Friday, June 28, 2013

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan

May 11. 2013 Western Uzbekistan 594 km.

I woke up in the desert at first light realizing I camped about 1km from some goat farmers. They didn't bother me so I got back on the road. A bit down the road I found a truck stop that changed out some of my Kaz money for Uzbek Sun. The money situation is quite humorous here. The bank will give you a rate of about 2000 Som to 1 dollar. The largest bill is 1000 Som. So every time you pay for something you feel like a stripper counting out 1 dollar bills. Only they are less than that. On the "black market" I have been getting an exchange rate of about 2700 Som to $1. Every Uzbek person can count money at blazing speed. We were discussing why they don't make a larger currency and it might be to keep inflation down.

At this truck stop I met an older Uzbek man who was building tables, beds and chairs out of steel. I listened to him weld and it sounded great... like bacon frying. Since I met up with my brother in Italy I have been carrying an extra set of pegs because he doesn't know the difference between passenger pegs and foot pegs. The welder wanted to take a break from what he was doing and we made some rally pegs out of the pegs I had. For the setup this guy was using, he did an amazing job. After he was done I asked how much and his reply was "nul". Again I tried. He refused. Fair enough. 

Notice the power regulation on the floor :)

Custom Uzbek rally pegs. 15,000 km later still running strong!

I found a cafe called Bonvoyage with WIFI at this Coordinate. It might be the only place in western Uzbek.
43.105317, 58.382696

My plan was to stay in Nukus but I couldn't find a hotel and I had a hell of a time finding fuel. I slept in a restaurant outside of Turkul. 20,000 got me a dinner of shashlik, a salad, 1.25 l of beer and a room to sleep in. I had to roll out my sleeping bag and camp pad. This is only about $7.50.

Notice the shirt the guy on the right is wearing... 

May 12. Turkul to Bukhara 379km
When I woke up I started talking to 2 Uzbek truck drivers who were using the "sink" to bath and shave. They were good guys and gave me shashlik before I left. This was the 1st time I ate shashlik that day. The road cuts very close to the border of Turkmenistan. It goes in and out of desert and oasis. Buying fuel from a plastic jug is common. When you find a station with petrol in the pump its a surprise. I met 2 push bikers on a very long hot stretch and I stopped to see if they needed water. They told me about some guys on motos who were staying in Bukhara and one had a burnt clutch. I was able to locate them at the Rustam-Zukhara Hotel. $10 a night and there is parking for the moto in the courtyard.

Turkmenistan across the river. 

This guy was proud of his moto.. for good reason.

Kids I bought fuel from. 

Shashlik #2 for the day. 

UK peddlers on their honeymoon. Check them out at

Paying for dinner. 

May 13 and 14 Bukhara
We woke up early and took pictures of the old city. In the afternoon I can't even go into the sun. It is 33 C in the shade. I caught up on the emails and Internet stuff all day. In the evening we went to have some food and beers. The night of the 13th I didn't get much sleep because I had to go to the toilet about 7 times with a rumbly stomach. On the 14th I slept most of the day and drank lots of liquid. I only ate rice and bread. 

Early morning wakeup call. 

These sparrows were everywhere. It is cool that I accedenlty caught one. 

These bricks are awesome. 

May 15. 2013. Bukhara to Tashkent 603 km
I woke up feeling a whole lot better in my stomach with a strong appetite. The clutch parts for the African twin had not yet arrived but were expected later that morning. They were taking the bike to a Chevy garage where they heard there was an impact gun. I loaded up my bike and met them at the garage. It turns out, this garage didn't have an impact wrench. The African twin has a 30mm or something nut on the clutch cage that needs to be removed in order to replace the clutch disks. It was not possible to hold the clutch in order to loosen the nut. They told me they tried to put it in gear and loosen the nut.. but they had it in first gear. There is to much torque on the brake so you need to put it in 5th gear. The nut spun. I wanted to get on the road so I didn't stay to wait for the parts to arrive. I skipped Samarkand and went straight to Tashkent. My plan was to get to try to get to the Tajik embassy in Bishkek sometime on Friday. On a map it doesn't look very far. On moto it is. I would have had to go about 1700 km in 2 days with 1 border crossing and multiple police checkpoints in Uzbek. I checked into a hostel that let me bring the moto inside and had a nice conversation with an older lady from the UK who has been traveling off and on her whole life. Recently for the past couple years.

Free undercoating courtesy of Uzbek DOT.  

May 16. Tashkent Uzbekistan to Osh Kyrgyzstan. 495 km
I was up early and on the road. I was stopped by 6 or 7 police checkpoints on the way to the border. They all just wanted to check who I was and copy down my info. Then call someone and let me go. Each time took 30 minutes to an hour. I tried to explain that I had been stopped 30 km back but they wanted to do it all again. I kept asking "shto problema?" and they would reply "nyet problema"... So WHY cant I go?.. People feeling important. When I got close to the border I was looking at the map an there was 2 border crossings. I thought I would try the one that closer toward Bishkek. It turns out only locals can use that border. So I wasted about an hour. I would have gained about 140 km if it would have worked. When I got to the border I needed to cross, they asked me for insurance on my moto. Um.. insurance on my moto? That's required here? Yup. Well I don't have any. Maybe at the border coming in or at one of the 20 police checkpoints they should have asked for it. I had to ride back to the last police checkpoint about 5 km back and purchase moto insurance for about 5000 sum... or about $1.85. I was let through the Uzbek side about 9:30 at night. On the Kyrgyzstan side, there was one man checking my passport and moto document. Stamped my passport and I was on my way. 15 minutes maximum. No visa required. I asked him if I needed insurance on the moto and he laughed. I like this country. I slept the night at the Tes Guest house. A "simple" room all to myself for about $20 and that price included a beer.

Looking back at Kyrg/UZ border
May 17. Osh to Massy Kyrgyzstan. 246 km
After a quick breakfast at the hostel I started going toward Bishkek. I know I would not make it in time to get to the embassy so I decided to try to do some exploring. I went on some back roads that followed along a river and looked like they would connect through. I later found out it was a dead end. After meeting some local guys fishing (and not catching any myself) I continued up the road toward the mountains in search of slower moving water. I met a older man who insisted I come to his house for tea. After tea, bread, salad, home made jams, honey and trying to communicate, I had to go. He told me I could not go north anymore than 2 km. I decided to go back to the guys who were fishing. When I go there, they had finished making plov. Its the Uzbek and Kyrgyz national dish and it is basically lamb fried rice. Super tasty. They insisted I eat with them so I did. One of them said I can stay at his house and he won't take no for an answer. That night I slept outside under a shelter on a bed/table thing where people eat and have tea. I slept really well outside.

So Kyrgyzstan is where the machines take over? 

My first taste of Plov.  

May 18. Massy to Bishkek. 531 km
I woke up to roosters and donkeys making a ruckus. Tea, plov and instant coffee for breakfast and I was on my way down the road. After about 30 km I passed where I would have come into Kyrg a few days earlier had I been able to go through the border. Early in the afternoon I was riding along a river and decided to try fishing. The water was moving fast and I didn't have any luck. When I was riding back onto the road, I saw a KTM 990 piloted by a Russian guy named Misha. He said he met a girl on a bike who I had talked to earlier. We decided to ride together to Bishkek. I ditched the plan to camp somewhere. We went over a couple high passes and made it into Bishkek around dark. The last 40 km into Bishkek are hell. Once you get out of the mountains there are very many people all trying to get to the same place. No one cares about center line or oncoming traffic. Misha had a number for a guy in the Bishkek motorcycle club so we met up with them. The restaurant we were at was out of every type of meet but liver. So I had bacon wrapped liver shashlik. It was great.

Another Peddler. 

Trying to fish. 

No luck. 

My New Russian friend. 

Uzbek wedding. They don't look happy for some reason. 

May 19. Bishkek
Misha and I worked on the bikes. I finally swapped out my rear tire for the TKC 80 I have been carrying since Georgia. For dinner we had some dumpling things with spinach?, onion and herbs. I also had bbq dog. I figured when will I have the chance to try it... so I did. Once you get over the fact that you are eating mans best friend, it wasn't bad. Less gamey than lamb. Ok let the hate emails start from the dog lovers.

Still got another 1000 km on i woud say. 

May 20. Bishkek to Uchkurgan. 483 km

Misha left before breakfast. We went to the Tajik embassy early and within about 1/2 hour I had my visa. After washing/oiling my air filter I started back toward Osh on the same road. This time going up the first pass it started raining on me instead of the beautiful sun that Misha and I had. On the southern side of the pass there was fresh snow. Later that night there was lightning in front of me and I knew it was only about 30 km to the next town where I could find a hotel. Within 10 minutes I was in one of the gnarliest storms I have ever been in let alone ride through. I was in a tight canyon with rock wall on the left and barriers on the right. It was raining so Hard there was standing water on the road. I came around one corner and the wind hit me so hard it made the bike stop in 1st gear.. all the faster I could go. I thought I would turn around and go back to the tunnel to wait it out. A huge gust of wind blew the bike over as I tried to turn around. About ten minutes later it was past but I was soaked. I rode into the next town... in turned out there was no hotel there.. so I kept riding longer. Finally I found a place where I could sleep. Again on one of the bed/table things. The guy gave me hot tea, fried potatoes and fried garlic. The garlic was pretty amazing. It rained more that night and with the wind I was getting wet all night. I was in my down sleeping bag and I had a few layers of wool blankets over me so I did not care too much. I was warm.  

Fresh snow. 

Sweet cusom camper. 

Proof of great drivers. 

5 minutes later. more proof. 

Crazy rocks like I saw in Corsica. 

Calm before the storm. 
May 21. Uchkurgan to Osh. 208 km.

Short ride into Osh in the morning it rained most of the way. I got a hotel around noon at promptly took a shower. Got caught up on internet stuff and some other stuff. I didn't do much of anything else. I ate some good noodle soup for dinner then went to bed. 

May 22. Osh

I met a 23 year old dude who had just ridden the Pamir highway on a 250 Kawasaki. We made some plans to drink beer that night and have a chat. I went to meet the Muztoo guys. These guys are great. They helped me out with parts, gps points, maps ect. They rent motos so anyone can fly into Osh, get a moto, and go ride the pamir for a few weeks. You don't need to be on a huge trip like me to experience Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan.

My horn wasn't working (huge problem in central asia). The fuse was blown to the horn which is shared with the blinkers. It tuned out when I put the bike down in the storm.. or maybe from so much rain the relay sorted blowing the fuse. We found a suitable replacement and a new flasher relay out of a small asian car. Back in business. I also soldered a pin that had failed in my dash. Same problem I had in Turkey. My old bike had a better dash with no problems. Oh well. 

Later in the night we went and had shashlik and beers. Ended the night by singing karaoke with some drunk Kyrgyz people. Quite fun. 

Up next: Tajikistan and Pamir Highway. 

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