We don’t’ face any problems crossing the border, but it takes time. The Turkmen officers are aving their lunch break when we arrive. We already push our bikes into the building, sit down and wait. Finally it looks as things begin to move. We show our passoirt as wekk as the hotelbill of Mary. As we had told them when entering the country that we would spend one night in the hotel in Mary, we had to prove it.
We get the exit stamp and are asked to unpack our biciyle. Each and every piece of luggage is scanned. But this is not enough. Once more we are asked to unpack the content of our bags and show all our medication before we are allowed to repack everything and get ready to leave the country, being well aware that we will have to repeat everything once more entering Usbekistan. We are ready for the next adventure!
Entering Usbekistan happens very smooth, the procedure is the same as entering Turkmenistan. We show the passport and the visa, show our entire luggage and the medication – that’s it, we get the entry stamp. From now on it is important, that we get registered every three days at least as it is not foreseen to travel around in the country without information about where we are. Luckily, most hotels do the registration for us so we don’t have to show up at the police stations.
Before we pass the last checkpoint some Turkish truck drivers who are quing up and waiting to enter Turkmenistan invite us for some cay. We accept the offer! It feels a bit like coming home! We sit on a carpet in the shade of the truck, drink tea nad Markus allows himself a cigarette! He deserves it after all the stress we had!
The next task i s to find a place to spend the night. There is no village or city close to the border, and there is no hotel nearby. At least there is a little shop where we can buy enough water. That gives us the possibility to camp if needed. A man in front of the shop is watering the dusty ground – Markus and I take the chance to wash our face, our arms and legs with fresh water. Just imagine how good this feels!
On the opposite side of the shop we spot a huge camping sign. It looks as if this site is mostly used by truck drivers, who use the shower, the toilet, some small cabins and the restaurant. We decide on the spot to stay overnight. We both feel too exhausted to continue biking and don’t really feel like looking for a camping spot. After a simple good meal we got to our small cabin and try to get some sleep.
The next morning we take our time to eat breakfast and simply enjoy the beauty of the day, knowing that we have no time pressure anymore. We even accept an invitation for a cup of coffee from Mustafa, a Trukish truck driver before we start peadling again. We have planned to reach Buchara within 2 days, which is not really demanding. According to our app maps.me there should even be a hotel on the road.
After a few km we are surprised not to be in the desert anymore. It is very green all along the road and the region seems to be densly populated. It is the absolute opposite of what we have seen in Turkmenistan. We hadn’t expected it. There are huge cotton plantations, corn, apple orchards, fields of sunflowers. There are many trees along the road, which is good for our lunch break. Like that we can find a nice place in the shade. In the afternoon we finally get to the hotel we had seen on the map. It as a brandnew hotel, built in 2017. We are alrady looking forward to a little nap in the airconditioned room, Markus is dreaming of an icecold beer. But we get disappointed! The receptionist tells us, after he had made a phone call with whomever, that the hotel was full! That just can’t be true! We can’t imagine that this hotel in the middle of nowhere is fully booked out. But there is nothing to do about it, we have to accept it. In the meantime we have found out, that only hotels that have the permission to do the registration of tourists are allowed to host foreigners.
Slightly unmotivated we continue our ride looking for a decent spot to camp, which we hope to find before it gets dark. As I am a bit choosy I don’t like Markus’ first proposition. In my view the spot is too close to the road and we can easily be spotted. Markus is not really amused. Some km further away a farmer is selling apples. We decide to buy some crisp and fresh apples. At the same time Markus comes up with the idea to ask the farmer, whether we can camp in the middle of the apple plantation. The farmer agrees to our idea. Great! We push our bikes between the apple trees until we find the ideal place to put up our tent. We spend a lovely late afternoon /evening in the middle of the nature, enjoy our dinner, look up at the stars and finally fall asleep.
The next morning we get up after the sunrise. This gives us the chance to hang out our sleepingbags and to dry the tent which is a bit humid because of the morning dew.
In the afternoon we finally arrive in Buchara. We enter the old town and ride through the narrow streets, where no cars are allowed! We are not the only ones riding a bike in the old town – many Usbek people use a bike as well. We find a lovely little Boutique Hotel in the middle of the old city with a nice courtyard. How quiet it is! Buchara is definitlely a place to slow down. In the evening we go for a first stroll downtown. We feel like beein in 1001 Arabian nights. The towers, the domes, the medreses, the mosques - everything looks so beautiful. We have a nice dinner on the rooftop and enjoy the nice summer breeze, drinking a glass of wine.
We spend the next 2 days in Buchara, visiting all the historical sights, reading the history of the town, having nice dinners and enjoying the moment. It is ardly impossible to describe the beauty of all these buildings. And of course we visit the bazar. Markus buys a hat made of sheepskin to be ready for the winter in Davos! Will he eventually need it already in Kasachstan?
September 7 we pack our bikes and want to leave the hotel. But something is wrong. Markus has a flat tire! It doesn’t take long to fix it, Markus is great in repairing things! With wome delay we start our next journey.
It takes us three days to get to Samarkand.We spend one night in the hotel the other one we are camping. This time we put up our tent next to a cotton field under some trees. There is a small along the field. The place looks nice and Markus is convinced that hardly anyone is going to use this path. I’m more sceptical as usual. Anyway, we don’t have many alternatives in this densly populated area. While we are putting up the tent there are already the first “visitors” showing up. And when cooking dinner, the next people pass by. So what, we have no chance to find a more remote place. For the first time our dinner is not good. The soup is much too salty. We find out that instead of buying a soup we have bought a boullion! Thisy can easily happen if one doesn’t talk the local language!
When getting up the next morning we get some more curious people lookin at us: 2 women with their babies, some time later two young men are passing by and turning around some 20 meters later! Usbek people are anyway very curious. We have already been asked many times: “What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?” Once they get the answer they quickly leave again.
On the way to Samarkand we visit a caravanserai and a cistern as well as some small towns. This way we can experience the daily life of the Usbek people. We pass some bazars, see the coulourfully dressed women with their golden teeth, we watch the farmers working in the cotton fields, we pass several donkey carts, see the children waiting at the bus station, wearing their school uniforms. How great it is!
We arrive in Samarkand September 9. The first day wejust hang aroung and get some rest. It would be a pitty to visit the town not being ready to look at all the nice sights!