söndag 19 maj 2013

Fergana Valley

After Samarkand the landscape became greener and also some hills appeared. But even if it’s a little hard sometimes getting up there in the warm weather, I do prefer it much more than the flat desert. Because once you’re up there there’s always downhill on the other side. During the day I met a guy from USA who was travelling the world on his motorcycle. We had a little chat and then he got back on his bike and left when some local guys came up to us and wanted to talk and take some photos. I wasn’t in such a hurry and like to try and talk to people along the way, and I also don’t mind taking some photos. I think my photo is on many mobile phones after all the people I have met just by the road.

I came to a small village that evening where I stopped to talk to someone and ask if they knew a good place where I could set up my tent for the night. But the construction workers I met there arranged with a room in one of the houses they were working on where we had some tea and I rested for a while until one of the workers came and told me to come with his. Islam was living in another house close by where I could stay for the night. We had a nice dinner and tried to communicate as best we could.
The next day I ended up cycling 135 km. the wind wasn’t as bad as before and I started early in the morning. When I started thinking about where to stop for the night a man pulled me over by the road to ask about my journey and to give me a cold beer. He asked me if I needed any help and I explained that I was looking for a place to sleep for the night. He said no problem, and told me to follow him for 5 km to what I thought was his home. It turned out being a petrol station that he owned and was renovating. But it had a nice comfy couch in one room so I was really happy with that. Ozod was very helpful and also brought me dinner later. But I had a strange feeling about the man and realized that the young woman that was with him wasn’t his daughter when they went in to another room for some “privacy”. Later that night after dinner and a couple of beers Ozod, his brother, friend and “lady friend” wanted me to come with them to what I understood was one of their homes. But I told them I needed the rest after a long day on the bike, but it was mostly because I had a bad feeling about them. So I made my bed on the couch and fell asleep only to be woken up in the middle of the night by a car pulling in to the petrol station. It turned out to be Ozod who spend the rest of outside playing music from the car and continued drinking. I didn’t get a very good night sleep that night and also turned down the offer to go to Ozod’s home for breakfast. Because there was no way I was getting in a car with someone who was still clearly drunk.
I had about 130 km left to Angren from where the road would go up into the mountains. It was another warm sunny day and I had a very nice lunch at a restaurant with some men I met there. They also invited me in to stay at their home, the only problem was that they lived in Toshkent. I soon arrived in Angren and decided to have a look at the prices of hotels and if it was too expensive I would camp somewhere outside of the city. But it turned out to be neither when a man whom I asked for directions to a hotel offered me a place to stay. Genna was a pastor at a church in Angren and the church had a rehabilitation center where I could stay for the night. I had a really nice time there and two church members who spoke good English came by and we had a nice interesting conversation. They had to leave so during dinner the conversation was more basic with the other guys living at the center. But we had a nice evening and a huge contrast from the night before with drinking and questionable “female company”.
For dinner we had Plov, which is a traditional Uzbek food with rice, fried vegetables and meat. It is good, but I have a little problem eating it because it was what I ate my first night in Uzbekistan and also what came up the other way the next morning when I had my stomach problem. But I can still eat it and the hunger after a long day on the bike takes over. It was a little bit more difficult to eat when the leftovers was served for breakfast the next morning.
But I needed the energy since the “Kamchik Pass” at 2267 meters was waiting for me this day. And even before the real climbing began I had to struggle with a strong head wind. So I knew this would be a slow day on the bike. The ride was beautiful and something I had been waiting for during the boring cycling in the desert. But it was hard work when I was cycling up the steep serpentine roads on a very hot day. But it was an amazing feeling once I reached the top after almost six hours cycling. At the top there was a tunnel I had to go through and since the military presence is something else in this region I had to show my passport going in to the tunnel and also the other guard at the other side. I think I showed my passport seven times during the day which is a new record for me and probably more times than I had to show it for my first months of travelling.
On the other side of the mountain waited the reward of all the hard work during the day. And luckily the road was okay for most of the way down. I was probably averaging 40-50 km/h for the first 20 km and it was a lot of fun. I know my mother doesn’t want to hear this, but I can’t help myself! I thought about doing a video with my GoPro on the way down but decided not to because of the military presence. It wasn’t worth taking the chance and maybe getting in trouble for filming something I wasn’t allowed to film. And on the way down I passed a couple of places with sighs of crossed over cameras. I was going downhill for a long time and even when the landscape flattened out I was going at good speed thanks to a nice wind and could make up for a slow day going up the hill.
I set my sight on Qoqan and though I would find a hotel there mostly because I needed to get online and have a look at my emails to see if there was any progress with an invitation for China. But I didn’t make it to Qoqan when I met some people in Danghara who invited me in for tea who turned in to a dinner (Plov again!) and they let me stay there for the night. I was woken up at 6 in the morning and we got in a minibus to somewhere that we would have breakfast. It turned out to be a wedding of some of their friends, and apparently they start the festivities with breakfast for everyone. It was a fancy  place and I felt a little out of place in my T-shirt and shorts, but it was nice even though Plov was served again=)
Today I have been cycling to Ferghana in the perfect weather. It’s been cloudy and windy, but this time wind was in my favor and I was going really fast and got here early in the day. I looked around at all the hotels but they were all very expensive but I had a look at one last Homestay on my way out of the city. They were renovating the place but had another place a little further from the center. So after a little bargaining I now have a big apartment to myself for just 7,5 $. I’ll stay here for at least two nights to relax, sort some things out and to spend my last SUM before crossing the border into Kyrgyzstan.   

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