Day 131 – Buhara to Turkmenistan border(English Summary)

November 30

Distance / 距離: 110.63km
Time / 時間: 6h 32m
Average speed / 平均速度: 16.9km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 415.73km

English Summary: Smooth, easy riding today. Got free hot bread from a bakery. Maximum -3 degrees in middle of the day. Tried to get across the Turkmenistan border a day early, but they have eyes like hawks and noticed the date on my visa. Was told off by Uzbek border guards for lighting a small fire next to my tent.










Day 130 – Snowy Buhara

UPDATE: I take it all back. I have found a really fast internet place, so have updated the last few days of action. Therefore I have also decided to stay in Buhara today. Will be a big day tomorrow to get to Turkmenistan border, but no worries. She’ll be right. Besides, it’s cold.

Typical lane in Buhara, Uzbekistan

Labi Haus, Buhara, Uzbekistan

The panorama below is from Samarkand recently – at the Danilagar Bazaar – on a Sunday when all the bicycle bits sellers are out in force.

Danilagar Bazaar, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Written at 11am: Sorry, but this internet cafe I’m in is not playing nicely (can’t see the photos I have uploaded), and I’m in a rush to get to the Turkmenistan border by the end of tomorrow (30th Nov).

Therefore, this will be a quick update.

Leaving Samarkand was difficult. I rolled out of the warm hostel into a chilly 3 degrees at midday. By the time I had found my shelter for the night – an old steel rear end of a truck in a paddock – it was already -3 degrees. The next day was also cold, only getting to a high of 5 degrees in the midde of the day. Both days I was still cycling into the night, not stopping until 7pm due to the many people along the road side. Very difficult to find places to shelter for the night undisturbed.

Today I head for Turkmenistan. This should take about two days. I hope to then cycle to Merv – the small city in the middle of the desert – in two days, and then catch a bus or train for the remaining 1200km to Turkmenbasi where I catch a ferry to Azerbaijan across the Caspian Sea.

Therefore all going well, my next update should be in around a weeks time (the 5th or 6th of December). Until then, keep warm (no problem for the New Zealanders!).

Day 129 – Navoy to Buhara

Another long day into a chilly head wind – 120km again. I do love these long straight roads though. You can just keep pedalling and pedalling and pedalling…but then it gets dark, which is rather a pain. Just when you’re getting into it at around 5pm, everthing goes dark. And an LED head torch just doesn’t cut it for illumination.

I do miss the deserted roads of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. There are many people on this main road to Buhara, which means we are back to the usual business of cars slowing down (on a main highway) to trundle along beside me and shout out the window, trying to speak to me.

There is a bonus on this highway however, and that is the frequent tractor traffic. These slow beasts, hauling spent cotton plants on massive trailers, are just at the right speed that I can catch up and draft along behind them. Nice to get out of the wind and get a ‘free ride’.

Buhara is a dream. An open air museum with narrow lanes and old buildings. The B&B that I am staying at (Mubinjan B&B) is essentially a museum. 280 years old, it is maintanied by a half Tajik, half Iranian man in his 50s. He is an ex professional sprinter, who sprinted for the USSR back in the day. His career ended however when he damaged his hamstring in a start in a race. Jolly interesting bloke.

A minaret in Buhara, Uzbekistan

A door in Buhara, Uzbekistan

A lock in Buhara, Uzbekistan

Arches in Buhara, Uzbekistan

Domes in Buhara, Uzbekistan

Day 128 – From 40km towards Kattakorgon to Navoy

The thermometer read minus 3 degrees at 7:30am when I finally mustered the courage to emerge from my sleeping bag. Nothing I guess compared to Rob Luxton’s minus 20 morning recently in northern China

An Uzbekistan panda, betweeen Samarakand and Buhara, Uzbekistan

A very flat day with a slight headwind towards the end of the day saw me break 120km over about 7.5 hours by the end of the day. A long day.

Run! Between Samarkand and Buhara, Uzbekistan

I didn’t get into Navoy until about 7pm tonight, and it was tough work to find a spot to sleep. Eventually I spied an under construction petrol station along the road. Upon investigation, I decided to set up my sleeping mat under the eaves around the back of the service station.

Thing is, I was half way through my dinner of bread, cheese, butter and raddish (I love this cold weather – I can now carry butter), when two people rounded the corner at the back of the service station. They hadn’t noticed me, and were checking some wiring, when I decided it was best to say hello.

Hello there.

A startled grunt from the bigger of the two, and then the expected “What are you doing here?”

It turned out that this was a couple that was working on the interior of the service station – a man and his wife. They had come to do a last check for the day before heading back home.

I explained that I was heading for England, and I had nowhere to stay in the town. To be honest, I was tired and would rather have slept there despite the cold (it was a relatively warm 3 degrees at that stage). However they would have none of that, and insisted that I come and stay at their place. Their logic prevailed, and I wheeled my stuff over to their place, and crashed there for the night. Of course not after entertaining them with conversation about me until about 10:30pm…shattered.

Day 127 – From Samarkand to 50km towards Kattakorgon

I spent most of the morning today searching, with the help of Kolima’s brother, for a stainless steel thermos. We searched in two bazaars, and along the streets of the center of town in Samarkand. However all we could find were cheap Chinese glass-lined thermi (?) that would last only a few hours clattering around on a bicycle. I resigned to the fact that I would not have warm tea on the bike for a while…maybe I can find one in Baku…

Leaving the Rakhimova’s place in Samarkand was tough. Out of a warm house into the chilly environment. It was about 3 degrees when I left. It only got to 5 degrees in the afternoon, and then quickly dropped below zero towards 5pm.

I was expecting dead flat roads today, however the land here is undulating hills. I tend to overheat on the uphills, and then freeze on the down hills. Problem is that the climbs and descents are too short to take the time to put on more clothes or remove clothes.

My accommodation for the night was an old steel back-of-a-truck that is obviously used by farmers during the summer. The main crops around here are cotton and other cash crops such as water melon. I guess farmers sleep out in their fields in summer to discourage people from pinching stuff…

Chilly accomodation 40km from Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chilly accomodation 40km from Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Day 125 – Thermarest repaired

While in Tajikistan, I slept out in the open one night. Problem was that it was dark when I put my sleeping mat down. In the morning I pulled out two big thorns from the mat, leaving some nice punctures.

I did however have a thermarest repair kit with me, and today I got around to fixing the punctures. Here’s how:

How to Repair a Punctured Thermarest

Step one
Get the kit ready.

Thermarest repair

Step Two
Mark the puncture with a circle slightly larger than the patch. You may need to put the fully inflated mat into a sink full of water in order to find the leak (look for bubbles).

Thermarest repair

Step Three
Chuck the hot bond in boiling water for three minutes.

Thermarest repair

Step Four
Remove the hot bod from the water, rip it open, and apply it to the thermarest, kneading it into the fabric with the applicator. Then put the patch onto the glue. You have about 45 seconds when it is cold in order to get the glue applied and the patch on.

Thermarest repair

Step Five
Put a plastic bag over the patch and glue, and then place the pot of boiled water on top for 60 seconds. According to the instructions, the hot pot will not damage your thermarest if the valve is open.

Thermarest repair

Step Six
Remove the pot and immediately roll over the patch a few times with a cyclindrical object such as a metal water bottle (you can easily peel the hardened glue off the bottle afterwards).

Thermarest repair

Step Seven
Leave the thermarest undisturbed for 10 minutes. The mat is now ready for use.

Thermarest repair

Day 124 – Bits and bobs

I replaced the seals and regreased the insides of my rear suspension (DT Swiss SSD 225 air shock) yesterday. Fantastic shock by the way. Not a hint of dirt or wear inside. This is the first time I have serviced the thing in 7000km.

Suspension in for a service after 7000km (Samarkand, Uzbekistan) / サスペンションの7000kmぶりのサービス(ウズベキスタン、サマルカンド市)

Suspension in for a service after 7000km (Samarkand, Uzbekistan) / サスペンションの7000kmぶりのサービス(ウズベキスタン、サマルカンド市)

The Lizzard Skin suspension boots have played a large role in this I think. They keep all the dust, water, and dirt off the shocks, so wear on the seals is decreased.

It is very easy to take this shock apart. Put the end in a spanner, and then just screw the housing off with your hand (make sure the air is totally removed before taking it apart!)

Makeshift workshop in my hostel room - Samarkand, Uzbekistan / 工場兼部屋(ウズベキスタン、サマルカンド市)

Day 120 – Ahem

Yeah, so I am still here in Samarkand.

It was raining the last couple of days.

Ok, I lie. It was beautiful weather yesterday, but I decided instead of heading out that I would take my bike to bits and clean it. My chain is soaking in kerosene, and my cogs are looking like new. I figure that since the visas I am currently waiting for (Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan) are the last visas that I will ever need to apply for on this trip, this is probably also the last time I will have such a long break where I can properly do mainentance on the bike.

Messy room in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

In other news, you may recall that not too long ago, my speedometer stopped going. The owner of the B&B that I am staying at suggested that I go to the Sunday market here in Samarkand and look in the bicycle section for a replacement one. I didn’t hold much hope of finding one, but a quick ask around uncovered a cheap Chinese speedo that not only has all the functions of my old speedo plus present temerature, but cost only $5. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts…

Danilagar Bazaar, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

At the Danlager Bazaar, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

At the Danlager Bazaar, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

An in other news, a Brazillian travel reporter I met on the Pamir Highway has written an article on her travels in Tajikistan, and I feature in it. Check it.