I would arrive to Samarkand with very little clue where to find a place to stay. It’s actually a lot easier than I made it out to be but either way I spent 3 hours in the heat trying to find a hostel. At one point when I was sitting on a stoop in a labyrinth of old homes in the “old town” an ambulance pulled up to check on me for heat exhaustion. I explained to them I was okay and what I was trying to find. The guesthouse was only a few minutes away.
I’m going to apologize now for rushing through a lot of these posts. I’ve grown a bit weary of blogging and sometimes I just don’t feel like pulling out stories, feelings, emotions, and deep thoughts from two years ago when I’m developing and following a different train of path right now. What I’m currently chewing on is basically based on these thoughts and feelings but bringing them to maturity and some coherence. In all reality, I really hate writing about facts and history and am in this mode of digging deeper.
Entering the guesthouse with a beautiful garden, it’s a bit quiet at the moment but see one bicycle in the garden. Over the next week I would make some wonderful new friends, people I still stay in contact with. Samarkand made me a bit lazy but it was great meeting so many like minded travelers. You all know who you are, so I don’t have to go over the roster. There were some great times in that guest house and I would run into some of them again in Dushanbe. Chris-Alex would arrive eventually and we had made plans to meet up again in Dushanbe as he was in Tashkent arranging his Visas. I had also made plans to perhaps run into another cyclist, Jacques, in the Pamirs…but he would carry on but would see each other again in Kashgar over a month later.
Leaving July 4th, as it just seemed like the date to move on, I would head towards Dushanbe and predicting I would arrive in less than a week. I bid goodbye to the few that were at the guesthouse after 3 in attempts to beat the nearly unbearable heat of Central Asia. Towards sunset I would begin to climb some hills and few little descents. There would be moments of a few slight descents down a hill.
A not so friendly couple I met in Samarkand would pass me as I was finishing my dinner at a cafe and they asked me if I was okay. I was actually fairly proud of myself considering they left Samarkand before me yet I sped past them.
I would pull over to a little market in hopes to buy water. Before I knew the entire mud packed shop was filled with children women and men offering me fresh, cold well water to drink from. I sat and drank, and talked, and refilled my bottles. This is one of those moments that still sits so vividly with me 2 years later. I remember walking away back to the road and turning around and seeing them all out front waving goodbye with smiles. There are times I regret taking photographs of all these moments but I sometimes wonder if the memories wouldn’t sit with me the way they do after so much time has passed.
I’m nearing mountains towards dusk and there are men on the sides of the street offering me that delicious cold milk beverage I had given to me by that beautiful Uzbek woman in the Nurata mountains. Passing the bowl to me, I drink. I never assume anything is for free and it cost me close to a USA dollar…I look at as supporting the local economy.
Sun is setting and I find myself riding up a gorge of sorts. There is nowhere to really set up a tent so I wait until near nightfall and push my bike off the side of the road and precariously down to the water. It’s one of the most perfect places I’ve slept, ever. I remember lying there, listening to the water stream by and staring into the night sky…nearly falling into a trance state. What I would do to go back to that evening to hear the thoughts running through my head.
A view in the morning. July 5th 2012
It’s hot and I have a pass to climb. As I’m climbing I have a young man on a donkey keep asking me to ride the bike. He’s getting close to me while on his donkey. I can sense the donkey not feeling comfortable and I’m surely not. After this for about 10 minutes I pull over and stop. I instruct in English and hand signals he needs to go on. I’m getting flustered and I’m hot. It’s not even 10am yet. I can sense a day of frustration looming ahead…
At the top of the pass, I pull over to use the well water to clean my face, brush my teeth, and have a little sponge bath. There is a van pulled over and there is a small group of men watching me. As I’m sitting in the shade resting and looking off into the distance from the summit, they start fondling my bike and one even trying to get on it. So…what do I do…I run over to his van, open the door, get in, and begin to try to turn the truck on. Yeah…they got the jist. I’m just not into dealing with men today and I can feel it all coming to a point.
As I ride away, I now notice my bike has a puncture. Great. (I can feel myself getting stressed again just as I write this.) I pull over and begin to pull out my tools. Before I can even blink I have over a dozen men and boys shoving their hands into the gears, drive train, and grabbing my tools from my hand. Yeah, I get it, I get it…I’m a woman and you’re trying to be men and take care of this and me. I’ve had absolutely enough and start shouting as I’m being suffocated next to my bike by the men surrounding me and even pressing up against me to get a better view. The lady loony has everyone evacuated within a couple of minutes. Finally, let me breathe and work.
I begin the descent and pass a stretch of cafes where I pull over to cool off with more water. In the concrete basin at the base of the mountain that the public uses to wash off, I look for the puncture in my tube and I can’t find it. I have a very kind boy help me try to find it. We exchange smiles and a few words, he can’t seem to find it either. I thank him and I move along.
A couple hours from dusk, as I’ve now returned to a flat stretch of barren desert landscape I ride through a very small community lining the road. I go slowly and two teen boys wave me over with a gate open into a home. I stop and look over. They are definitely waving to me so I head over, thinking this could be my safe sleeping space for the evening.
I would stay 2 nights here.
Upon entering the courtyard, I’m instructed to sit down on the blanket and finishing having something to eat with the family. There is an older couple present and teenage girls and younger boys. Within 30 minutes, I have had my fingernails painted and now I’m being dragged into the living room inside the house and a dance party has begun with me and all the women and girls. They are playing Bollywood videos and the song “Jimmy” (Archer) comes on and I’m familiar with this one. Again, dance has brought smiles, laughter, and women together across language and culture divides.
The sun has set and now three of the teen girls and I are arranging our sleeping mats in the garden and courtyard. It’s an open space with grapevines lining the edges. The night desert air is now cool and my mind has become calm being with women and girls. I feel safe, this will be a good nights rest under the star sprinkled sky with young girls talking quietly next me…with the conclusion that I will stay tomorrow.
I spend the morning with the younger girls and boys having tea in the neighbors garden.
We go for a walk to visit neighbors and I see a magical site. This taxi pulls over and I see a child get out of the right side door of this Lada. Then the woman…then the donkey!
Spending some time in the kitchen and baking naan in the tandoor.
I would spend the remaining of the day with this young woman. There was such an intense feeling of trust with her, she could of probably directed me to do anything and I would followed suit.
From what I was told by her she is the daughter in law of the family and is responsible for all of the household chores. She told me how she missed her family a lot but kind of just shrugged it off and it accepted it as fact. We went to the market together, milked cows…after finding her, feeding the goats, and she washed and braided my hair. Since cycling, it’s been the first time in a very long time I’ve had hair past my shoulders…over the past 4 years I’ve had so many women and girls fingers run through it. I can’t bare to cut it these days, either.
At one point we were sitting in a garden and I was talking with a group of women and children and there questions about my family and America. I’ll never forget their faces when I explained it was night time at that current moment and that my parents were sleeping.
I would be dragged away from her by this one man and his children…his daughter had been spending the day with me earlier. We rode in his car for about 1/4 of kilometer to his neighbors. I knew exactly what was going on, I was being shown off. He then asks me in front of a group of men and a few women why I don’t have babies. Then looks at me and says, “Diseased?!” I’ve had enough with you mister but I play nicely as I know that my safety could be at risk. He shows me around and I try to express my indifference and irritation with him. I just want to go back to the women and girls.
Dinner would be prepared this evening in a different family’s house and I would sleep with two of the girls from the previous night under the grapevines and stars. My favorite gal had left earlier to be with her in laws. Again, as I state over and over…I have some return visits that must be made to Uzbekistan to see some of the most wonderful women I’ve ever met.
July 7th 2012
A view of the dry and barren landscape. If my memory serves me correctly, I saw a fox of sorts at some time out there. Because of the heat I had to stop as often as possible to get out of the sun and heat. There were a couple of times I really didn’t think I was going to make it through this heat as I was getting physically ill and sick. At one point there was a short stretch of homes with refridgerated coolers along the street. I pulled over to buy cold water and a man behind me got mad at the kid for trying to rip me off. After thanking the man, I bought two.
I spent a lot of time in bus stops in Uzbekistan…a lot. Sometimes with company, human or animals, and others alone. I’ve had cold beverages and even ice cream delivered to me. To all the wanderers going through Central Asia, sit down for a little while and enjoy those bus stops. It was definitely one of the highlights of Central Asia.
After an absolutely exhausting and draining day of heat and riding I catch myself getting caught on a pass at dusk. So the genius I am decided to sleep here. Let me just state that I slept horribly and I woke up with a fine layer of dirt over everything. It’s all part of the adventure and experience…and I would of regretted not taking this opportunity.
July 8th morning:
View from the road.
Today would mark the first and last time I attempted to truck surf up a mountain. The road was in awful condition and I hung onto the back of a dumptruck. It was just too precarious and unsafe so I let go after a little while. I remember seeing a train engine on top of the mountain cliff…it really perplexed me and no I didn’t take a photo. I was absolutely drained.
I would ride through some sand dunes on the side of the road that kids were playing in. I pulled over for a little while to spend some time with them but then carried on and would end up being invited into a garden to sleep for the evening. The people were beyond wonderful and they could tell how exhausted I was as I was nearly falling asleep as I was eating. They gave me a platform to sleep and I remembering falling asleep listening to them talk, watching the sun set through a crop field. Another image in my memory I can’t seem to wipe clean. There is no way a photograph could of captured what my eyes saw at that moment and no way would these words come close to conveying the emotions I had.
July 9th morning I would wake up well before everyone and be on my way and hopefully arrive in Dushanbe by the day’s end.
The view of where I lived the previous evening:
The last 15 kilometers of Uzbekistan was not enjoyable, besides watching women shake the fruit trees and the children popping birds out of the sky with sling shots. It was so hot.
Then there was this boy on a bicycle. He wouldn’t leave me alone. After about 5 minutes of him harassing me I stop, get off my bike and starting chasing him screaming. A car pulls up to me asking me what the problem was and I try to explain that the boy wouldn’t leave me alone. I’m hot, tired, and I don’t know how much more of men I can deal with. I can’t recount the exact day but I had a beer can thrown at me from a car window going up a hill that was under construction and riding in loose gravel. Cars were riding so close behind me that if I were to spill I would of been immediately run over. The constant sexual harassment from men and if they weren’t harassing me I could see in their eyes what they were thinking. I wanted to get to Tajikistan without any more problems.
There were also some really great men, the majority were very kind to me. Like everywhere, the countryside and common man is generally harmless.
I get to the border and the Russian speaking Uzbek border guard demands to go through all my bags including my netbook. I had been warned of this and played by her rules and continually explaining to her repeated question, “what is this”, “what is this”?
Going through the Tajik border control I get to the other side and go into a cafe to eat and rest…and debate on hitching a ride with one of the dozens of taxis on the border.
After a couple of hours of sitting in the shade mulling over my decision I decided to talk to a taxi with a station wagon. We await for more people going to Dushanbe and when they arrive, we leave. I was extremely happy with my decision as the road was under construction and would of easily taken me another day.
Being let off at the only guest house in Dushanbe, I open the door to see a yard of over a dozen tents and an overwhelming amount of people. The not so nice cyclists from Samarkand arrive almost right after me and I admit to hitching a ride for the last stretch. Of course I get shit for this but you know what…don’t judge me. I know they had only been on the road for 3 months at this time and knew nothing about me nor knew what it was like to travel as a solo woman. A man with Ural would hassle me a bit about it too…but after my shower he and I would spend a few hours chatting. Interestingly enough, our chatting has continued for 2 years and I just Skyped with him this morning. You can read about his adventures here: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=923656
To be continued…
It’s now mid July and I’m planning on doing a month adventure in the next few months. I’m awaiting to hear back about a bid on a job that will arrange my schedule accordingly.
Also, I’m looking to do another Kickstarter to continue some projects in Bangladesh.
Again, thanks to all of you, old and new fans, for following along and all the support over the years. I’m not sure where I would be without all of you.