Tashkent (August 28th… )

Alright. So I finally found an internet café where WordPress works. The owner has a list of about 50 working proxies and I seem to have half access to WordPress at an acceptable speed. Sadly it won’t let me update photos or add hyperlinks so if you want the full reading experience then I suggest waiting a few more weeks. WordPress hasn’t been working even with Tor during the most recent two countries so it hasn’t been possible to update and I feared this might be the case until India, which I read is itself getting increasingly militant about internet restriction. Thank you to all for comments left, apologies I haven’t replied to any! I will do my best to get back to any from now on… Scroll down to read updates from the last 6 weeks, hang tight a bit more if u wanna read it with pictures (which I would recommend)…

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The hotel noticed the missing stamp but accepted that the signed, dated, and stamped declaration form (which unfortunately is in tatters) was legitimate proof of legal entry into the country. They were on my side and agreed that this was the border guards’ incompetence and not mine. Perhaps not stamping foreigners’ passports and then fining them heavily on exit is some elaborate scheme to inject money into the local economy? They contacted the police and I was told it is “no problem”. I will hang on to a contact number for this hotel in case anything is said at the border on exit. I don’t think I have reached the end of this story yet…

Tashkent itself is yet another weird Central Asian capital city. At over 2 million officially, but closer to 4 million unofficially you would think that there is a lot going on here, but it’s pretty lifeless. Every time you get take the Metro you get passports checked and bags searched which gets pretty tiresome. Not once have the police officers noticed the missing stamp. I don’t think they really know what they are looking for, but rather just seem to enjoy having a good nose through the visa stickers. Things have improved a great deal over the last few years apparently where the police regularly shook people down and demanded cash.

The 1st of September marked 20 years of independence for Uzbekistan. Signs and great big banners all over the city trumpeted this momentous occasion but when it came down to it I couldn’t find anything going on. The only thing besides the normal lack of people I saw was a small flashpoint of around 200 people who had surrounded some kind of local pop star singing in the street. Otherwise zilch. No parties, no military parade, no fireworks. What a let-down. I was told that Tashkent had suffered a terrorist attack 3 years ago which was described to me as “our 9/11”. This, apparently, was the reason thing were so dead and nobody was out in the streets celebrating. I haven’t been able find anyone else who knows about this event and I haven’t got round to Googling it so I don’t how true it is…

Visas was the reason I came here to Taskent. Visas for Kyrgyzstan, China, and India. India I’ve decided to leave until later because it takes one week to process. Kyrgyzstan I picked up in 15 minutes and I am almost sure the consul pocketed the $112, and of course China is a nightmare. I think I shot myself in the foot somewhat in stating on my application form that I am travelling by bike which apparently they don’t like ‘cos a lot of cycle tourists try going to Tibet or something. Right now I am madly trying to secure a letter of invitation for China so I can get the ball rolling again. If I can’t get a visa for China then I will probably head all the way up to Bishkek, or Almaty in Khazakstan and fly somewhere from there but I’d rather not.

Even if I haven’t cycled every mile, I would love to make it all the way by land (yes apart from the English Channel) and the only way to do this after the Pamir Highway would be to hang a right in Kyrgyzstan into China, and then head South from Kashgar to the Pakistan border. There apparently you can pick up a visa upon arrival and head down the Karakoram Highway, and ultimately cross into India around Lahore. Once again I have had much conflicting advice about the safety of this region of Pakistan but as you get closer to these places (as with Iran), it becomes much easier to sort the shit advice from the Shinola, and the general consensus is that this part of Pakistan is safe – especially from the people who have acutally been there.OK so people might carry guns in the same way they wear clothes, but it is still said to be safe – a measured risk to witness the profound beauty of the Karakoram mountain range, which would no doubt be pissing cold should I ever make it there…

Time is getting on. It is now September 3rd. Already back in Buxoro the temperature dropped from boiling, to bearable and despite still being really hot things have become noticeably cooler these last few weeks. The sun goes down here around 7ish so the nights are drawing in too. The autumnal equinox is less than 3weeks away…

I have been warned by Swiss cyclists, and an American tourist that leaking lightless waterlogged potholed tunnels which take 20minutes to drive through in a car lay ahead in Tajikistan. That could be fun. Also the stunning Wakhan valley which runs alongside the Afghan border with peaks visible in the 7000s. I will definitely be making a detour to that if time allows. Throughout this trip I have been looking forward to the Pamirs more than anything and I can’t wait to get back on the bike and get stuck in.I may have to lengthen my Tajik visa in Dushanbe in order to make it through before my visa runs out. It could be a really long few months ahead.

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1 Response to Tashkent (August 28th… )

  1. Leslie James Payne says:

    Good to know you are still on the move!
    If you have any OLBAS OIL, then it is excellent as an embrocation for, not only your knees, but other joints as well!! Failing that, Eucalyptus oil, would do the trick! Cheers, Les

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