shashliks in a nearby restaurant.

Good reward after 10 days cycling

Days 95, 96 : …and back to the mountains

8 Aug

From Angren, we entered a more hilly area. We rode beside the river Sirdaria, that replaces now the Aral sea to irrigate the coton fields. We stopped in the afternoon on a beautiful spot on the river, where we could swim, eat and rest, on our own, without having to socialize with uzbeks as there were none. Uzbeks are so friendly it gets tiring to talk to all of them, so we enjoyed a lot a bit of quietness.

The second part of the day had been the most physical one in a long time, with a 15 km ride to climb up a mountain to enter the Fergana valley. It was pretty steep and took us around 2 hours and a half to get to the top, where we had stunning sunset over the valley. There are plenty of soldiers in the area, as this region has been a rebel one over the years. Plus, we are very close to Tadjikistan, where fights had recently begun. We therefore had to show our passports many times during the day, which slowed us down, and couldn’t take pictures everywhere. Still, it was a pretty nice area.

We arrrived in the night on the other side of the mountain, and cycled downhill in the dark among the truck drivers. We stopped in another Chaikhana, asked if could sleep there, and set up our tents beside the restaurant, where the workers (all kids) where sleeping as well, in rather rusty conditions.

Days 91 – 94 : 400km in flat lands with irrigation pipes.

8 Aug

Our first stop was Jizzak, where lived the guy -found on Couchsurfing- who wrote our invitation letter to get our visa. We thought it’d be nice to visit him and greet him in person. We cycled on a beautiful new road, under the heat, and arrived in the area in the evening. Jizzak is surrounded by mountains ; the first ones we see after more than 2000 km on the flat. Our (new) friend is working for Ucell, an uzbek mobile operator, and it was his birthday. We joined his birthday dinner with his colleagues in a restaurant, had great food and shared vodka-it’s been a long time- with Ucell local manager.

Birthday party

We packed the next morning, went to visit his office, and got new contacts from the Ucell branche of our next destination, Guliston. The landscapes got flat again, and the highlights of the day were the refreshing stops in the irrigation pipelines of the coton fields (the ones that emptied the Aral sea), where the locals take a swim. Not too sure how clean the water is, but it is impossible to refuse a swim when it is so hot outside. In the evening, we met our contact from Ucell, who arranged us a room in a hotel, and who came with us to eat in a nice restaurant (again :).

The 3rd day of ride wasn’t much different than the previous one. We broke a new record in the morning : 3 flat tires in 15km. We fixed them in a village and got obliged by 2 old men to eat a lot of watermelon. We stopped in the afternoon in another irrigation river, swam in there, played with the many kids who were  cooling down, and even rode a donkey :). In the evening, we ate and slept in a Chaikhana, as the owners were happy to let us stay there for the night.

Tire cleaning

The beast

New bike

Another Ucell buddy

Uzbekistan has a strange rule for foreigners, who are supposed to register themselves and get an official stamp at least each 3 days, so the government can trace where you are. As we are cycling and do not really fit in those policies, it has been an effort for us to get those proofs, and tried to find hotels with official stamps when we could, which wasnt easy. The next day, in Angren, we slept in a ‘hotel’ to get a stamp. It was an old soviet, dirty flat infected by mosquitos, where we had to set up to the tent in the living room to avoid the bites. In the morning, an army of them was waiting for us to wake up on the net of the tent. Trying to fight was useless and we prefered to surrender, and leave this place as soon as we could.

Arriving in Agren

Camping in the hotel

Days 89, 90 : Shade in Samarkand

8 Aug

We stayed 2 days and a half in Samarkand, one of the most beautiful cities of central asia that has a packed history with tadjik and persian influences. The most stunning site we saw is the Registon with its mausoleums and mosques, which survived both Genghis Khan and several earthquackes over the years.

We stayed in a nice B&B in the old town, and took time to relax and rest in the garden, surrounded by peached, apricots, apples and grapes. We met there many travellers, including 2 belgians ; the first ones we’ve seen in 3 months! It was pleasant to talk about fricadelles and share the pride of having won a medal in the Olympics 🙂

Beside resting in the shade, we got invited by the neighborood community of the neighborood for a ramadan dinner, paid a visit to our friends’ house for lunch and tasted some more of the  uzbek hospitality, which reminds us of the the georgian one. We just have been unlucky when we went to a shop to print pictures for our friends and got a virus on Nico s SD card and had to shoot the screen with another camera (that s why the pix look that vintage).

Staying in Samarcand was very pleasant and we could easily have stayed much longer in the city; however we were slightly in a rush as we needed to cycle 800 km in about 10 days…so we packed our gear and got back on the road.

Days 87, 88, 89 : Commuting in the desert

8 Aug

We got delayed for around 20 days during the trip, and when we arrived at the uzbek border, our visa was only valid for 13 days, which made it impossible for us to cycle the whole thing.  We therefore had to take a train from Beyneu (Kazakhstan), cross the uzbek part of the desert for 600 km, then take a bus for another 700 km and reach Samarkand, where we’d start cycling.

Putting the bikes in the train and bus was cheap and easy. Uzbek people are incredibly welcoming and easy going, and so were train controllers, bus drivers, soldiers and policeman we met during the journey. We were treated as VIP’s in the train, got seated next to the controller, a nice and funny guy who offered us juicy watermelon, tea, and even beer!

Tea with the kids

An uzbek family with 3 kids was doing the same journey, and quickly adopted us for the whole trip. Nice introduction to the uzbek welcoming culture! There are no banks nor ATM’s in Uzbekistan, and our adopting mother was also a banker. She could exchange some of our dollars at a good rate, and provided us with huge amounts of notes -uzbek money takes a lot of volume!!-.

Half a kilo of Uzbek Sums

The train ride has been comfortable ; the journey in the bus a bit less. It was overcrowded, very hot, and the road was terrible for a good portion of it, as there was no asphalt. Many people got sick because of the bouncing and the heat, kids started crying while others tried to sleep on the floor. The smell was an elaborate mix of sweat and vomit ; we were therefore happy to leave the bus to spend the night outside in a Chaikhana (buses are not allowed to ride during the night here), and share shashliks with our new family and 2 french guys who were in the bus as well. The night break was short, and we rode few more hours in the morning to finally arrive in Samarkand, after nearly 3 days of commuting.

Our adoptin family – not everyone is feeling good on this picture 🙂