Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 154 (Uzbekistan): Baksuk - Gorskiy (OK, you can go …)

daily distance: 139km
total distance: 9823km
riding time: 9h

This day had some of the best and some of the worst biking has to offer. And overall, it was a great day. I left early after a terrible night’s sleep, too many trucks going by on two sides (the old and the new road) throughout the night. I kept waking up, tossing and turning.

The first few km went past a damned lake which also was close to the first checkpoint, one of many checkpoints that was to come today. I was a bit apprehensive about it as I found out in Tashkent that I am not having all the documents that I should have. I am lacking the official registration, which may or may not arrive still from Buchara. At any rate, I was hoping to get by without much of a hitch, but this is the road to the Fergana Valley - also considered a hotbed of problems by the Uzbekistan government. Thus, I had to register with the police, but that was easy. The guy kept asking me “How are you?” to which I replied that “I am fine, thank you very much”. I am sure he meant to ask where I wanted to go, but for what I know something along the line of “I am fine, thank you” is now put down as my destination in some big book. I was let go pretty quickly and continued along an ever more narrow valley along a river.

The road would eventually turn as I had gleaned from the map and the more I continued the more I knew the climbing that I would have to do would be steep. It was pretty flat at first, the climbing rather moderate. I was just seeing a road on my right - far up - when I was stopped again. This time, itw as the military. I don’t get this. Checkpoint after checkpoint, each staffed by a different service each with its own decision-making. This took much longer. Guy number one barks for the passport, scans me, my passport and my visa a few times. Alright. Let me go. Nope. He radios to his commander and after five minutes a guy walks towards us very slowly. This can’t be the head guy, he wouldn’t leave the compound. Sure enough, the same procedure. Scans the passport, the visa and then me. What is in the bags? I explain it to them and am growing a bit impatient. This is silly. If you want to smuggle something, would you do it on a bike? With a guy that everyone remembers because he is so different? Then they make me walk to the military compound about 200m away and after a while of back and forth I am allowed to leave not without the head guy coming out and eyballing me. Seeing no real threat, he lets me pass.

Then the road began to climb - seriously. It was steep and I gained altitude fast. As I was passing a little cafe, I meant to stop and just before a guy yells “water, water”. I figured that I didn’t need any and passed him only to realize a second later that my nose was bleeding heavily. This came out of nowhere. So I sat down for a while and waited until it was over and then some more.

I continued on until I saw the top. Here is the view.

It was great riding though, the nosebleeding didn’t bother me any longer and the climbing was actually a lot of fun. I also saw the first sign of Qashgar in China - a mere 10 days from here, but the way I am going a month most likely.

There is also a big fat sign saying that you shouldn’t take any pictures. Can’t hurt to snap one though.

Towards the top I decided to not take the road that leads over the pass instead of through the tunnels. No traffic and only one sentry at the top that didn’t see me and instead thought it was funny to take aim at the cars that were passing underneath.

The downhill was a) interrupted by another annoying checkpoint consisting of soldiers walking along the road and obviously being bored, b) fun at first only to turn c) atrocious. The road is bad. It is one where you cannot ride, but have to navigate to make it down in once pice. It is a mess. Once I was down in the valley, I was greeted by an unexpected view (a very wide valley, I had expected the Fergana Valley to be more narrow) and a headwind. Luckily I was still heading downhill for the most part and therefore could simply let it roll down towards Kokand where I was to meet up with the relatives of Nodira. The last 20km were a bit harsh, I didn’t feel like donig any biking anymore. But I got to where I needed to go, was greeted by Nodira’s family and we made our way to their home. I am extremely grateful for having the chance to rest up here for a few days. To what extent I will be heading to other cities, I don’t know. All I want is rest right now, I feel that I need it. Badly.

The evening was wonderful, filled with food and conversations about the trip and lots of other things.


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