Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 165 (Uzbekistan/Tajikistan): Tashkent - Gorskiy - somewhere behind Konibodom (this cabbie needs cruise control)

daily distance: 52km
total distance: 9875km
riding time: 4h

Here is the picture I couldn’t show you the last time I posted. 


It was time to leave Tashkent. I was glad I did and could get back on the road. The break had been long enough I feel and now I was ready to hit the road again. Running around Tashkent one last time (thanks for all the patience Ahmad), I ended up at the taxi station for the Fergana Valley. It is a busy place and when you get out, there are 20 hopeful drivers barraging you. All names of substantial towns were shouted at me and in the end I settled for one driver and got a decent price after the initial offer had been twice as much.

This guy needs cruise control though. His driving style was unorthodox to say the least. He kept getting on and off the gas pedal, slowed down when he talked to another passenger (about 20 km/h less and he did that often, turned out the lady was an English teacher half way through the ride), and he talked a lot, but sped up when another driver overtook him and went silent right away. On the downhill he kept switching off the engine all the time to conserve gasoline … But no passport control at all (quite in contrast to the other time I made the trip) and he got me there in under 4h. So all was well. A couple of things though. First, doing the trip three times now makes the area look very different. On the bike I couldn’t enjoy the scenery because the road was in the state it was in. Second, a word about police here. They are everywhere. That goes for the whole of Uzbekistan, but here is a typical scene. Driver does his thing and all is well. He maybe rolls a few inches over the line. A police guy waves him out. “You will get a fine.” This means trouble. But of course the officer has a solution. “You can avoid that of course …” And there it goes. Most people do of course pay. And the sums are substantial. For the area covering the Fergana Valley crossing I heard a sum of more than $1000 that has to be paid to the chief of police there. That is pretty staggering. You can figure out for yourself that it is being passed upward (where does it end you can ask) and that the total is much higher given that everyone in the pyramid somehow benefits.

Sherzod’s family really wanted me to stay for another night and I was considering it, but in the end decided against it. It was a hard decision to make, but I didn’t want to lose any more time. The Pamir is calling and it is getting cold - the last two days were nippy in the morning already. So I set out with a heavy heart - but will hopefully be back at some point.  

The ride was uneventful - it was slow going into the wind. A hard wind and I just barely made it to the border in time before they closed it down.

That was when the trouble started. The Uzbek side felt that they should search me completely. Empty all bags … something I should fault myself for. They had asked me for the money I was carrying and I hadn’t declared everything. When they saw the rest they said they would keep it. That’s when the searching began. I had to take all my belongings out. “What is this and this?” was all I heard. Having a sleeping bag was the problem all of a sudden. Then some copies of my passport. They couldn’t understand that I was taking more money out of Uzbekistan than I had brought in. The cards meant nothing to a couple of them - until the boss came in and said that “Yes, you can get money with this.”

At some point it was clear that they wanted a bribe, I was unwilling to give it to them. And so I thought this could be fun, grabbed my money in the middle of things and stuffed it into the biking pants (figuring that they would be loath to grab it from there). All the while I thought about the closure of the border in a few minutes and sure enough when I finally left (I was let go without a fine) it was past 5pm. This could be fun. A 10m noman’s land. Pitching there could be interesting. But the Tajik side was still open and everything was done very quickly. Open the book, close it after noting the details. Customs check … forget it. They wanted to go home and made short shrift of it. Good, works for me.

The Uzbek side of the border …

and the Tajik side.

I pedaled on for a while until it was dark. Bought a SIM card and got in touch witht he lcoal German Agro Action staff, found a place to pitch and turned in.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot - I have been warned yet again of the people on the other side of the border. Some things don’t seem to change.


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