Our mood has continued to flow like the bleak landscape, rays of sunshine and warmth followed by ice cold gusts and grey drabness. But this is not Uzbekistan.
It is cold here…..not so, so cold, and the desert has continued for a thousand kilometres. Not much between our journey, train, bus and flour truck to places of hotel registration.
But out of the desert evolve the Uzbeks. A kind, warm, smiling, gentle and accepting people…..also a fighting, strong people. Paying the police at every road block, stopped by unmarked police cars, constant reminders of the continued battles do not diminish the outward appearances of these people’s strength. For a thousand kilometres there is nothing, and everything……more than just the police. Ancient cities of the Silk Road surrounded by sand, rubble and people going about their daily lives. Harder lives than our struggle to negotiate without language, transport, transport for our bikes, ourselves, no maps, no signs, no fresh food, arrivals in darkness, no street lights…..intermittent electricity, water, hot water.
We are reliant on these kind people and their help to find everything. Even food shops, bus stations are void of signage… must open a door, go in and explore or enquire and hope for a person’s patience.
One moment this is exciting, the next……tiring, frustrating and acceptance of our dependence upon strangers.
The bikes were our independence.
And out of the desert are the cities of history…..poetic, beautiful, emotional…..cities that have inspired the imagination for centuries…..Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand. Restored to varying degrees, it is all breathtaking and we are lucky sharing these magical colourful tiled cities rising out of the dust, sharing with no one but the local inhabitants and a very few Uzbek tourists.
We are given bread, food… we are warned not to eat…..everyone gets sick in Uzbekistan. So far we are not sick. The food is simple….lacking vegetables, but satisfying and often shared with us full of kindness.
We have stayed in a “hotel”…..a room with a table that is our bed and packages of old shoes…..unfortunately no registration. The squat loos can be filthy, but the people always meticulously trying to be clean. Never in the western world have I seen a bus load of men after peeing, share around a bottle of water in which to wash their hands.
In Bukhara we are gestured to please visit a woman, residing above our hotel room. After many attempts to keep the conversation of few words going I am instructed to take off my clothes. It is not often I am so pliant. Dressed and wrapped like a parcel. Wearing an Asian dress, headscarf and makeup…..complete with over the top painted eyebrows ridiculous for my hair colouring. I seldom wear dresses. We have fun, laugh and this is all the language required.
We eat sunflower seeds…..everyone eats sunflower seeds….I am slowly improving in the technique…..but sometimes impatient, I eat them husks and all. They are quite addictive.
I have also learnt to lie. Finally my husband and child have given me additional freedom. No more tutting, or disappointment, no more feeling sorry for my childless predicament. Hopefully, no more male advances, “Julia……Julia….Julia…….no boyfriend…..Julia…..I love you”……I have a husband and a daughter….she is 16….and am proud of my new ability to lie in advancement of my survival, or at least my sanity.
I will not remember Uzbekistan for my new skill to alter the truth but the countries and experiences leading up to my need to lie. I will remember Uzbekistan is difficult…..but also a country of colour, people, dreaming, history and a future. Next stop, Tashkent, the capital.


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