|08-24-2013, 03:04 PM||#452|
Joined: Sep 2007
As usual, top of the bill! Awesome RR and beautiful pictures. Thanx again!
|08-25-2013, 12:24 AM||#453|
Joined: Jun 2010
|08-25-2013, 12:25 AM||#454|
Joined: Jun 2010
Where Is The Aral Sea?
After lengthy procedures at the Uzbek border we manage to sort out our papers and exit to a wide empty wind-swept field. We meet Axel, a French engineer traveling by Ural side-car, but the sand storm prevents us from spending the night together. While we decide to pitch a few yards off the road, Axel returns to a shelter of some sort closer to the border. We park our bikes so that we have a bit of protection against the strong winds and go to sleep haunted by our last year Turkey mishap, when our tent got damaged under similar inclement weather conditions.
We don't get much rest. And wake up covered in a fine layer of dust, blown into the tent by the relentless wind. But we feel lucky to still have a tent to clean and fold back into the bag.
Around noon we are reunited with Axel, who catches up with us and stays ovr at this tea house for a brief lunch. Because the toilet in the back of the yard is not working, we are told we can use the one inside the building. We discover that they are fitting what it looks like a hostel of some sort. In the toilet there is a shower, Ana cannot resists to use the opportunity to wash the sand and sweat off.
I say I'll wait until we get to the sea.
What see am I talking about? Why, the Aral Sea, of course. But where in the world is the sea? It's been dieing out since the 60s, its waters pumped out to irrigate the soviet cotton fields - the "white gold" of the former union. As we make our way to this sad environment disaster, we pass decrepit settlement and more soviet cadavers scattered in an expanse of sand and fog.
100 km more to Moynak, where we will spot the first rotting shells of the former boats. We change some money, share a frugal dinner and organize petrol. Because of the inflation our 75 bucks gets us a brick of soiled banknotes.
Axel leaves for Nukus, we hit it hard to Moynak. We want to camp on the dry sea bed so we drive under dwindling sun across silent villages and empty fields, until the first ships rise under a pale moon.
As we set camp and try to take some night shots, we are interrupted by a guard. First he tries to scare us with stories of wolves and scorpions, than to extort a bribe, and finally he is just happy to chat with us.
In the morning everything is different. It still feels like a cemetery, but less lugubrious. The ships look like toys abandoned by a careless giant. If there were no shells in the sand, we would never guess that this was once one of the largest seas in the world.
There's a bit of tourist infrastructure: info boards, a viewing platform, even a monument. It's a confronting place, inspiring a mix of pity, sadness, revolt, curiosity, acceptance...
But it is too late to save this place. So why should I not ride a bit these dunes while I'm here?
In the meanwhile Ana packs up our luggage. Our guard is back to see what we are up to and to check that we will split as we have said we would.
Moynak is a bit depressing, it looks devoid of people and purpose.
We have breakfast in Jana's restaurant: eggs and tea. Jana is a retired English teacher. Her customers are all coming from families of fishermen, now disillusioned into a destiny of alcoholism and purposelessness.
We notice a small crowd gathering across the restaurant. A bus has arrived, so Uzbek women in colorful dresses and matching scarves rush out of the market trying to fetch a ride out of the town. I can't imagine that there are many opportunities like this in a day.
The bus station is right in front the bazaar, so we cannot miss the chance to take a peek inside an Asia market.
The market has plenty of goodies: from food to textiles, from local produce to Chinese products, from livestock to imported dry fruits and cosmetics. It's a heartwarming sight. The Aral Sea may be dead, but the Silk Road is alive and kicking!
|08-25-2013, 03:42 AM||#456|
Joined: Jun 2010
The Story Of Three Silk Road Cities - KHIVA
On the outskirts of Moynak we hit the trouble zone. We barely find 80 petrol, but no
ATM and no sign of any other way to get cash.
After we feed our metal horses we order a plate of mant? in a local bistro.
While we eat we are approached by a group pf foreigner: Chinese, Brazilian and
Spanish riders on an organized tour from China to Portugal. The crowd gets bigger:
Phil is riding solo from the UK to Magadan, and he stops to say hello. We meet him
again in the next town, 2 hours later. We still cannot find petrol and he is out of
cash. He has a full tank and we have the moneys, so we decide to reunite forces and
continue together to Khiva, the first of the three Silk Road cities that have
survived a cruel past.
Khiva offers not only food for brain, but also treats us with some of the tastiest
breakfasts in existence. Our merry group enjoys morning kebaps with tomato salad,
meat pies called somsa and tons of strong black tea. !
Every morning the stalls in the market start smoking. Some double for a mini-bakery
on wheels, their tandoori ovens full of meat pies spreading an irresistible smell
into the air.
Khiva has some of the best shashlik of Ce?tral Asia, bits of met-in-your-mouth meat
rolled in a thin layer of juicy fat, then charcoaled to perfection for under a
Even if the town has been beautified by the soviets into an open air museum, the
ancient Khorezm khanate has retained much of its culture. Artisans still embroider
colorful suzani, carve wood into delicate furniture, paint on silk or rice paper
with coffee or tea.
Surrounded by the Kyzylkum desert, Khiva is made out of two very different areas:
the Itchan Kala (the old town, which contains monuments built during 6 centuries)
and the more modern Dichon-Qala, where mots locals live and where drinking water is
pumped from dubious-looking canals.
The bazaar is the liveliest part of Khiva with great produce on display since 6 in
the morning to about 6 in the afternoon
But the tourists are temped to come here for the monuments: mosques, mausoleums,
Koranic schools, all restored with controversial techniques in the 50s to give a
coherent idea about the past splendour.
To visit on foot we leave our bikes parked in the inner yard of our hostel, a
typical Khorezmian house.
Once of the loveliest sights: the unfinished minaret, covered in mosaic.
Khiva is most charming in the surreal haze of the sun setting.
|08-26-2013, 12:13 AM||#457|
Joined: Jun 2010
From Khiva to Bokhara we continue riding together with Phil. Next stop: the ancient
Silk Road cities scattered in the Kizilkum desert. Once resplendent, today little
more that a blob of dirt, they are knows as the sand-castles of Uzbekistan.
Even if the sights are not as impressive as their history, the trail leading to
their locations are fun to ride. Not to mention that we meet quite a few locals
eager to chat and more!
Tonight we camp by a lake. Don't these KTM, DRZ and Xchallenge machines look
It's too dirty to swim, but it's a nice and quiet place. We shower with the bottle,
Ana goes for a trail jog, me and Phil for some sand fun.
Next day we reach Bokhara, where locals congregate around the central pond, taking
photos, playing chess and domino, eating sweets and ignoring the monumental
The old city has an undeniable charm. The architecture is more refined and the
soviets has allowed the building to age gracefully. Even if the central square is
zooming with locals, the historical sites are quiet and dreamy.
Back to Lab-i Hauz we see the crowd doing its thing.
This KTM is the biggest piece of shit in the world, I hear a voice behind me. Jon
and Andrew are from the UK and they have embarked on a RTW tour by 690. They had a
bunch of problems, so I get why Jon says this, even if I cannot agree with his
opinion. As I have the data cable with me, we run a diagnostic. Only the next day
they will solve the issue, after they discover that a hose was not fitted properly.
Wishing them good luck, we say also good bye to Phil, who has decided to stay with them for a while, as we continue to Samarkand.
|08-26-2013, 03:32 PM||#458|
Joined: Aug 2013
Glorious Ride Report!
What a fantastic journey you two have embarked on together, and what a perfect couple of characters you are to undertake it, not to mention document it so elegantly. Very inspiring, I love the attitude and I must say it has certainly changed my preconceptions of some African countries! If your travels ever take you thru Copenhagen or Southern Portugal, please get in touch, I would love to share a bottle of wine or two! Best of luck for the rest of the trip!
|08-29-2013, 07:31 AM||#460|
Joined: Nov 2010
Location: Reading, Pa
This report is Awesome! I can not get enough of your pictures and how motorcycling is a means to for your travel not all the journey is about. You have done an amazing job showing the human side to traveling, not just the traveling itself. Your Pictures are also do a wonderful job of telling the story and show the emotions! Love It! Carry on!
Go Light! Go Fast! Loud Sucks!
|09-06-2013, 04:42 AM||#461|
Joined: Jun 2010
|09-06-2013, 04:44 AM||#462|
Joined: Jun 2010
The Tale Of Three Silk Road Cities - SAMARKAND
Samarkand... The name is enough to make us dream of giant empires, cruel warriors, but also splendid Koranic schools, traders and heroes. Some of the most celebrated monument of the Islam have survived here the ebb of two ambitions: Timurid and bolshevik.
Registon - the monumental ensemble that has urged UNESCO to add in 2001 this city on its aclaimed World Heritage List dominates the skyline of Samarkand.
We look at the Ulugh Beg Madrasah (cent. XV), the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (also a mosque) and the Sher-Dor Madrasah (cent. XVII) but cannot walk closer. Because of some show the square is closed, we must comer back tomorrow, so we ride out of town into the golden sunset..
We look in vain for a place to camp. Desperate and cold, Ana crosses the street on foot to what looks like a swanky suburban neighborhood. The beautiful face of the woman who is watering the flowers freezes in an arrested grin when she is asked if we can put our tent in their garden for one night. But after the first moments of confusion, she calls up her husband and then she agrees to invite us in.
Not only that she tells us that we can sleep outside on their terrace, but she also feeds us. Bread, a vegetable stew, tea and candied peanuts are brought to the table by the daughter, who on the other hand behaves as if she is not allowed to talk to us. The boys enjoy a different status -Muzaffar (20) and Mashraf (14) join us for dinner and even get to sit on Ana's DRZ. Would you want one of those? says the mother to her youngest and obviously the bravest of the two sons. Rano is 40 and almost no wrinkle around her beautiful eyes. But her upper arcade is all in gold; we cannot figure out if it's because of bad nutrition, poor healthcare, a quirky sense of beauty or a combination of the above.
We have a pleasant night in the open air and we enjoy a light breakfast with our hosts. Now off to Samarkand!
We start our visit in a veritable alley of treasures: the cemetery is packed with centuries old mausoleums decorated in some of the most astonishing mosaics.
Riding back to Registon, we spot the impressive Bibi-Khanoum mosque.
Then we are in awe at the elegant architecture of Registon.
Imagine that before the restoration the level of the square used to be a meter lower than today.
Samarkand is dense in extraordinary monuments. Like the mausoleum of the dreaded Timur Lenk.
Not far from the mausoleum there is Mr. Timur himself. Cast in metal, and still casting its shadow over the destiny of Uzbekistan.
|09-07-2013, 07:30 AM||#463|
Joined: Jun 2010
Postcards From Dushanbe
This bit of our adventure starts in front of a closed border. 50 km off Samarkand two young soldiers are holding their AK47s in front of us. Wordless. A man comes waving: we learn that this border is not open for foreigners. So we will take a long detour across the southern provinces of Uzbekistan, peaking over into Afghanistan and enjoying a bit of peace and quiet. Because in this stretch of the country there are no tourists and no tourist buses. We can walk quietly in the shadow of splendid mosques and bask in the glitter of the mosaic that covers mausoleums just as stunning as in Samarkand. We can also marvel at the feet of a statue that honors the national hero - a guy whose hands, some say, were dirty with the blood of no less than 17 million of his own people.
Soon loneliness starts eating our soul. We take the first chance to stock on dried food: people are selling dehydrated fruits and nuts and something else that looks like little white and pink pebbles? It's kurut a type of cheese that is made by drying in the sun the kefir, so no salt is needed for preservation. The pink variety is rolled in some chilli dust, enough to give a pleasant tingle on the tongue.
The landscape more than makes up for the loneliness. Rolling hills are covered in a brisk payer of grasses. Only animal foot paths interrupt this vast expanse of golden green. The few villages we pass appear just as lifeless. Whenever we spot a teenager herding his cattle through the clouds of dust, we are never too sure that he is real, or just imagined.
It's so hot. We are both covered in a sticky layer of dust and sweat. Ana stops to have a sip of water and as she is tying the bottle back on top of the tires, some kids come shouting. One of them has Ana's plate number. We discover that she has just lost it a couple of dozens meters down the road. The bike has been enduring this hardcore corrugations for many hours and we were lucky with these kids. As I start mending the problem, a bid crowd gathers around us, just like in Africa. But here there are only men, all curious, a gazillion questions to ask... Do you sell this bike? How much is it? How many cylinders? Whats the max speed? ... etc.
While I'm working Ana is entertaining our audience. Everybody requests a photo, but the camera has a strange effect. The faces that were very lively a minute ago suddenly become frozen and timid. So Ana's portraits look rather like official photos for a socialist event, than like some pics taken on the side of the road.
I'm done, we get on our bikes, but... the DRZ battery is dead. It's getting late and I'm tired and frustrated with one more problem to solve. A couple of drivers stop over, to check out what is going down. Nobody can serve me any good, there are no cables, no handy man, so I use my own battery to kick start Ana's. When I'm done again and the bike starts moaning, the spectators are more ecstatic than we are!
One guy invites us over for tea. He tempts us with Internet connection, but tonight it's not the right night for such interactions. I'd hate to spoil the special moments when we are hosted in someone's home. We are spent, too tired, no energy to enjoy a proper visit. So we skip it, we continue riding farther. As the sun goes down, Ana makes me proud again, climbing behind me a steep hill, from where we can see the entire valley. It's just what we need for a good night sleep.
The morning is calm: tea, a samosa. It's just the calmness before the storm.
A couple of hairpins up, the road gets nervous and rough, the mountain rockier and the dry river beds even drier.
No tree for as far as the eye can see. But what the landscape has lost in diversity, it is gaining in color. The steppe has exploded in dozen of shades of purple, khaki, brown, gold. It's a stunning preview of what's to come: the Pamir and probably Mongolia.
In the last chaikhana we are greeted with free tea, a bottle of fresh cold water and hot bread taken straight from the oven.
But let's not mistake this day for a fun day. The closer we get to the border the nastier the road is: crumbled, potholes, covered in layers of loose gravel that makes our street tires rock and roll.
On the Tajikistan side there's confusion. It's difficult to park our bike to the police liking, but in the end we are rewarded with a handful of apples.
It's the last kind gesture until Dushambe. The last hundred of Ks to the capital is a desperate fight for centimeters with mad Tadjik drivers, hoping on the horrendous road. It’s a draning task, it’s a daunting ride. Every bit of decent tarmac is claimed by cars, trucks, bikes and mopeds. Nobody gives a rat's ass about rules here. There are no breaks in the mayhem. Oh, no, today is not a good day. Today we'll leave many kids unwaved, many onlookers unsmiled. We just want to make it to the capital of this 6th country alive.
Tajikistan remains the poorest in the former Soviet sphere, with one of the lowest per capita GDPs among the 15 ex-republics.. It came under Russian rule in the 1860s and 1870s, but Russia's hold on Central Asia weakened following the Revolution of 1917. Bolshevik control of the area was fiercely contested and not fully reestablished until 1925. Much of present-day Sughd province was transferred from the Uzbek SSR to the newly formed Tajik SSR in 1929. Ethnic Uzbeks still form a substantial minority in Tajikistan, a country that became independent after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and experienced a civil war between regional factions in the 90s, and more recently an armed conflict between government forces and criminal groups in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast.
Less than 7% of the land area is arable. Actually, drug trafficking is the major illegal source of income in Tajikistan, as it is an important transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russian and, to a lesser extent, Western European markets. Because there are no jobs in Tajikistan, more than one million Tajik citizens look for employment opportunities abroad, almost all of them in Russia. We meet them crowding in at the Russian embassy, where we queue on for hours, in no less than 49 degrees Celsius!
Most of these things we learn them from our couchsurfing hosts. And man, we were lucky to find them! A charming, multi-talented family of globetrotters and artists. Helene is French, Ervin was born in Romania, in Transylvania's Gheorgheni, where our African Tenere got sold. Thanks to Ervin we are introduced to a spicy concoction brought by him from Romania only a couple of days ago :)
Their adorable Adele, who will soon turn 2, is also about to welcome a baby brother.
We feel again like home: cooking together, browsing the stunning fresh produce market, experimenting with fruit sorbet (hint: apricot and mint are a great match!). We are not alone: we share our hosts generosity first with a young French couple on recumbent bikes.
And a few days later we meet a very brave couple, also from France. Caroline and Cedric are determined to walk around the world in 10 years. We have so many stories to share over dinner at Ervin's...
...or over a big serving of khourtob. This dish is made of layers of bread, yoghurt, hot melted butter, onion, tomatoes and fresh coriander. The best thing to enjoy while sipping on sour cherry compote!
While we deal with visas and socialize with our fellow travelers, we explore Dushanbe. The city is calm and easy, with wide boulevards cutting across a dense texture of residential neighborhoods that make this feel like a village, rather than an urban area. of course the big monuments, the opulent fountains and some kitschy architecture could not be missing!
The portrait of the president is scattered around town: the propaganda is aimed at introducing this dude as the best athlete, best scientist and in general the best of its people...
Check out this poster that suggests the president and Putin are good buddies :)
Dushambe has a few lovely buildings, but the most charming is the old chaikhana downtown
In the meantime we are striving to update the blog and tend to the bikes fort the upcoming ride in the Pamir.
I meet Andrei, who has a small bike garage in Dushanbe. Noah has been here, and Andrei helps me switch from road tires to knobblies in a snap.
After we finish working, Andrei invites us to join him and Dimitri for a trek up on the mountain. After 50 kilometers thru Varzob canyon, we leave the KTM and the mopeds of the guys with a local family:
The kids are eager to try on Ana's helmet. Dabilsar, Fezet and Aliser are all smiles as we start hiking away.
At the start of the trail, a crystalline water from thawing snows is mixed with the cloudy river that flows south.
It is very hot, but we are happy to move our limbs and the landscape makes us think of our home mountains.
The exotic detail are the donkeys that carry bags of salt up into the mountain :)
Before the climb becomes really steep, there is a lovely tapshan to chillax on top of the cool stream ...
Sadly we cannot stay the entire weekend up here. We must say good bye to the guys.
We have a meeting back in town with another Romanian expatriate. We also have a lot of work to do: both in the garage and online, as our blog is still stuck in... Georgia. Finally, at the end of ten days in Dushanbe, we start rolling towards the Pamir. Where we are about to experience drought, snow and generosity.
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mrwwwhite screwed with this post 09-07-2013 at 07:40 AM
|09-08-2013, 10:26 AM||#464|
Joined: Apr 2013
Location: Veyrins , FRANCE
Each of your photos offers me a little of dream...
Especially change nothing...
You are my idols....
I am jealous
Thank you for all you magnificent photos
Continue, please, your road and has very soon
ONE DAY IN FRANCE
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