Between buckling calves and donkey carts

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Country: Uzbekistan
From Bukhara to Samarkand
Days on the bike:4
Kilometers cycled: 264,55
Average Kilometers per day: 66,14
Total Kilometers cycled till Samarkand: 7096,55
Total days travelled till Samarkand:373
Lesson learned: Melon is a better snack than junk food and cookies
Laughed about: ourselves for not being able to ever leave a place
Most wonderful miracle: A night on an outdoor eating table
Food we ate: Fat Soup and Korean Salads
Greatest obstacle: Swallowing fat pieces that appear to be soft onions

I could not believe my eyes when we entered Bukhara. We had spent some days in isolation between cotton fields, old men with donkey carts and desert bushes. We got used to people speaking nothing but their two home languages Uzbek and Russian and to small shops with nothing but some rice and old cookies. Now we entered the most touristic spot I could imagine.

Being together with friends and family and eating some fat. Sounds like a daylong activity

Being together with friends and family and eating some fat. Sounds like a daylong activity

“Very cheap, nearly free”

Big groups of guided tourists strolled between colorful mosques, young women sold their handicraft “very cheap, nearly free” and cafés offered Latte Macchiato and free Wifi. Salesmen offered Silk Road T-shirts, miniatures, post cards and the most beautiful tea-sets I had ever seen. They invited the tourists in French, Dutch, English, German, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish to “just look, no need to buy”, knowing that it was hard to say no to this beautiful handicraft. The streets were clean and crowded. I was especially impressed by the ethnical and architectonic diversity. In Bukhara Russian, Persian, Mongolian and Arabic influences came together and created this very unique mix of cultures, looks and traditions.

At first sight it reminded me on Chinese dragons, then on the birds on persian cartets, then on eagles. Diversity is everywhere

At first sight it reminded me on Chinese dragons, then on the birds on persian cartets, then on eagles. Diversity is everywhere

Our hostel friends

As Pierre and Laure, two French cyclists, had suggested us a day earlier, we stayed in the dorm of the Rustam-Zuxro Bed and Breakfast (116 B. Nakshband Street, Tel. +998 65 224 30 80), where we made friends with Bernardo from Austria, who taught us that vegan life is more than just apples and salads, Marco from Italy, who had been living in Bukhara for a year and came to visit some friends, Anne from France, who we would run into several times more and an old backpacking lady from Japan who did not speak a word of English but seemed to enjoy herself very much.

The touristic part of Bukhara

The touristic part of Bukhara

Marco was the one to invite us to “go out” with his friends from Russia and Tajikistan. It was our 1-year-on-the-road anniversary and we had not gone out for a beer and a dance since Fethiye in February.

An Uzbek party night for a year on the road

I put on the cleanest clothes that I could find, painted my lips and could not wait for the dance floor. Half an hour later we found ourselves in a restaurant with 15 tables and 12 other customers. We drank two beers each (Roberto less, he was still feeling week from his stomach problems) and waited for the place to be crowded. At 10.30 pm two girls in short skirts started to dance. “Let’s go and join them”, Marco suggested. He knew that bars and restaurants were forced to close by 11 pm. The DJ played Modern Talking’s “Cheri Cheri Lady” and we rocked the dance floor. It was before midnight that we arrived back in the hostel.

In Uzbekistan the biggest note is 1000 Som, less than 0,50 €. This is worth less than 30 Euros.

In Uzbekistan the biggest note is 1000 Som, less than 0,50 €. This is worth less than 30 Euros.

Fat soup

One day we asked for the menu in a small restaurant. The offer was big but again and again we heard: “Sorry, we do not have”. In the end we decided for the only thing they had: soup and bread. Since Central Asia is home of many traditional nomads, the diet contains a lot of meat. Our soup had few chickpeas, three meatballs, some herbs and a lot of very soft onions. I dipped the bread and it came out orange and shimmery. After half a bowl it hit me that the onions were nothing but pieces of animal fat. Uzbeks love this soup but I still had to get used to it.

We both fought with stomach problems in our time in Bukhara and so did half of the other visitors. I blame my problems on the fatty food. The hostel’s breakfast was fried sausage, scrambled eggs, millet, cookies, cheeses and watermelon. It was delicious but greasy. Fortunately the hostel’s owner understood our situation and we got a special low-fat breakfast instead. It took us a while to discover the Korean salads and all the vegetable stands on the markets.

Colors everywhere

Colors everywhere

Hard to say goodbye

We planned to stay in Bukhara for five nights. It was not until the eighths day that we made our way. Roberto wanted to leave in the early morning but I could not stop chatting with Anne, Bernardo, Dia and Yayoi, the Greek-Japanese couple on 7-gears city bikes. We got some light beer, snacks and sat in the shade giggling and discussing like old friends. Two days earlier we had already planned to leave, but my stomach got worse and we decided to stay. In the late afternoon we did what nobody expected us to do anymore: we left Bukhara.

Anne and Bernardo did really not believe that we would finally leave Bukhara

Anne and Bernardo did really not believe that we would finally leave Bukhara

Sunset came soon and we searched shelter in a big field with plenty of trees, grazing cows and bucking calves. We were about to pitch the tent when the owner offered us to spend the night in his “Dom” instead. Inside the Dom (house) we got a room for ourselves with mattresses on the floor and the calming noise of cows and wind in the corn fields. We shared dinner with the family and played with the young son.

Our hosts for one night invited us to their "Dom" (House)

Our hosts for one night invited us to their “Dom” (House)

A night on the eating table

On the way to the next town Samarkand the wind blew brutally directly into our faces. The road got worse and worse, but there was not too much traffic. It took us 6 hours to cycle 70 kilometers. We left the desert behind us and cycled through endless sunflower– and even more cotton fields. It was picking season and all day long we waved to the busy pickers.

Future world-cyclist

Future world-cyclist

We spent one night wild camping on the side of a cotton field and another one with a farmer’s family. They offered us to sleep in their garden on the outdoor eating table.

Wild camping in Uzbekistan

Wild camping in Uzbekistan

In Iran and Central Asia the tables for eating look like giant beds without mattress. Families sit on the sides of the table and usually put another lower table in the middle to eat from.

The air cooled down a lot at night, the wind blew through the trees, the moon shone brightly on the fields and birds’ chirping woke us up in the morning. It was wonderful.

Bed or table? Bed AND table

Bed or table? Bed AND table

Melons for power

Thanks to the wind it was cool enough to skip the long noon break. If possible we stopped every 20 km for a short break and once a day longer for lunch. I particularly enjoyed the melon breaks in the early afternoon.

Sunflower fiels everywhere

Sunflower fields everywhere

Usually we drink far too many sugared drinks and eat cookies or other junk food in our breaks. During the Melon season we enjoyed healthier and much cheaper refreshment that even stopped the thirst. On this day we were not allowed to pay money for our melon, no matter how much we insisted.

The best time of the day - Melon break time!

The best time of the day – Melon break time!

The salesman was happy to have one less to carry towards his friend’s donkey cart. We paid both of them with cookies and apples instead. I felt the new power in my legs and switched two gears up. In the afternoon we reached the first hills of the second biggest town in Uzbekistan: Samarkand.

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  1. Pingback: By bike from Samarkand to TashkentTasting Travels

  2. Hector says:

    Have you ever found any scary animals while camping in the wild?

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      Hello Hector,
      we have not met anything really dangerous yet. No wolves, bears or dangeros snakes, but one night back in Slovakia we camped near a lake full of bievers (peaceful and cute animals) who nearly cut down the trees around our tent 😀

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