Dushanbe to Bukhara

It has been 10 days since we left Dushanbe, and wrote our last post!! We have seen so much and have travelled such a long way since then, left Tajikistan and crossed Uzbekistan. Time flies when you’re having fun!!

We leave Dushanbe just after sunrise as we have a long day ahead of us, with a border crossing and some dirt road. I will be very happy if we make it to Shahrisabz in Uzbekistan tonight so that we can get to Samarkand the next day – we have been delaying our arrival in Samarkand for one reason or another. We head out of Dushanbe on the M41 heading west. The lighting is a soft golden glow – I could nearly become a morning person it is so beautiful at this time of the day. For the next hour, as we ride from village to village, the road is divided with thousands of roses or gladioli, and lined with huge posters of Emomali Rahmon, who has served as President of Tajikistan since 1994, either picking apples in orchards or opening aluminium plants. The curbing is freshly painted – it feels like we are going from a village what would have been voted tidy town to the next tidy town. We also see women collecting litter from the roadside drain, and people standing by the side of the road waiting for a lift to work, young kids travelling with their donkey and cart or odd cow. As pretty as the villages are, it is obviously a hard life here. It has been a short stay in Tajikistan, we haven’t seen a fraction of what most people visit Tajikistan for, such as the Pamirs, because I suffer from altitude sickness so badly, but we have enjoyed every minute of our stay: stunning scenery, gentle smiling people and the easiest, calm driving style of all the Stans. I know the cars are terribly underpowered here, but the Tajiks nature is palpably different.

Another fabulous mosaic – Dushanbe, Tajikistan


Leaving Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Leaving Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Tajikistan president Emomali Rahmon

Leaving Dushanbe, Tajikistan


Tajikistan village


Our crossing from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan was fairly quick – 2.5 hours. Leaving Tajikistan literally a few minutes. We met an Australian Dave, travelling in the opposite direction to us, who had just spent 2 days at the border. He didn’t realise he didn’t have a double entry visa and now, no one wanted him in their country. Luckily one officer was going to take him to town later to get his new e-visa printed. The Uzbek usually check bags very carefully but apart from asking Anthony to show his iPad to check for any pornography and checking some medication, it was painless and pleasant enough.

As soon as we enter Uzbekistan, we are welcomed with waves and loud hoots. How great to be back in this country!! But is amazing how brutally different driving styles can be. It is everyone for themselves here. It reminds me more of India. Especially as we get to a market part of Denau, a small town of just over 100,000. The ‘road’ is all broken up, 2 lanes are in fact 5 lanes and the hoots are no longer welcoming but get out of my way! It also doesn’t help when a group of women stop to chat and welcome me, holding my hand and the cars behind want me to move on!! Oh how I would have loved to take a photo of them, all with gleaming gold teeth, but mostly with gentle and happy smiling faces. Car drivers don’t usually understand the predicament of a motorcycle rider being stuck on the wrong side of a pothole: if you suddenly have to stop in the wrong place, your feet search the ground until you realise it is not there and you go over. Luckily we didn’t go over because we stood our ground where it was best for us to wait for the traffic to move forward again but it was the least pleasant riding experience on this trip so far. 45′ later though, we are out of the madness. We continue riding south west for another 50 kms, getting the closest to the Afghan border just a further 100kms south, enjoying the last of the green valleys and cotton fields before turning north west towards Boysun and back onto the main road north to Guzar. It is now hot and dry out here!!

Denov, Tajikistan

Denov, Tajikistan

Cotton – grown throughout the Stans

Our last patch of green before 2 mountain passes Uzbekistan

A couple of Czech riders we met earlier were stopped on the side of the road so we pulled over: they had just found some fuel. We don’t quite understand the shortage of fuel in Uzbekistan. It is worse now than 3 years ago as cars have had time to convert to methane or propane and every petrol station has either converted or mostly simply shut down. So we have to look for the tell tale water bottle on the side of the road, or stop and ask. This time, the transaction is made from the back of this guy’s boot/trunk. We bought some Octane + in Dushanbe to boost the fuel composition and have cut up some pop-socks to use as filters. We are now good to get to Samarkand which is a relief. Interestingly, we have seen more travellers today than we have in the past few months: 1 set of Czechs, 1 set of Slovaks, a cycling Dutch couple and a few Mongol Rally cars. That rally sounds like a lot of fun: I think about 300 cars enter the London to Ulan-Baatar ‘race’. The rules are simple: you can only enter a small underpowered cheap car, 1 litre or less, you have to fix the car yourself when it breaks down and raise a certain amount of money for charity. It was a perfect opportunity for us to convert some left over Tajik money.

Dutch cyclists, they have some tough passes ahead of them!

Forces of nature, Uzbekistan

Surxondaryo Province, Uzbekistan

Surxondaryo Province, Uzbekistan

Surxondaryo Province, Uzbekistan


Surxondaryo Province, Uzbekistan

11.5 hours after we left Dushanbe, we arrive in Shahrisabz pretty exhausted and find ourselves a hotel. A have a surprise for Anthony tomorrow as he has no idea what’s here!!

Shahrisabz, founded more than 2,700 years ago, is one of Central Asia’s most ancient cities. And like the rest of the area in this part of the world, had a fascinating but turbulent history. For the purposes of keeping this post brief’ish, I will let you read https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahrisabz if interested.

Shahrisabz council have done a fantastic job reclaiming land and highlighting its key historic monuments by linking them with a new park.

Ak-Saray Palace, Shahrisabz

Ak-Saray Palace, or “White Palace”, Shahrisabz

Wooden door, Shahrisabz

Dorut Tivolat complex with Kok-Gumbaz mosque, Shahrisabz

Kok-Gumbaz mosque, Shahrisabz

Dorut Tivolat complex with Kok-Gumbaz mosque, Shahrisabz

Shahrisabz

Dorut Tivolat complex, Shahrisabz

Shahrisabz

647 year old tree, Dorut Tivolat complex, Shahrisabz

Having spent a leisurely 4 hours here, we make our way to Samarkand. Those of you who followed our first RTW know how much we loved Samarkand and how excited we have been to see our friends there again.

Even though it was long and another stinking hot day, I couldn’t resist going see the Registan again as soon as we arrived!!! We are grateful we have seen this place before in all its glory because it was closed when we arrived for the rehersals of the Music Festival dance routines in a few weeks, with huge platforms, light structures etc. Visiting hours have been reduced to 11am to 4pm. When I visited it again the next day, it didn’t have the same peaceful feel I had remembered from our first visit. It felt more like a work site. I still enjoyed seeing it close up though – the workmanship, the colours, sheer beauty, majesty, balance, and even the serenity was still there in places. I felt sorry for first time tourists though. I went back again the next day for a leisurely stroll. Here are a few photos – I had to restrain myself!!

The Registan, Samarkand – not quite the same set upmfor the festival

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand


Aziza, an Uzbek tourist wanted her photo taken witth me

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Seeing our friends again was wonderful. The look in Jamkur’s eyes, the sight of him and Anthony walking towards his garden, arms around each other. A special moment. We are greeted with a huge table beautifully decorated. Anthony is invited to Jamkur’s cellar to choose a drink. Anthony picks a ‘port’ while Jamkur has a bottle of vodka. That home brewed fortified wine is amazing: Jamkur made it from the grapes and mulberries in his garden. More and more bowls of fruit, sweets, various delicacies being brought. Eat, eat we are told. Then a huge bowl of soup is served. Then osh, or plov – a local rice, carrot and meat dish. Gradually, the various members of Jamkur’s family arrive, eating as they arrive. Akbar, Aziza’s elder son is our interpreter until Aziza arrives. Each arrival is an excuse for another toast! Any topic is another excuse for another toast. But we don’t throw back a full glass as Jamkur does.

With Jamkur’s family

Laziza, Jamkur and Aziza

Jamkur and Kirio

Our ride back to our hotel in Aziza’s car is interesting. Experiencing the erratic driving style at night, around road works, traffic lights which everyone seems to ignore was interesting. Both Anthony and I had the same sensation: it felt as if we were on a Scalextric track, with us and all the other cars swerving around each other, just avoiding a collision because we were on invisible tracks! It was fantastic!

In our Samarkand hotel neighbourhood:

Samarkand

Local plov seller, Samarkand

The most delicious Samsas, meat pastry, Samarkand

Had a t-shirt printed for Jamkur


Local market, Samarkand

Lovely Uzbek lady

The next evening, we returned to the Korean restaurant where we first met Aziza 3 years ago and got to see Jamkur, his grandson Akbar and son-in-law Jura again the next evening – sadly Aziza was taken ill at the last minute. Still, it was a lovely evening – once again, we so wish we could communicate in Russian better…

We leave at the slightly more civilised time of 7:30am the next day as Bukhara is only 280kms away. The first hour out of Samarkand, the road is surprisingly bad, with massive potholes! Then we have an easy ride to Bukhara, successfully finding fuel on the side of the road.

Our fuel seller – notice the bottle of fuel on the side of the road


This Uzbek stopped for a chat and asked if we’d swap bikes!

Just always watch out for traffic

Love the school crossing lady sign

We get to Bukhara in time for lunch – it was funny returning to a restaurant we had eaten at 3 years ago.

I am so happy to be back here as I particularly love the monuments in Bukhara, devoid of bright decorative tiles. The craftmanship of their brick work is breathtaking. Somehow I find the courtyards so much more peaceful than in Samarkand. I cannot help taking more photos of this unique place.

Back at the Chinar restaurant, Bukhara

Khanaka Nodir Devan Begi, Bukhara

Poy-Kalyan, Bukhara

Poy-Kalyan, Bukhara

Poy-Kalyan, Bukhara

Kalyan minaret, Bukhara

Kalyan minaret, Bukhara

A selfie in Bukhara

Kalyan Minaret, Bukhara

Kalyan Minaret, Bukhara

The smartphones have taken over here too

And no visit to Bukhara would be complete without a visit to my hairdressers here!!

First a hair wash

My cheeky and lovely hairdressers, Bukhara

Our guesthouse owners offer to cook dinner for all their guests and we have our best ever plov.

Our host preparing dinner

Plov


Good night Streak and Storm, see you in the morning

They also promise they’ll have the 30 litres of fuel overnight and waiting for us, for our 6:30am departure. And sure enough, the 10L containers were there. We have some long days ahead of us now, Nukus, 550kms away is our next stop. We are not stopping in Khiva this time as we really need to hurry up and wait for our ferry across the Caspian Sea from Aktau…

– Anne

Samarkand – a silent stroll

Words cannot describe the beauty of the treasures we have had the privilege to visit, the serenity of the architecture and madrasahs and the warmth of Uzbeks, so I hope you enjoy this silent stroll.

– Anne

Amir Temur Mausoleum, which Amir Temur built for his favourite grandson Muhammad Sultan who suddenly died in 1403, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Amir Temur Mausoleum, which Amir Temur built for his favourite grandson Muhammad Sultan who suddenly died in 1403, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Amir Temur mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Amir Temur mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Amir Temur mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan- deep niches and muqarnas decorations

Amir Temur mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan- deep niches and muqarnas decorations


Amir Temur, Tamerlane,  mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan - Amir Temur's tomb is in the centre - there is much interesting folklore around this solid block of dark green jade tomb stone (which appears black without direct sunlight on it).  Amir Temur died in 1405.

Amir Temur, Tamerlane, mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan – Amir Temur’s tomb is in the centre – there is much interesting folklore around this solid block of dark green jade tomb stone (which appears black without direct sunlight on it). Amir Temur died in 1405.

Amir Temur mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan - stunning gold leaf on silk paper adorns the inside of the mausoleum, the dome of bricks is 15m in diameter and 12.5m deep

Amir Temur mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan – stunning gold leaf on silk paper adorns the inside of the mausoleum, the dome of bricks is 15m in diameter and 12.5m deep

A tree trunk marks the burial site of a sufi - Amir Timur's teacher, Sufi Sayyid Baraka, who died the same year as his favourite grandson in 1403

A tree trunk marks the burial site of a sufi – Amir Timur’s teacher, Sufi Sayyid Baraka, who died the same year as his favourite grandson in 1403

Amir Temur, Tamerlane, mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Amir Temur, Tamerlane, mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The tiles on the right are 18 years old, the ones on the left 600 years old - and which are the brightest?!  Amir Temur Mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The tiles on the right are 18 years old, the ones on the left 600 years old – and which are the brightest?! Amir Temur Mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

2SlowSpeeds in front of Amir Temur's mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

2SlowSpeeds in front of Amir Temur’s mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Our first view of the Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Our first view of the Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ruxshona, 20 year old with 2 year old child, Azida, 22, married doctor and Dilnoza, 22, engaged with whom we chatted for an hour on life, mixed marriage, education and travel

Ruxshona, 20 year old with 2 year old child, Azida, 22, married doctor and Dilnoza, 22, engaged with whom we chatted for an hour on life, mixed marriage, education and travel

The Registan, with from L to R, the Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417-1420), the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1646-1660) and the Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619-1636).  The public place in the middle was used for royal declarations and executions

The Registan, with from L to R, the Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417-1420), the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1646-1660) and the Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619-1636). The public place in the middle was used for royal declarations and executions

Uzbek women, near the Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Uzbek women, near the Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

We were invited to join this group of Uzbeks and Koreans as soon as we walked into a Korean restaurant in Samarkand - what a fun evening ensued - little did we know we'd see them again a couple of days later...

We were invited to join this group of Uzbeks and Koreans as soon as we walked into a Korean restaurant in Samarkand – what a fun evening ensued – little did we know we’d see them again a couple of days later…


Front of Sher-Dor madrasah,  Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Front of Sher-Dor madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Inside the Sher-Dor madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Inside the Sher-Dor madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Sher-Dor madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Sher-Dor madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan


Front of Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Front of Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah arch, looking towards Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah arch, looking towards Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Courtyard of the Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Courtyard of the Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Serene courtyard of the Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Serene courtyard of the Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Anthony enjoying the serenity of Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Anthony enjoying the serenity of Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Arch of the Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Arch of the Tilya-Kori madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan


Ceramic tiles inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ceramic tiles inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ceramic tiles inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ceramic tiles inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Old tile inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Old tile inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan: a school for higher education in secular science, including philosophy, mathematics, astronomy.  Under each arch were either lecture rooms or dormitories.

Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan: a school for higher education in secular science, including philosophy, mathematics, astronomy. Under each arch were either lecture rooms or dormitories.


Ceramic tiles inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ceramic tiles inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ceramic tiles inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ceramic tiles inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Uzbek family having lunch inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Uzbek family having lunch inside Ulugh-Beg madrasah, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan


Statue of Ulugh-Beg, 1394-1443, ruler, astronomer, mathematician and sultan, at his obdervatory, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Statue of Ulugh-Beg, 1394-1443, ruler, astronomer, mathematician and sultan, at his obdervatory, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ulugh-Beg museum at his observatory, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Ulugh-Beg museum at his observatory, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

What remains of Ulugh-Beg's observatory - he determined the Earth's axial tilt as 23.52 degrees, which remained the most accurate measurement for hundreds of years.

What remains of Ulugh-Beg’s observatory – he determined the Earth’s axial tilt as 23.52 degrees, which remained the most accurate measurement for hundreds of years.

Double dome mausoleum, Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Double dome mausoleum, Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Inside the mausoleum dedicated to the wet nurse to Amir Temur's court, Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Inside the mausoleum dedicated to the wet nurse to Amir Temur’s court, Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

One of the most beautiful mausoleums at Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, built in honour of Temur's sister Turkon and her daughter Shodi Mulk, Shahi-Zinda, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

One of the most beautiful mausoleums at Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, built in honour of Temur’s sister Turkon and her daughter Shodi Mulk, Shahi-Zinda, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

One of the most beautiful mausoleums at Shahi-Zinda, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, built in honour of Temur's sister Turkon and her daughter Shodi Mulk, Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

One of the most beautiful mausoleums at Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, built in honour of Temur’s sister Turkon and her daughter Shodi Mulk, Shahi-Zinda, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Built by Temur for his sister, Shirin Beka, Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Built by Temur for his sister, Shirin Beka, Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Gorgeous Uzbek lady - women especially have a mouthful of gold teeth

Gorgeous Uzbek lady – women especially have a mouthful of gold teeth

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Carved glazed terracota, Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Carved glazed terracota, Shahi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shahi-Zinda ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan


Gulnoza and baby Omar, behind Anthony and Aziza's kids Muqhbar and Raziza on either side of Anne, with Aziza's niece Sabina

Gulnoza and baby Omar behind Anthony and Aziza’s kids Muqhbar and Raziza on either side of Anne, with Aziza’s niece Sabina


After bumping into Aziza and Gulnoza again, we were invited to have dinner at Aziza's home and meet her family - such a beautiful family and overwhelmingly warm welcome

After bumping into Aziza and Gulnoza again, we were invited to have dinner at Aziza’s home and meet her family – such a beautiful family and overwhelmingly warm welcome

After dinner at Aziza's home, we are taken to an Uzbek wedding - it was quite ok to them for us to 'gatecrash' this wedding

After dinner at Aziza’s home, we are taken to an Uzbek wedding – it was quite ok to them for us to ‘gatecrash’ this wedding

Anthony is invited to the table of honour by the father of the bride whose wedding of 500 guests we were invited to gatecrash by our Uzbek friends

Anthony is invited to the table of honour by the father of the bride whose wedding of 500 guests we were invited to gatecrash by our Uzbek friends

Steps up one of Tilya-Kori minaret, courtesy of a guard at 7am

Steps up one of Tilya-Kori minaret, courtesy of a guard at 7am

View of Tilya-Kori dome from one of its minarets,  Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

View of Tilya-Kori dome from one of its minarets, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Sher-Dor madrasah, seen from one of Kilya-Kori minarets, Registan. samarkanf, Uzbekistan

Sher-Dor madrasah, seen from one of Kilya-Kori minarets, Registan. samarkanf, Uzbekistan


Last view of the Registan, Samarkand, before returning to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to collect our Turkmen visas

Last view of the Registan, Samarkand, before returning to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to collect our Turkmen visas