For those wondering where Amy is on her Mongolia-UK overland trip with "Pepper", her trusty G310GS..........here is an update, this girl and her bike certainly are covering some fantastic tracks, and giving our Level 2 Adventure kit a thorough testing.
I had been looking forward to traveling through Uzbekistan, not so much for the riding, but for the cultural aspects! Uzbekistan was essentially the epicenter of the Silk Road. The place where historical East meets West. The main cities have preserved it's significant original architecture, and are still achingly beautiful. It was almost hard to fully appreciate the age and historical importance of it all.
A little travel note.... At the time i applied for my visa Uzbekistan had rather strict travel rules (I think it may have changed now). To obtain your Uzbek visa you have to provide hotel bookings and nominate dates for where you will be. It's not hard to organise, and of course once you have your visa you can easily change your hotel bookings. But....you still have to register each night at a hotel. This information WAS checked at the border when I left.
Also if I thought the fuel was bad in Tajikistan (which, it OMG is!) - Uzbekistan was next level. Sure the fuel stations look new, but the fuel itself is bright yellow and leaves your hands covered in white powder. My #Guglatech
filters were again in constant use!! To save your engine, these things are a must!!
First city visited on my route was Samarkand. Like all of them, it has an "old" part of town, which is where I was staying. How I managed to find my guest house through the maze of cobble stoned alley ways was more pure luck than planned navigation
Of course, no visit to Samarkand is complete without visiting the impressive Registan Ensemble. I wish I had had the energy to go there after sunset to get that quintessential night time photo, but I was just to tired to stay up that late
. The Mosque's were impressive too and worth braving the heat for. Samarkand is beautiful, however it is a bustling metropolis and was a bit of a culture shock after the Pamirs.
Next up was Bukara. I really liked it here and gave myself two days to experience it. Sure, it's a bit touristy, but, it has a great feel, especially at night. To be honest, I just liked the ease of it. I felt relaxed and actually enjoyed that touristy atmosphere. It was nice just to blend in a bit! I could have easily stayed for several days. It's also not the bustling metropolis that Samarkand was.
One drawback to traveling on a motorbike is obviously the lack of space/luggage to collect souvenirs. Bukhara was loaded with a myriad of enticing trip memorabilia. And the silk rugs!!! OMG the silk rugs!! I could have bought loads of them....but it wasn't to be. I did allow myself one or two small hand sewn silk runners.
The final of Uzbek's significant cities I visited was Khiva. This is a little off the beaten track, and so is again smaller, but in some ways it's the most magnificent and ancient. The old walled city is beautifully preserved. Again I wished I had more time, but two days was all I could afford.
From this point on heading west, Uzbekistan becomes a bit remote and vast. Fuel availability is a bit of a problem, not to mention the poor quality of what is available. My Giant Loop Gas bag was again an invaluable part of my kit.
I did want to go visit the Aral sea and the ships in the now long gone sea, but I just didn't feel confident I could carry enough fuel. As it was I only just managed the distance from Bukhara to Khiva carrying what fuel I could. Also negotiating the sand on a loaded bike....well let's just say, at this stage of the game, I just didn't have the will (or the time for that matter). So in the end I didn't go.
I had been warned that the road West from Khiva to the border was bad. Well it is!! It's almost, possibly equal to the road from Barnaul to Almaty. The one saving grace of this 700km stretch of Steppe is.....I did get to see the Aral sea bed. It gave me a huge appreciation of the man made devastation to this region.
Interestingly, they are in the process of building a new hwy and petrol stations through here, so soon ALL adventure will be removed from accessing this area. So as frustrating as the torn up, potholed road was at times. I'm glad I got to experience it before all of the 'challenge' is gone. Overall Uzbekistan was an amazing experience with a history that is hard to match.