We had positioned ourselves strategically close to Bukhara the night before, riding until the sun had set, for a speedy escape from the desert. However much European weather may attract you to our pictures of hot sand, it has been a tough place. In fact, as we are discovering, most of Uzbekistan is a desert. Fortunately for the tourism industry, the pearls which adorn it so scarcely are superb…
The lure of a shower, a nap, vegetables and internet had us up and ready quickly enough that we waited, bikes straddled on the roadside, for the light to be bright enough to start pedalling – around 40 minutes before sunrise. Almost continuously, we rode, knowing that the route also gradually turned over 50 km to change the headwind into a cross. Arriving at our chosen Bed & Breakfast (a few days overdue for our Uzbek registration), we collapsed into a charming courtyard decorated with bright blue walls and a fellow cyclist, Adrien, finishing his breakfast. We completed our checklists, though in enough of a rush that either the state of the 3kg of vegetables I bought, or the water with which they were washed, put me out for the rest of the day with stomach pains and brought to an end any hopes of a respite in the continual diarrhoea I have experienced since our arrival in Baku!
As I recovered with mum’s wise advice guiding me to the kitchen to boil 10L of water, Alex headed off with two charming Austrian girls to the local Hammam, undoubtedly secretly hoping that foreign girls may get thrown in with the men in this part of the world. Four hours later, the trio returned with Alex thoroughly bathed, steamed, rubbed, scraped and massaged – by a burly man – all while the girls had been sitting outside drinking beer at under £1 a litre!
Along with the French cyclist, we all headed off in search of good food, which for us is often confused with lots of food, and an all-you-can-eat buffet seemed to fit the bill (Ant, I can see your eyes widening in jealousy from Uzbekistan), until my dreams were literally crushed by the waiter telling us to come back tomorrow… So we headed elsewhere before merrily sitting in the center of the holy city with a few bottles of beer and for me, at least, very heavy eyelids.