Our plan was to have to stay in Bukhara for two days for rest and sightseeing. On the afternoon before departure Wej and I went out for a walk and I once again suffered from a very peculiar muscle pain in my tighs. It is a pain that I started to feel about four months ago, only during rest days and only when walking really slowly. The strange thing is that it is an instant pain in both legs simultaneously and first time I can recall it happening was during the week we visited Sweden (april).
It has only happened during restdays and only when walking slowly. First time it happened I stopped to do some stretching and then it went away. This feeling has then re-occured during restdays all the way, but it has only been a short pain and I have never suffered from it while cycling.
Wej and I went for a walk in the old town before leaving Bukhara and then it happened again. The pain was more intense and wouldn’t go away. When I woke up the following morning my legs were all stiff and I worried it would be hard to cycle. When in the saddle I immediately started to feel the pain that I had only felt when walking slowly. We tried to cycle a few kilometers, but then I decided to return and rest one more day.
Back at the guesthouse I contacted friends back home who are doctor and physiotherapist. They both thought it was some sort of over exhaustion and told me to rest and maybe eat som anti imflammatory medicine. I did that and the following morning I felt good and we could start our ride towards Samarkand. This meant that we were one day behind schedule.
Although we only saw one sign showing the way to Samarkand it wasn’t hard at all to find the way out of Bukhara. The area around the city is very green and there are villages and towns all the way. Wej and I decided to stop after two hours of cycling to have a cup of coffe and some kefir at a restaurant. We were offered bread too, but we are by now so sick of the bread here that we didn’t want any.
After a 2-3 hours we saw our german friend Simon enjoying a short break in the shade of a tree outside a little shop. Our group had split in Bukhara, but since we were all going in the same direction it was very plausible we would meet again. We rode together for a while and then split again when Wej and I stopped for some reason I can’t remember.
After 60 km the greenery ended abruptly and was replaced by desert. The road made a sharp turn and we got a strong headwind straight into our faces. It was the start of a tough part of the day, but soon we got some relief.
A few kilometers into the desert we were overtaken by a Landrover with lots of stickers, jerrycans on the roof and other signs of being a ”round-the-world-car”. We have seen cars like this many times, but this one stopped 100 meters in front of us. The car was driven by a french couple on the way to Australia and then maybe south america.
They gave us lots of cold water from their fridge and they were very curious about our trip. Being cyclists themselves they suggested that we should come and visit them in their village in the Pyrenees some time. They even said that we were welcome to use their house even if they still were traveling. What a marvelous offer – we will definately try to go and visit them some time, but then with our roadbikes instead of the heavy bikes we now ride.
We lost sight of Simon just before the desert but after fighting for two hours in the dry headwind we found him taking a break at a cafe / hotel at Navois airport. We were also very exhausted, the headwind was strong and it was terribly hot so we decided to take a break there too. After one and a half hour the headwind ceased and we could go on cycling.
Simon and we decided to continue together and in order to make it to Samarkand the day after we needed to make at least 30 more kilometers. With a good road and without any wind we quickly got to the city of Navoi. Since the area is densely populated we didn’t have any big hopes of finding any good spot to camp so we hoped we would find some tea house somewhere.
After passing through Navoi we found a TIR-park which is effectively a truck stop. We went in to ask if we could stay there and of course we were welcome. They served us tea and offered us to shower. Simon found a bench outside where he could sleep while Wej and I paid 5 dollars to sleep in a room.
At the TIR-park we met an Uzbek truck driver who drives his truck between Uzbekistan and Poland and Germany. He told us it takes 6 days to drive to Poland and 7 to Berlin and then the same time back home again. I don’t envy him driving on poor roads and passing many time consuming borders.
We usually go to bed rather early to be able to wake up at 5 AM and there were not many trucks at the TIR-park when we went to bed, but there were lots of them when we woke up. Many of the trucks are obviously bought second hand from Germany since they have logos from German companies. They don’t look old and worn out as one could suspect, instead they look to be in good condition.
A lot of the trucks at this TIR-park and the ones we meet along the road are Volvo and Scania trucks. Every time I see a Volvo truck I think that maybe that specific truck was produced at the factory back in Göteborg. When seeing all those Swedish made trucks it is easy to understand why these two companies have such a major importance for the Swedish industry. Land locked countries have difficulties developing an export based economy and Uzbekistan is one of the two double land locked countries in the world (the other one is Lichtenstein) so it must be very complicated to set up an export industry here.
It was a little more than 150 km from the TIR-park we stayed to the center of Samarkand so we woke up at 5 AM the following morning in order to get as far as possible before the midday heat. There was hardly any wind at all and the road was good so we made good progress during the early hours. The wind picked up around 10 AM and it started to get hot and at noon we had only cycled 80 km when we decided to take a short cut.
It was maybe a shortcut, but the quality of the road was so poor that it was impossible to ride at normal speed. We soon understood that we would bike 30-50 km at slow speed through nothingness and when we at came to a hill top with green trees we decided to stop. This little hill was like an oasis and somewhere there was a well because water was flowing from a pipe into a ditch. We decided to stop on the hill and bought a melon from a roadside vendor.
It was interesting to observe the well. Bypassers stopped to fill water bottles. Overheated trucks stopped and their drivers fetched waters with buckets and threw it onto their engines to cool them down. A couple of times tank trucks came to fill their huge tanks and transport the water somewhere else. They simply drove under the pipe and let all the water flow into the tank and anyone who wanted water while they were filling had to open a valve at the rear of the truck and fill the bottles from the truck instead of from the pipe.
The heat turned into a more bearable temperature in the late afternoon and we started to bike the remaining 65 km into Samarkand. Beyond our oasis hill the road got even worse and there were endless hills. I started to suspect that unless the road got better we would never be able to get to Samarkand that day.
Fortunately the road got better and the headwind ceased too, so we managed to reach Samarkand just before darkness. It was a long hard day, but just as in the wellknown Swedish song we reached to Samarkand that day.