I think it’s in the Monty Python skit about the Bruces where somebody describes the weather to the Queen, ”It’s hot enough to boil a monkey’s bum, your Majesty.” Those words have come to mind in the past two days of riding.
2009/07/18: Hotel Zafar 133 km
2009/07/19: Bukhara 148 km
We left the B&B in Samarkand at about 4:30 a.m., riding with lights at first, and ate our breakfast picnic when it was fully light. The B&B had given us some homemade mulberry cordial, which was really good stuff. The area which this road crosses is technically steppe, and not yet full-fledged desert. Most of it is more built up than I would have expected, with only a few sections looking like natural steppe. This is the area that the Soviets decided to irrigate so as to produce cotton for export. It’s crisscrossed by canals, and we could see water being directed between the rows of cotton. This irrigation scheme is what caused the Aral Sea to dry up, destroying its fishing industry.
We’d planned to take three days to reach Bukhara, seeing two natural stopping points on our map where we hoped to be able to find hotels that would accommodate and register us. When we leave Uzbekistan, we need to be able to produce registration slips for every night in the country. On the first day, however, we were forced onward by places that either could not deal with foreigners or didn’t want the hassle. Shades of some parts of China! This forced us to pedal into the hotter portion of the day; the thermometer on Chris’s odometer read 47 Celsius for a time, then jumped to 49 in the sun. I can take the heat a bit better than at the start of this trip, but this was too much for either of us. We found a shady place to hide by noon, and dozed on our Thermarests. Later, we found a watermelon stand. Continuing in the evening, we saw a hotel that looked if it was still under construction. They took us, and even though the plumbing was still a bit of a work-in-progress, we were happy to collapse.
We were on the road by 4:00 the next morning, but the distance to Bukhara still meant we had to shelter from the heat in the middle of the day. At a restaurant for lunch, Chris was pulled into the usual very silly vodka shot game by some rotund card-playing business men. He drew the line at three shots, which was more than enough. On the road a little later, a car stopped and we were given a card for the B&B that we went to upon arriving in Bukhara. It was dusk as we found it, and I was in no mood to go out again in search of dinner after moving in and getting clean. Lucky for us, a delicious supper of stuffed peppers and eggplant salad was on offer at the B&B.