We left Bukhara following breakfast and headed towards Navoiy, excited at the prospect of being welcomed for the night by the handcrusher (whom we met a few days ago, see previous posts)! The scenery was very green in contrast to our previous weeks of riding, irrigated to the detriment of the Aral Sea and the benefit of the cotton fields. Confident in the fact that this would continue and that warm breads would line the road all of the way, we powered on until 1PM when suddenly, the green stopped, and the desert restarted. Though not as harsh as that in the North, the sudden change was very unsettling!
We reached a police checkpoint and asked where we could buy food. Unfortunately the answer came of either cycling the forty kilometres left of our day, or backtracking five kilometres… We sulked and started cooking noodles which Joe Dowse had given us until the police told us to move. I made out that the stove would explode if we moved it; they ceased pestering us!
We headed on into a tiring headwind only to be stopped by some melon sellers. Alex’s mood was lifted when he realised that as well as the wind, his rear tire was deflating explaining his slowing pace! As he changed his tube, the melon sellers brought out their tobacco which in a larger quantity than previously, made Alex so dizzy that he could not cycle for a while!
Our contact did not work out in the end as we understood via complex translation that he lived in the province of Navoiy, not the town itself, and we had passed him fifty kilometres ago… So we wheeled into town and ate a couple of samsas. As so often happens, a crowd slowly gathered around the iPad, looking first at pictures of the family, then friends, then the whole trip, and ending up in us sitting next to two men determined to get us very drunk.
We are too polite to refuse toasts to international friendship, so with a lot of salad, coca-cola and samsa, the four of us made our way through four bottles of Uzbek vodka before Alex and I went to find somewhere to sleep. We ended up being welcomed by some builders onto the third floor of their project, a huge wedding venue. Under the starry sky we slept quickly, though I unfortunately suffered my worst night in weeks with diarrhoea kicking in a record six times…