Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Posts from — August 2008

Day 161 (Uzbekistan): Tashkent (mountain air …)

I was going to meet up with Ahmad - and met up with lots more people in the end. After getting together around mid-morning, Ahmad asked whether I wanted to head out of Tashkent with friends, both acquaintances from earlier seminars here in Tashkent.

It promised to be a good day and of course I said yes. So, after a brief visit to the home of one friend and packing up some stuff, we headed out of Tashkent to a lake by the name of Charvak.

It’s an intensely beautiful area and reminds me of the Alps …

The lake has a good deal of fluctuation between summer and winter as is visible from the picture below. Hint: take a look at the top of the picture and you see what I mean. People are also concerned about the general amount of water that the area has seen. It has steadily decreased over the last years I am told. And given that this area supplies most of Tashkent and beyond with water it is perfectly understandable why people should worry.

August 31, 2008   No Comments

Day 160 (Uzbekistan): Tashkent

This is the day when nothing much happened. My batteries on my camera (the small one) both died a tragic death a little while ago, so I had to look for replacement batteries and a charger. This proved to be much easier than I thought. Together with Islam we went to a street filled to the breaking point with electronics stores and sure enough after four “No, we don’t have this kind of stuff”, we found what we were looking for. I am now in possession of an original Canon charger and two batteries. Let’s hope they do the job until the end of the trip.

Internet cafe time was followed by a long and interesting and extremely enlightening discussion over dinner with Islam before heading home to catch up on some more sleep.

Here is something to think about. Internet censorship is just as rampant here as it was in other places during the trip. But instead of reading an official message that this site is blocked, what happens here in Uzbekistan is interesting.

As a reminder, this is what happened in Iran. Sometimes it was this …


and most of the time it was this …


Here is the Uzbekistan blocking message.


You get re-routed to the MSN website. Now, maybe someone in the Uzbekistan blocking administration is a fan of that company up in Seattle. But maybe - though unlikely - said company has entered a contractual relationship with the Uzbekistan blocking administration. Or maybe someone paid someone something, aka as bribing (as is so often the case here). You never know.

August 30, 2008   No Comments

Day 159 (Uzbekistan): Tashkent (collateral damage and Dinara’s wedding)

This was the day of Dinara’s wedding - and also the day I was to get my Tajik visa (again).

Wedding celebrations start early here … as a matter of fact they start at 6 am. A bit of an early start given that I wanted to rest up. But how often do you get to participate in an Uzbek wedding?

The day starts off with a brief - half hour - invite of all people that cannot be invited to the wedding at night. This is a strictly male affair, the only woman I saw was Dinara’s mother towards the very end of things. It is also the opportunity for a sermon. Let’s just say that it was an interesting sermon about the role of women and the like … and the age of the imam couldn’t have been more than my own. So, after listening to the sermon (thanks for the translation, Ravshan) we had plov, a rice dish with lots of meat at 6:30 am. Good stuff to get you going. Then, one table after another gets up to leave and that was that. It is also the part of the day that the bride’s parents are organizing. The rest is up to the groom’s parents - the bride basically and most of the time, physically, moving into the family of her new husband. Thanks to Ravshan, a lot of the things that I saw made a lot more sense or were even comprehensible to me.

We still had time for the Tajik visa run to start and so Ravshan and I continued our conversation at his home until I dropped off my passport and hoped for the best. The hoping part took place in the city of Tashkent until I got a phone call later on in the day. I had high hopes that the pasting of the visas would happen today as I had not received a phone call that they wouldn’t do it. But when Oleg called he said that it was a no-go. Word had just been had that no new visas will be issued until September 1. Bonk!!! The official reason. Russian President Medvedev is in the Tajik capital Dushanbe for meeting of the Shanghai Coordination Council and thus no new visas will be issued. What? I would like to scream. You have to be kidding. The meeting will be over way before I would enter so that makes little sense. I am guessing this has to do with the Uzbek border closure and independence day festivities and no one I talk to can understand why there would be collateral damage by including the foreigners who happen to be in Uzbekistan at the time. So whatever the real reason may be (strange thoughts of an official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I think), what I found even more strange was that the consulate accepted the passport and kept it all day long only to come back at the end of the day. I could have applied for the Chinese visa instead. But no such luck. No one really understands that move and the Medvedev-talk sounds highly implausible.

So, after the continuation of the visa woes, it was time for the wedding. Ravshan and I made our way there and it was festive to say the least.

It was from what I gather a rather modern wedding and looked rather similar in some ways to Western wedding, but still had a good number of surprises in store.

A tagging off of musicians and other artists. They came and went and came and went. As a matter of fact, most of them ran once their performance was over - from one wedding to the other. Traditional music instruments were followed by traditional dancing and then 1960s music from Uzbekistan - and then more modern music. All a lot of good fun. And all very, very loud.

The Uzbek state of course gave its blessing as well. And was talking very, very fast. Maybe she had to go to a different wedding still as well.


And needless to say, there was lots of good food and drinks …

And most importantly, a happy couple …

August 29, 2008   No Comments

Day 158 (Uzbekistan): Gorkiy - Tashkent (back to Tashkent in car)

First off, thanks so much for all the comments over the last few days. Keep them coming … through the commentary function of th website or through email. It is always a big boost …

Second, some of you have asked whether it is OK to pass on the website. Yes, it is. Spread the word if you want to. The more readers, the merrier.

Otherwise, not much to report. I got up late. Slept. Still catching up with exhaustion, but feeling much better already. None of the headaches of the last few days … things are looking up. After heading out from Gorskiy, I spent some time updating the website in Kokand before being picked up by Islam and a friend who happened to be doing business in the Fergana Valley and so could give me a ride back. It was good to see the route again - especially heading up this time where because of road conditions, I really couldn’t see much of the surrounding terrain. It was beautiful and dramatic (I did catch a glimpse of that) and the road on the other side just as bad when going downhill. Dozed of peacefully at Islam’s house after the 4-hour ride.

As there are no pictures of the day, maybe this comparison may be interesting - though also to some degree scary. I just revisited the pictures of Day 1 earlier today with Sherzod.

Then …

… and now …

But just to allay any concerns, I am doing fine. And I now almost feel I was pretty chubby back then (granted this was after staying in bed with a virus infection for six weeks).

August 28, 2008   2 Comments

Day 157 (Usbekistan): rest day in Gorskiy (my body really tells me to …)

… completely shut down. I am not feeling well at all. I am overly tired and exhausted. Time to take a rest. Good thing that I am on a break now anyway. I have been pushing this one a bit and everything is now catching up with me. There are almost no pictures, except for a bike which is not mine. Not sure how far I would get.


So all I did was rest up. I slept long into the morning. Meaning 8 am. I read a bit. I ate something. Everything seemed out of whack. Tired, headaches and a nagging feeling that something was up. My stomach wasn’t happy. Too much food and too much exhaustion.

I slept some more in the afternoon and felt much, much better already. Not great yet. But all I need to do is rest up I guess. So, no need to worry. All is well and after returning from Tashkent, I am sure that I will be a happy biker yet again. Today, not so much.

August 27, 2008   2 Comments