We arrived to Uzbekistan quite tired – 5 days on the desert of Turkmenistan sucked all energy out of us and we needed a proper rest. In the first Uzbek village we found a restaurant, where we just wanted to drink some tea before going to bed. It quickly turned out, that spending a quiet evening there was simply impossible – the restaurant was full of guests of a pre-wedding party. Uzbeks love weddings, and to make sure that the atmosphere at the wedding is good, they invite both families 2 weeks before to get to know each other. When they saw us – two tired cyclists from Europe, there was no way out for us and we had to join the party.
We were sat at the table of the fathers and uncles of the young couple and begun to celebrate – to toast for the young couple and drink. We are used to drink vodka from tiny glasses, rather slow; in Uzbekistan we got introduced to a new style – vodka from the bowl, a lot of it, very fast! Our hosts had no mercy for us and after less than half an hour we were dancing to traditional music in the middle of the hall with all the family!
We met the whole family, neighbours and local VIPs, drunk together and simply had some proper fun. Our knowledge of Russian (the language everybody speaks in the Stans) magically improved right after the third bowl of vodka. Strangly, the party stopped after 11pm, so we were left in the restaurant alone. We were not able to cycle any more, so they let us sleep in the restaurant…
Cycling in Uzbekistan was difficult and rather boring – the country is mainly flat, cotton fields everywhere, the temperatures are high. It is hard to buy good food – in the restaurants everything is based on meat (like traditional plov) and the shops out of the big cities are poorly supplied. The level of hygiene is low – running water is available only in big cities, toilets (including the ones in the restaurants) are just holes in the ground (filled up with excrements), flies flying around, old newspaper instead of toilet paper and we rarely saw anybody washing hands there. As many other foreigners we ended up taking some antibiotics to cure the travellers diarhea.
The roads are in poor conditions – even the main road between the biggest cities of the country looks like it has not been fixed since the Soviets left the country.
One day we met Akira – heavily loaded Japanese cyclist, who left home 9 years ago! He is a bit of a legend and we heard about him in Turkey for the first time.
Luckily the people are good in Uzbekistan, and we had a lot of fun talking to them. We met a lot of old men who served in Poland in the Seventies, during the Soviet Union. And even though hosting foreigners is forbidden by law, we met some rebels who were not afraid to give us a place to stay for a night.
Since we had only 2 weeks visa, we had to cross the country quite fast. We got a lift from time to time, putting our bikes on trucks.
Uzbekistan was a nice, thou a bit rough country with a lot of very friendly people. However, we missed mountains a lot, and after 2 weeks there it was definitely time to move to Tajikistan.