News Single

16.07.09 03:15 Age: 9 yrs

Can you smell what the rock is cleaning?

By: Roger

The road to nowhere

Riding back along the road we had come along toward the larger canals, we soon passed a house where they were all out at the front of their house enjoying a late afternoon chai. They called us over and soon we were having chai with them. This family lived on a huge family farm, with many many different fruits and vegetables. Whilst waiting for dinner we set about repairing our tube, and then 20cm split in our tyre (a hard job, given its size and location!). After this we were given a quick tour of the family farm. Passing the toilet roger saw two bucket of rocks inside, and jokingly remarked to Megan in private, I wonder if that is what they wipe their bums with.

Following Plov for dinner, it was then time for the post dinner stop. Accompanied by one of the men, roger was shown the toilet, and told to use the rocks since they did not have paper, one bucket for the clean rocks (they were jagged, and very rough, about thee size of a fist or slightly larger, looking very painful!), one bucket for the dirty ones. Roger tried hard to keep a straight face as he was told this (with the joke he had recently told come true). Luckily he just needed to pee! To this day (yes we know it was disgusting, but we did inspect the two buckets, and one did in fact contain new rocks, and the other used) we still do not know how they managed to use these sharp jagged rocks, day in day out, we almost felt like donating them some of our maps, and notebooks to use instead!

In the morning we were given a longer tour of the farm, before seeing(and recording on video) the grandmother and mother making some traditional Uzbek handicrafts (mattresses, pillow covers, wedding clothes etc) before being taken to the bazaar by their two donkeys, this is very interesting considering all this work is normally done in factories or by machines in other areas. Going by donkey to the bazaar was also an interesting experience for us, being used to riding the quike around (there were donkeys everywhere, it is the main mode of transport there). The bazaar here was just full of people haggling and selling their wares, with much yelling and tea drinking interspersed.

That night, we learned how to make traditional chuchuvara, which is minced meat and onion encased in dough and boiled. As usual this traditional Uzbek dinner took some 3 hours to make (non-stop work, with no rest time in between). But it was very interesting to experience and document on video (we are not very good at making them, ours turn out like round balls, instead of pretty intricately shaped bows) since the technique is very delicate and unique. It was soon after this however, that we realised that whilst we were at the Bazaar, someone had been squeezing our brake levers. Normally this is not a problem at all, however the brakes they had squeezed, just so happened to be the brakes without the wheels attached, meaning that the pistons on our hydraulic brakes had wedged the brake pads together with extreme force, jamming them together like a hydraulic vice. This was very annoying for us and took much time to repair. After a hearty dinner that night, it was time to depart for Jizzak the next day.

Throughout our mornings ride, we passed through numerous small villages that were not on our map. We stopped numerous times to look for water (we still had some 30L on us, but in this region you never know when you will next encounter drinking water!), until we were forced to stop by another flat tyre. Soon we were surrounded by some 20 men who were growing increasingly inquisitive beyond politeness, until Megan barked at them for touching it - kicking/standing the spokes to see how strong they were and and tugging at the brake cables to try and tow the quike and show how strong they were! However given the amount of practice we had had changing tyres, it was all a quick exercise in the end so we managed to escape with quikey intact.

Further down the road two boys caught up with us and followed us, whilst we were looking for the elusive lake Aiderkol. They had started by giving us directions to the lake but somewhere along the way decided that they'd accompany us out there after shouting us a lunch of fresh manti (lumps of fat wrapped in dough, just imagine lard encased in pastry). We're considerably slower than an unloaded two-wheel bike, and we were carrying their water too. After a while stopped to ask directions at a house(and continued to do the same regulary) and that's when we realised that perhaps this was blind leading the blind!

After a few hours riding, we turned off onto a very sandy track (which the quike was handling quite well!) for 6 km but in the final 1 km before the lake, we encountered an impasse - the same prickles which had caused out 50 off punctures on the steppe last time, and so we were paranoid about going within even 1m of them. Strangely though, these boys just rode right over the prickles... which worried us immensely since they did not have any spare tubes (we did though). We decided to get around them by detouring off onto the steppe and then met back up with the boys on the other side of the prickle patch.

Then, as we got to within 100 m of the lake, it appeared that this was not the entry point as it was impossible to reach the water for a swim through the thick bushes and mud. It was also at this time, that we realised we were at the wrong lake, lake Aiderkol was some 10km or so further in front of us, hidden by a small hill range. What we though was lake aiderkol in front of us, was really just a small subsidiary pond. The real aiderkol was further in front of us, protected by impassable mud, bushes, prickles, and a range. As it was getting late, the poor boys had to turn around and ride the 40 km back to their homes to be back in time for dinner, worryingly they refused our offers of food and took only minimal water. We hoped their bikes would be ok (they had only ridden a few hundred metres since the prickle patch) without any troubles, but alas we never saw them again.

However the good thing for us, was that there is no such thing as "getting late" for us, we have no deadlines, so had all the time in the world. Thus being eager to still swim, we decided to head out on a different direction on the steppe (the good thing about the steppe is there are no tracks, you are able to go wherever you want, following the line of least resistance) to find our way around the lake to a swimming point but encountered stupid prickles again with dense impassable bush. After a few more hours of frustration on the endless rolling steppe (it was hard to find where we had came from since we left no tracks on the steppe, as sometimes we had to backtrack when we were blockaded by prickles) we gave up and camped the night there in the middle of the steppe, again surrendered to sleep but lots of howling, be it by wolves or jackals, we did not know.

By the next morning, we were ready to tackle the steppe again. After a lot of path finding (searching for the path of least resistance through the heavily scrubbed stepped) It took several hours till we hit the sandy track again, backtracking through the steppe and along the sandy track. On the way through we were stopped by two fishermen in a jeep and given 4 fish. This was at 7am in the morning! Worryingly however was that it was already 35degrees and rapidly getting hotter, would the fish keep?

Our map said there was a road leading out of here in the direction we wanted to go (towards the mountains), And we guessed that we'd hit the main road if we just headed south on another road. At one point we were stopped by a man who informed (along with another car which pulled over and told us the same) that following the road along, we would turn East after the bridge along the same one road.

A few hours later, the big asphalt road petered out and was covered by, you guessed it, prickles. So with nothing better to do we stopped for a lunch in the shade next to an arbus (watermelon) farm, dreaming of devouring them one by one. After this rest we took a walk over to the nearest house to check if we were going the right direction and who owns the arbus farm (and may we buy one?).

We stopped to talk to the lady, only to be told that a few hundred metres down, the road just dropped off on a cliff edge (the bridge had gone) so we had ridden all that way on the road to no where, only to have it drop off off a huge cliff with no bridge. The road that the two cars had told us about, had not existed for decades, the bridge had long since fallen down, thus leaving the road to come to an abrupt stop on the edge of an impassable cliff/gorge.

Backtracking the way we had come, we soon found we would not make it back to the main town by nightfall so set about finding a place on the steppe to camp. Seeing a old building in ruins out on the steppe we decided to investigate. Upon riding out we were soon followed by a young boy herding sheep. He stopped to talk to us for a bit before inviting us to his house. It soon turned out that this was an old soviet town, for Kazakh people. In the old soviet times this town was actually part of Kazakhstan, but with the fall of the USSR, the town was now in Uzbekistan's territory, thus meaning a lot of the Residents moved back to Kazakhstan, all accept 4 families. Thus the old building we had seen was the school(which taught in Kazakh not Uzbek), closed years ago due to lack of pupils. Thus we were now staying in a Kazakh village, inside of Uzbekistan. Thus that night we got to practice our Kazakh again, as well as eating traditional Kazakh food, a nice change (even though it was not so long ago we had been in Kazakhstan) for a bit.

The next morning, it was back on the road towards Samarkand, after our little (big) adventure out towards lake Aiderkol. Little did we know that this adventure was nothing in comparison to what we were to soon encounter