This way the day that I had originally planned to ride into Tashkent but in the end I figured it would be best to stop short of the border and cross early the next morning instead of arriving in Tashkent at night.
A nice way to wake up
An undisturbed nights sleep in the middle of a field
I took the ring road around Shymkent as I know I’ll be return in a few days as it’s the place where I will have to re-register my visa when I enter the country for the second time.
Like I mentioned previously the weather is now unbelievably hot and it makes for much harder riding. The second problem that it presents is that the water you have to carry also becomes hot and not at all pleasant to drink. However when you need to keep hydrated and the only thing is luke warm water, well there isn’t much else you can do.
Past the 7000km mark
With the sun beating down on me in the early afternoon I had to take shelter at one of the rest stops along the way. It was here that I met Oscar another English football aficionado who I sat down and had a cup of tea. Like many Kazaks Chelsea seem to be very much flavour of the month here. He was very proud of the fact that he had Lipton tea which he insisted came from England, I wasn’t so sure but nevertheless I proposed a toast to the Queen and Liverpool and tried to get him to sing me the Kazakhstan national anthem to which he seemed a little reluctant.
His friend who ran the shop next to his brought over a bowl of what appeared to be yoghurt with corn inside. I’ve been struggling with the stomach the last few days so wasn’t sure if yoghurt on a boiling hot afternoon would be the best bet but I was obviously in a position where I couldn’t really refuse. It actually tasted pretty good, very very sweet and bitter but very palatable.
On the road front things aren’t really improving, it’s still bumpy and I’m still weaving left and right avoiding the huge sections of road that seem to have gone missing.
About 50km from Tashkent I was met by a road block manned by about 15 heavily armed soldiers. Most of them seemed pleased to see yet another foreigner passing through no doubt on a bicycle but the guy in charge was far from jovial and insisted on me getting me papers out.
A little further down the road I found a small restaurant nestled in amongst some trees. I decided that this would certainly be the best bet for a spot of dinner and I could also try my luck pitching my tent there too.
Many of the rest stops have these large raised beds with a table in the middle and lots of cushions on so that people can lay out on them. I sat down with a trucker named Nurick. Once again it’s amazing that despite neither of us speaking each others respective languages that we were still able to hold a conversation. I carry a picture of my family in my neck pouch and I find that this is always a good ice-breaker.
Nurick was heading off towards Uzbekistan later so it was a little disconcerting to see that he was on his second pint of the evening when I sat down with him. I ordered my usual bowl of noodles and tea but Nurick insisted that I have a beer with him. He indicated that if I wanted we could put my bike in the back of his truck and drive to Uzbekistan together. I tried to explain to him that I must ride all the way and avoid all other forms of transport, not an easy thing to explain using mostly mime. It was later after Nurick had left when I tried to pay the bill that I found out he’d picked up the tab for my dinner. Just another example of Kazak hospitality.
The owners of the restaurant were also extremely friendly and I was invited over to join the mother who was sitting at a table near the kitchen. Once again we couldn’t understand a single word of what each other was saying but she quickly got out here mobile phone and in no time I was talking to her granddaughter who is studying English in Almaty. It was rather strange to have a conversation being translated via a mobile phone passed back and forth between myself and the grandmother.
I had to move off my bed for these 'paying customers'! Fair enough.
I ended up meeting the whole family and they agreed that I could put my tent down amongst some trees which belonged to the restaurant. I had a couple of beers with her sons, English names Gary and Eric and a few of their friends. Once again it seemed like the women were pretty busy running around working while the guys sat around orchestrating things. I tried to pay again but once again it seemed my money was no good here.
The sons of the family
Kazakhstan as you can see = MEAT!
After a long hot day on the bike and 4 beers I’d forgotten that it had gotten dark and I still needed to put my tent up. There was what appeared to be a birthday party being held at the restaurant with a group of older people all of whom had consumed large amounts of alcohol. I said my goodnights to the family and then had to weave my way through the throng of people dancing all the while pushing my bike.
Then it was a case of setting up the tent in the dark, extremely tired and with only my small head lamp to help me I stumbled in amongst the trees, locked up the bike to one of them and managed to throw the tent down and crawl in. My tent may be small but one of the advantages is that you can have it set up within 3 minutes.
Another day of extreme warmth in the weather but also from the local people here in Kazakhstan. Tomorrow country number three, Uzbekistan.