We started Day 5 of the bike trip with a tour of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Normally Mark and I would avoid an organized tour of a city at all costs but there was really no way to avoid this one; the group left the hotel in the morning, toured the city, and then headed west – still on the bus – the city of Jizzakh. Thus were we trapped.
In the scheme of things it wasn’t so bad and parts of it were even good. We saw some monuments, went to the big market in town, toured a beautiful mosque complex, and had a great lunch of local food. Given more time I’m sure I would have found parts of Tashkent to like but with a whirlwind tour like that you just get a little flavor. After that it was a long drive over pretty awful roads to Jizzakh.
From there it was another transfer – we neither biked into or out of Jizzakh, it was just a convenient stop – out to the start of the ride. By now we were some 150 miles southwest of Tashkent and the terrain was completely different. This was essentially dessert, just dry rolling hills, with the ride entirely on dirt lanes. I missed the beauty of the mountains but this area had it’s own charms. And while I prefer riding on paved roads I learned there are lots of people who prefer this sort of mountain biking. So everyone gets some of what they like on this tour.
We ended the ride at a yurt camp – sorry, no pictures – a lodge with maybe a dozen traditional round “tents” with beds. It was extremely remote and I was pretty happy with that. At night, though, the wind came up pretty strong and was just lashing the canvas on the outside of the yurt making a noise that was almost impossible to sleep through. And then to add insult to injury when we got up in the morning they had lost electricity which meant not only no lights in the yurt for packing, but no running water, which was powered by pumps. Not a great morning.
Then it was a l-o-n-g bus ride to Zaamin National Park, where we were supposed to hike instead of bike. When I say long, well, it was supposed to be a three-hour transfer which, on those roads, would have been bad enough. In fact it took us nearly five hours to get to the park. And when we got there it had snowed recently and there was a light drizzle falling making any trails muddy and slippery.
Most of us made the hike anyway, though Mark wisely stayed back; he’d have hated the slippery downhills and his knee would have rebelled. For those who went … hmmm … it was a good hike. Too fogged in to have great views and too cold to really enjoy. But I love mountain air and I don’t get a lot of that in Manhattan so despite the cold and the wet and the mud it was OK.
Tomorrow we’re off to the ancient city of Samarkand but it’s not clear how much biking we’re going to get in. Right now it’s actually snowing here and none of us brought the clothes you would need to survive biking in that kind of weather. Fortunately we’re all being pretty flexible so I guess we’ll play it by ear.