After only two days in Bukhara the journey continued towards Samarkand. After a week with Adam it was not easy to be alone again. Around 10:00 clock began a strong and hot headwind (45 degrees). Only very slowly did I move forward. At a gas station I got water and tomatoes as a gift. As a surprise, the owners brought their dromedary from the stable.
Quite exhausted, I fell into the tent in the evening. The next day was just as bad as the day before. Nevertheless, I arrived in Samarkand around 20:00.
The guesthouse already had 6 other cyclists arrived. Uzbekistan is definitely the meeting place for cyclists. At dinner we even drank a beer. After two months in Iran, this is a strange feeling when you suddenly can consume alcohol in public again.
The exchange rate varies quite a bit here. So it is advisable to change the money on the black market, because there the fares are much better. 1 dollar equals 2500 som. The largest notes are available in 1000 Som. So if you change $ 100, you almost need a plastic bag to carry all the money.
The next day we went by taxi to the Uzbek capital in Tashkent. There we were able to apply for a visa for China within one day. However, not all of us were so lucky. A French cyclist was not even allowed to enter the embassy. The French invited the Dalai Lama last week and now there are no visas for them. That's how it works in China!
Tashkent is already a real metropolis with 2.3 million inhabitants. In 1966, the city was largely destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt in the Soviet style. Since independence, she also receives an Uzbek face. In Uzbekistan, tourists have to register officially for each night. As a Velonomade, however, this is almost impossible. When I wanted to move into the hotel my mother had reserved for me, I was not allowed to check in. I was missing six days without registration. Fortunately, the travel agency found an alternative right in the city center.
The next day my mother came to visit. We had a lot to talk about. By taxi we drove to Samarkand. At night I got really strong diarrhea. Amazingly, it gets everyone here at least once. I could not eat or drink the next morning and so we ordered the doctor. He immediately gave me an infusion and put four syringes into my muscles. My mother was really excited about my surprise gift. That's how I imagine holidays!
But I was feeling much better by the evening. In the park we met Johanna and Andreas, whom I had met together with Tom on the Danube cycle path in Hungary.
We had a lot to share. After all, it has been four months since we last met.
The next day we finally could visit the sights. "Those who go to Samarkand travel back in time", wrote the Russian writer Sergei Borodin in 1925. In the 7th to 6th centuries before our time here lay the settlement Afrosiab and in the 5th century BC it was called Marakanda. It was the capital of the Sogdian Empire. Genghis Khan completely destroyed the city. Amur Timur, the founder of the Timurid dynasty, made the city what it is today in the 14th century. He laid the foundation, as it were. His conquests led him to Asia Minor, Syria and India.
Many of its gigantic structures can still be seen today. So the tomb city of Chess-i Sinda,
and the central bazaar.
It really feels like sometimes in a fairy tale from the Far East. Unfortunately my carpet still can not fly. Otherwise I would like to have flown like Aladdin around the huge minarets and towers.
Actually, we wanted to go to Khiva the next day. However, we decided to visit Bukhara instead. The taxi driver had to go shopping melons and meat for his family on the way, which delayed the journey a bit. The booked hotel then suddenly wanted a lot more money than agreed and so we just stopped looking for another. At lunchtime it is usually too hot to do anything. In front of a shop we met the nomad bike family from Geneva. I had already read her article in the Migros newspaper and learned about them in Kapadokien fr.nomadbikefamily.org. We went to the playground together and talked for a while.
They are now 18 months on the road and have experienced a lot during this time. With their three children, Manu (6 years), Leeroy (5 years) and Ela (21 months), they traveled from Switzerland with their recumbents and trailers on the Danube cycle path to Istanbul. There they went with the plane for three months to Madagascar for a winter break. Sandra has her family roots there. Back in Istanbul we continued through Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and the ship across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan and finally Uzbekistan. An impressive journey.
The next day we went on sightseeing tour again. 150 years ago, the city was completely closed to foreigners. Illegal intrusion usually resulted in death. The city was founded 2500 years ago. Its walls and fortress towers were besieged by the armies of Alexander the Great, by the troops of Genghis Khan, Amur Timur and the Iranian Nadir Shah. The names of the outstanding physician and philosopher Abu Ali ibn-Sina (Avicenna), the encyclopaedically educated Beruni, and the astronomer and mathematician Ulug-Bek, are inextricably linked to this city. In Hamedan, Iran, where Avicenna died, I had already visited his memorial. Bukhara is considered his birthplace. Again, there are many impressive sights. So the minaret and the mosque Kalian,
the Medresse Mir- i Arab,
the fortress Ark,
the mosque Bolo- Chaus
and the mausoleum of the Samanids.
This mausoleum (end of the 9th century until the beginning of the 10th century) is a family tomb of the Samanid dynasty, built by the founder of the Samanid state Ismail Samani. This building is considered one of the most outstanding monuments in the Middle East. With simple burnt clay stones, people did a great work of art.
In the Kaljan mosque I made a few prayer attempts.
Luckily we were alone in the mosque. My knees hurt pretty much at the end. In the evening we met again the nomad bike family and more cycling.
On the return trip the next day the taxi driver had to buy melons again. This ultimately resulted in a detour of 4 hours driving time. When we refused to pay the full fare, after long negotiations, the driver made us a funny offer: If we paid him the missing twenty dollars, we could have a melon for it. But we did not want to buy such an expensive melon. Finally, he left disappointed and quite angry. My mother brought me the new 9-speed cassette from Switzerland and many other useful things.
In Tashkent we ate our last dinner with Johanna and Andreas. The two continue through the Ferghana valley to Osh in Kyrgyzstan. After that I had to say goodbye to Mutti again. Again, my farewell was not easy. We had a great and exciting time together here.
The next morning when I arrived by train at Samarqand station, the nomad bike family arrived. We spent the next few days cleaning together with Velo and mending equipment.
The other cyclists in the hostel said in the end just mockingly that only Swiss clean their wheels so meticulously. Swiss quality is and will always be the best. Hehe!
Maurizio Ceraldi, who helped me a lot with the preparations, set out on a new journey on 22nd August. In two years he wants to avoid Africa by bike ceraldi.ch.
Since I still had enough time I decided to cycle with the Nomadbikefamily to Tashkent. Four years ago, they had already done their test tour here and therefore knew some people on the track. On the first day we had lunch in a small restaurant and a short time later we were in the company of four other Swiss cyclists and one German. The first evening we were allowed to spend with a peasant family. Due to the strong headwind we were pretty much done. But here too, the hosts have to show the photos in the evening and answer questions until late at night. This is amusing and usually makes you happy. However, after a hard day on the bike this is sometimes quite exhausting. In the twilight, an accident occurred in front of the house, on the main road. Two donkeys wanted to cross the road in the dark. A car could brake in time. However, behind it followed a truck ruthlessly overtaking from the right and driving a donkey. Unfortunately, we could only watch how the poor animal died on the spot. Night driving is extremely dangerous here.
Sandra and Ela felt pretty bad the next day. The dear diarrhea had crept back with them with a new virus. After the lunch break we swapped the trailer and drove the rest of the day with Ela.
The extra weight can be felt quite clearly when driving. Not just a thing to pull around.
After a night in the tent, we visited another family in Dashtobod the next day. They made a big meal the day after their grandfather died and invited us to participate. So we could have a rest day. Manu finally got it with the diarrhea. The food the next day was extremely delicious. There was Osh, the Uzbek national court.
This is usually prepared in huge containers and is a mixture of rice, carrots, various vegetables and shredded lamb meat. Overall, an estimated nearly 150 people arrived. In the morning the sheep was slaughtered by the grandmother in the yard. We were allowed to look at the whole farm and shoot plenty of pictures. The dairy cows are much stricter here than their kindred relatives in Switzerland.
The food is quite rare in the area. As it practically never rains during the hot summer months and water is pretty scarce, hardly anything grows.
It was not easy to say goodbye to these nice people the next day. So is just the Velonomadenleben.
Already halfway we already met the next family that we wanted to visit in Gulistan. Patrick had already informed her by phone. They took our luggage and so we almost flew over the poorly paved roads. After lunch, Patrick felt increasingly bad. When we arrived at the family in the evening, he was pretty exhausted. Therefore another day of rest followed. With the eldest son of the family I went to the local bazaar. This was much livelier and more interesting compared to the tourist bazaars in Bukhara and Samarqand.
In the evening it caught me with the virus. Because we were all stubborn and all had to go to the embassies on Monday, we decided to take the train. This was already driving at 4:40 in the morning.
The family went to the Chinese embassy while I tried to extend my visa. At first, I had a hard time finding the Visa office. There they sent me to the airport. The responsible official was extremely helpful and very interested in my trip. A nice lady translated for me. After an hour I had extended my visa for 7 days. Wonderful! The others had unfortunately not got a visa. They did not want to issue visas for cyclists. The Chinese are constantly inventing new rules. Seems to be a national sport in the land of the rising sun. Unfortunately, the victims are the tourists. At any rate, this game is not much fun for us.
In Uzbekistan, tourists have to register officially every night in a hotel. We were missing more than 10 days without registration. For this reason, many hotels in Tashkent did not want to accommodate us. Due to the impending Independence Day on September 1, security has been pretty much increased and the hotels are doing pretty well with the regulations. Nobody wants to lose his license. Nevertheless, we found a place to stay. After nearly 18 hours on the legs we were pretty much done.
Patrick and Sandra want to try again to apply for a visa for China. I hope that it works.
My journey now continues to Tajikistan in the Pamir Mountains. After almost four months in different desert regions, I am now looking forward to the high mountains.