After the trek in Zaamin National Park, and a night of sleep, the plan was to head out of the park on our bikes. This involved a significant ride downhill, then some ups and downs, then a tough 7 kilometer climb, and finally a 40 kilometer descent from the mountains.
There were a few snags. First, the weather forecast was miserable. The temperature was barely above freezing, and it was actually snowing the night before our ride. The roads were also pretty treacherous. And then there was the matter of that 7 km climb. We all sort of assumed that once morning came, we’d ditch the ride, especially since all of us came to Uzbekistan expecting hot weather everywhere, and nobody had clothes for cold and snow.
But when we got up in the morning the weather had mostly cleared. It was cold — just above freezing — but it was sunny and beautiful. Of the fourteen of us, ten decided we were going to try the ride. It was beautiful riding, though the roads were pretty hellish. Wearing a couple layers, and working pretty hard, the temperature wasn’t bad — except for some pretty cold fingers.
Once we began the very tough long climb, it started to get a little colder, and by the time we reached the summit we were wiped out and freezing. This caused a few of us (including me) to decide again the 40 km descent. It was just too cold, and the roads looked just plain scary for riding steeply downhill. So more of us got in the bus, while Jim and six others started downhill. The weather got worse. The roads got worse. There were mean dogs. Becky took a tumble on her bike (but wasn’t hurt). Suffice it to say, by the halfway point of the descent, the remaining riders were climbing into the bus with their teeth chattering. And we all began a 3-hour ride to Samarkand, where we’d get a day off to recover and explore.
Samarkand is the stuff of legends. It is the quintessential Silk Road town. Ancient in origin, it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BC and decimated by Ghengis Khan in 1220. In 1370, Tamerlane made it the capital of his Timurid Empire, stretching from Constantinople across Central Asia into India and China. Today it is leafy, lovely city with an incredible legacy of tile-covered Islamic architecture. It was a joy to explore this beautiful place — and to heal from a rough day of biking. And it deserves lots of pics, as you will see.