It’s rained overnight, the second time in Uzbekistan. I was half expecting snow after a day of cold and mist which was not unwelcome adding to the mystery of Samarkand as we sought out ancient ruins rather than the majestic restorations that adorn the city.
We will likely get snow soon enough and know Almaty our final destination for this section of our journey is already under a carpet of treacherous white powder.
But today we head to the bus station. Hopefully our last bout of motorised transport before entering Kazakstan and resuming our journey from the saddle.
A short 6km ride to the station. Unlike our dilemma in Kiva and then Bukhara…..we know where the bus station is…..no matter that bus stations do not look like I would expect a bus station to appear. We arrive directly……not passing several times searching in growing exasperation. All busses from here go to Tashkent. We are no longer rushed and know the process…..no longer quickly agreeing a price, being rushed on board and sitting waiting hours for the bus to depart with a filling bladder. We go to the loo, purchase food, decline the first bus as are not happy with the expensive fair. We are feeling happy and relaxed. We have previously paid the same price as a seat for each bike placed in the hold.
The next bus asks a fair price for our seats only and makes room for bikes and luggage. We expect a 6-7 hour journey, and miraculously arrive in Tashkent in 3.5 hours…..still daylight. Everything is going smoothly.
We have been told Tashkent authorities have banned the riding of bicycles. On line we try and find information…….mysteriously we can not open any of the pages referring to the police crack down. The Internet is censored. We will ride our bicycles. In daylight we pedal 25km of this sprawling city in search of a hotel.
In Uzbekistan everyone is a taxi. It’s a fantastic form of car pooling……unless you are riding in Tashkent on a bicycle. Where usually in London, New York…..anywhere, marked taxis are a hindrance to all other road users, stopping suddenly, illegal turns…..obstacles to moving forward, in Tashkent, every car…..a taxi, stops to collect a fair…..hundreds of vehicles, suddenly stopping, or attempting to pull out….blocking not one, two…..up to 5 lanes of traffic. It is chaos, police are everywhere…..but pay no attention to us or our bicycles as we stop start, weave our way through, get lost in the old town and eventually, in the dark, arrive at a hotel.