Monday, May 28, 2012

Tashkent or where is the border crossing.

Well there was no stopping it, today we had to cross into Uzbekistan. We rode out of the hotel wondering what the day would bring.

The view over Shymkent.
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Fueled up it was only 120ks to Tashkent easy day, it would give us plenty of time to cross the border and still make to the hotel with plenty of time to spare. First up another police radar stop, I didn't think I was speeding but once he realized I didn't speak Russian or Kazakh he waved me on my way. Mmm day is going ok. Next stop was plain clothes guy waves me down again seeing soldiers I thought I had better stop so I rode over to them and engaged directly with them. Next moment there was about 6 soldiers around the bike asking a questions, one who could speak English pops up, explains it was passport control and asks for our passports and migration documents. All cool. I would have been happy to stay and talk, we asked if we could take a photo, but were told no and to move on (by the traffic cop not the soldiers) Hah rather being harassed into a checkpoint we were harnessed out of one.

Anyway we eventually made to the border checkpoint and it was chaos people everywhere waving at me for currency and asking about the bike. We traded $100 US for 200000 SOM. I thought it was an okay deal as the official rate was 1863 SOM to the dollar and Internet told me there wasn't a great spread between the official rate and black market rate, I later discovered that 2700 was about right maybe more, so much for accurate research! I also found out that vehicles weren't allowed to cross here! Doh so much for an easy day. The great thing is while we were probably somewhat vulnerable, had gone to the wrong place and still weren't sure where to go I was having great fun.

This is the best shot we got of the first crossing, it doesn't quite show the chaos.
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug We asked the cops where to go, his was quite helpful, but I didn't quite get his directions. so we rode to the next crossing also crowed also drew too much attention to find out that we needed to go 120km further down the road to find an international border that vehicles could cross. (Also to add if you are going to shake someone's hand in this part of the world remember to take your gloves off it is poor form not to).

Anyway something that would normally leave me stressed, just left me with a grin from ear to ear. I was having the worst day of trip so far from a organizational point of view and it was the best fun.

So eventually we found the crossing point (Chinoz/Yallama for those interested) rode past all the trucks and cars waiting to cross, parked in front of the checkpoint gate and was let straight in. Alright!

First stop Kazakh frontier control all straight forward until the question was asked where is your Uzbek Visa, um in my other passport. Hang I will go and get it. This would be interesting, two Australian Passports. When he saw that I had two passports issued by the same country he eyes nearly popped out of his head. Very funny. Off to ask his supervisor, five minutes later he was back stamp stamp and it was Sharon's turn.

Then it was time for Uzbekistan. Queue up passports stamped, we had some customs forms that we had filled in that were in English, they were the old forms so it we had filling new forms in Russian, luckily there was a lady who spoke English well enough to help us fill them in. Filled them in and more waiting, more stamping and it was on to the next step.

Customs Clearance, the young bloke doing this wanted to see everything, I think out interest more than anything else. He had a big grin on his face when opened the bag with condoms in it. He was a really nice and it was okay that he went through everything. It gave us change to ask how to say a few things in Uzbek. I think it brought us a lot of good will doing this.

Finally we are out of border control, slow process but professional and people were nice. Straight out of border control to our first police check point, of to the office to fill in some paperwork and of course get asked for money. I actually felt sorry for the guy and almost caved he asked for $10 and then dropped it to $5 nearly straight away. But I told him, via sign language I was stupid and didn't understand what he was asking. (Most people will guess that first off).

So it was now it was back to Tashkent about 80ks, we had ridden a 200ks to cover a distance of 20. Up the highway 2 more check points that didn't show any interest in the bike. Plenty of people honking their horns and waving.

Finally into Tashkent and the Hotel was in a easy place to find, or so I thought until I was confronted by traffic coming straight at me. Shit!!! A quick uturn and it was down a back alley to the street we needed to be on. Mmm hotel is not that readily apparent. So we stop at a restaurant and ask for directions. It is 400 meters up the road no worries thanks for that. So up the road we go, mmm still can't find it back to the restaurant ask again. In the end I left Sharon with the bike and walked up. Found it, the numbers on the street went. 65, 63, 95 I am sure there is some logic to it but just escapes me. Oh the sign? It was the size of an A4 piece of paper, behind a tree. So rang the bell, made sure everything was sweet and went back to get Sharon.

In the meantime, the guys at the restaurant had found someone who spoke English and had sent someone up the street to make sure I was sorted. Fantastic, what nice people we had met here. A shower and change saw back their for a fantastic meal of this soup that was more stew and some. Ore shaslick. Also a salad that was so fresh. I forgot to mention in previous posts in this part of the world the veges are really fresh and very tasty.
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The roof in our guest house, all the timber was hand cut.
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The father of the current owner, who initially built the guest house.
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Our first day in Uzbekistan was great, nothing went to plan but I went to sleep grinning from ear to ear. 24 hours had brought a huge turn around.

Some fresh baked bread.
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Our host playing some traditional Uzbek music.
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Jean-Pierre, another crazy cyclist riding through central Asia, he was off to Kyrg, his blog is
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The team at the restaurant.
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*A footnote, some of those who know us will know that we have a strong faith, we prayed about this before hand, call it what will, but I choose to thank God for the day he gave me.

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