SUMMARY - AZERBA?JAN

 

Coming soon!

THE RACE CONTINUES THROUGH AZERBAIJAN

 

27/07/12 - On ship, docked at Baku, Azerbaijan 1915. Started queing for customs 1945 and through at 2030. i was informed by officers that my visa expires 03/08/12 so i headed into the city to locate train station and catch train straight to Georgia. Changed some money with a local, rode around town. You can see where all the dirty oil money has ended up. Everybody is trying their hardest to look like the Beckhams - pathetic. Flash cars, buildings and bitches yet the back streets are still full of poor people. The difference between rich and poor is monumental, forcing many youngsters into a life of crime (as i later found out when my pump was knocked off outside the internet cafe) Cycling infrastructure is non existant, there aren't any ramps/crossings to get your bike onto the footpath, just massive 300mm high kerbs! Too bad if you're in a wheelchair - you have to mix it with the idiotic drivers. Dragging off the green lights and screeching to a halt for red lights is normal practice here. it's not uncommon to see Ladas trying to race Porsches? Have to get out of here. Eventually made it to train station, but missed train - I think it departed at 2200? Couldn't sleep, found an all night internet cafe near train station and stayed there. Confirmed availability of Georgian visa at border crossing.

 

28/07/12 - 0800 headed straight to train station and got ticket to Tbilisi (capital of Georgia) departing 2045. Another rude lady at the counter was say?ng no luggage when I told her about my bike but after making folding motions she finally sold me the ticket for 30M. Relaxed, rode around town, got some georgian currency. Met a local italian/American cyclist/teacher who helped me find a sports store so i could replace my stolen pump as well as find a bookshop to purchase a guidebook (couldn't find anything suitable though) He invited me back to his place to meet his family. We shared some stories while cooling down with some refreshments. We bid farewell shortly after as he had some plans. i sat ?n park and relaxed, changed some money, pr?nted out Georgian visa application (just in case). Went to train station 1730. Got haircut and wash for 7M. Only stairs up to platform so had to take everything up piece by piece. Had plenty of time before train departed. Restaraunt was good for simple refreshments. Started taking bike and gear up to train carriage number 2 where my bed was waiting. After completion the staff member on the carriage was shouting "no no" and pointing at my bike. They called their supervisor and after about 15 minutes she told me no problems (just had to pay another 14M for my baggage) She told me to take my bags to carriage number 6 at the back of the train. While this was still going on and I started moving my gear, the staff in all the carriages I passed kept saying "no no" Why? When I got to the back of the train, instead of opening the door for me, the attendant here made me walk everything through the length of the carriage to the back. These people were really trying to make things as difficult for me as possible (bunch of old hags) Still I continued with a smile on my face. Funny they were much more courteous with the locals. I was all done and on board at 2020. 4 bed cabin, very hot (they had A/C but for some reason didn't turn it on till about 30 minutes into our journey) There were windows open in the corridor with everyone jostling for some cool air. I shared my cabin with an Georgian mother, grandmother and young child (all obese) who had decided to devour a whole BBQ chicken in the sweltering heat and stink out the cabin. I hung outside in the corridor and went to bed as soon as the A/C was turned on. Fell asleep almost instantly - I was knackered.

 

29/07/12 - On train, we reached Azerbaijan border at 0900. Exit stamp was given by officer coming aboard at 0945. We were rolling again by 1000. 1030 we reached Georgian side of border. Passports were collected to get our entry stamps. We were let off and free to wander around the platforms in this tiny settlement. Store had cold drinks here as well as an exchange office where I got rid of my remaining manat. 1130 we were moving once more and arrived at Tbilisi 1230 (1130 as timezone changes here) I was the last one to leave the train - again the attendant making me walk the length of the carriage with my bike through the narrow corridor. Gave her the bird on exit - had no idea, just stared at me in disgust just like the first time she saw me. Some blokes with a trolley allowed me to load my bags and take them to the front of the station. Found a nice covered spot (it was starting to drizzle) and proceeded to put the bike together. To my surprise my bike was damaged. The downtube just behind the front wheel on the left side had a small dent in it, the paint had chipped off and it feels as if the actual tube has a crack in it! I can only assume that someone had repeatedly slammed the train door into it (the rear door which wasn't used by anyone as the bike was at the back of the very last carriage?) There was nothing I could do as when returned to the train it was gone. Decided to see if the bike rides ok as the exposed steel will soon rust and break if untreated. Luckily bike felt fine so will leave it for now - but it will need welding and some paint. Really disgusted with the staff on that train - if you take this train fom Baku to Tbilisi try to put some padding or something on the bike as once you're seperated from it, you won't see it till the end of the journey (I wasn't allowed to walk through the other carriages to check on my gear throughout the whole journey) Rode around town but didn't find it very interesting so decided to push on, I was feeling good. Rolled into the small town of Mhskheta at 1430 where I found an abandoned warehouse to camp in on the outskirts. There was a store nearby as well as a water supply so I could shower and cook no problems.

SUMMARY - UZBEK?STAN

 

Com?ng Soon!

SUMMARY TURKMEN?STAN

 

Comi?ng soon!

TO TURKMEN?STAN BORDER

 

20/07/12 - On the road at 0800, altitude 240. Go to markets for breakfast and bought local air horn for 12K som. These are very loud and don't require constant refilling like my existing horn. 1045 peddle out of Bukhara. Flat, bumpy & sticky bitumen. Villages every 15km or so. 47km mark - store. 50km mark setup camp in locals garage at village of Jondor. Cook, relocate horn to better position on handlebars, fit fresh gaffa tape to bars. Wander around village. Given tomatoes and cucumber by local from veggie garden. Bed 2130.

 

21/07/12 - On the road 0730, alt 210, 23km mark, 0830 - big bazaar, no food. 26km mark, 0900 - Karakol, breakfast. 45km mark Alat. 50km mark, 1030 turnoff for farmhouse, hot and dry, alt 185. Very close to border now, but can't get in till 24th, so decided to have rest day here and try my luck at entering a day early (i red reports of cyclists comi?ng the other way who were let in a day early on the internet) Relax ?n shade, found water source, setup camp, wash clothes, make salad. 1400 snooze, bored, filter water. Owner turned up and was happy for me to camp under some trees on his property where i had setup. We went to neighbours place for some hearty soup and tea for dinner.

 

22/07/12 - Rest Day on farm. Owner is a young bloke. Just has some sheep and goats which he leads out to pasture early in the morning and brings them back in before sundown. Did sweet fa. Helped herd goats and sheep, collected firewood. Visited neighbours place again for dinner (same as yesterday)

 

23/07/12 - On the road 0815, alt 185, 0900 flat, smooth bitumen, side/tail winds. 12km Farab, eat breakfast at restaraunt. This is the border, 2 passport checkpoints, 3rd fill out customs form. They didn't check bags or hotel registration slips (in theory you're supposed to register with OViR within 3 days of entering Uzbekistan, staying at a hotel is automatic registration. You also need to register if you stay in one place for more than a day. i figured this was a load of crap , so camped my way through and was going to make up an excuse if they asked me - i also prepared a bogus list of places i camped at to show the officers if need be. i got my one and only hotel registration slip at Bukhara, i also filled my passport with bits of paper that looked like registration slips, i guess i fooled them) 4th checkpoint was Uzbek exit stamp. 5th another passport checkpoint. A small river and bridge is no mans land. Turmenistan passport checkpoints, at 2nd was turned around by nazi (they didn't like the fact i was trying to get in a day early - no harm in tryiing i thought) Cycled back to bridge, they didn't want me camping on the bridge so i was directed back to the Uzbek side to camp next to a group of new trucks parked on the side of the road. 1100 setup camp in shade of trucks on dust. There's a well on the Turkmen side with nice cold water (the guards let me fetch water) had a good shower and filtered water into thermos' to keep cool when my supply of cool coke ran out at 1500.  Cued the music and snoozed. Borders closed at 1930, reopen tomorrow 0830.

THE AMAZING RACE THROUGH TURKMEN?STAN

 

24/07/12 - OK, take two on border crossing, 0800 through first checkpoint and on to next one. Got my entry stamp after paying 12USD entry tax. They checked a couple of my bags and at 0915 i was in the clear. Changed some money and had some salad, bread and tea at restaraunt near border. Only have 5 day transit visa so no time to rest - straight on to Turkmenabat. Villages every 15km. Nothing to see. Navigation was difficult - seemed to be a loop road out of the border, and th roads seemed to go in every direction instead of the right one. Eventually rolled into Turkmenabat at 1200 - straight to train nice marble buildings, square and a park. Many of the young locals are out in the cool of the evening rollerskating, cycling, etc. Returned at 2100 to buy ticket. No lines here, you just have to push and shove to get served. Since i had a height and reach advantage over most of the locals this wasn't a problem, once i ditched my common politeness in about half an hour. With ticket in hand i could relax somewhat. Went to park to rest but locals kept hassling me so back to train station to wait for train. There's a guard here to prevent people from going asleep, so it was a matter of trying to sit up straight as i nodded off to sleep.

 

25/07/12 - 0030 board train - same as chinese trains (6 bunks with A/C - got top bunk) the staff were very helpful directing me to end of carriage to store bike and helping me with my luggage. i fell asleep before the train departed at 0200. Arrived Ashgabat 1620. Straight to ticket office to suss out train to Turkmenbasi. Trains at 1900 and 2000 both full. Told to come back tomorrow to try and buy ticket for same tra?n departures. Later found out that there's also a train at 0600 tomorrow. Rode around town. Tried to find a bus to Turkmenbasi but was told there wasn't one? Was told to try airport, but didn't bother. Eventually returned to train station at 2100, a local man approached me and offered a ride to Turkmenbasi (after 15 minutes of negotiations i had my bike and luggage hanging out the back of his Opel Vectra (we agreed on 100USD to Turkmenbasi) i can't remember my drivers name, but he was an obese 25 year old with a wife and 10 month old at home. We just stopped off at a store to stock up on some drinks for the trip (we were going non stop apparently) fueled up the car, and stopped off at his place to say goodbye to his family. 2130 we were off, wanted to sleep but had to stay awake as i didn't know how much sleep my driver had during the day. He assured me he was ok, but still i wasn't convinced. The road was started off well with a good 2x2 freeway but soon deteriorated to a bad road. No linemarkings or reflectors made seeing where the road was going difficult. On a couple of occassions i had to tell him to slow down - either because the bike was bouncing around in the back, or he was going too fast for the road conditions. He said they were upgrading the road but it would take about a decade to complete! (he also confirmed there was no buses travelling this route because of the poor road conditions) Last couple of hours were tough, we stopped for coffee at an overnight truck stop, and i was nodding off to sleep.

 

26/07/12 - Arrived at Turkmenbasi 0500. Pack bike and ride to store for breakfast and stock up for ship. Ride to cargo ship terminal, arrived 0745 and put into waiting room with a mother, grandmother and child already in there - as usual no one knew when the ship was departing - i just work here! There was a restaraunt upstairs selling basic food and drinks. 1330 they took my passport for registration - the waiting continues. Waiting room was now full with about 20 people (i was the only foreigner) 1630 they started letting us in one by one to pass through customs and get our Turkmenistan exit stamp. They ran a few of my bags through the xray machine. i also learnt that when i was trying to enter Turkmenistan a day early the officers had made a note of it on the computer and the exiting officer asked me about that (bastards) After the slowest ever passage through customs that i've experienced, we were all on board at 1930. Rolled the bike straight on board  and parked it next to some train carriages. Paid 10USD ticket + 90 for cabin (this is the only option) Passport had to be handed over as well. Cabin had 2 single beds and bath/shower, although toilet was blocked and full of sewerage. Staff were mostly russian and helpful - they even let me wander through the bridge. i wandered around the ship and went to my cabin to sleep. They were waiting for the winds to die down before we finally set sail at 2300. 

 

TO BUKHARA

 

05/07/12 - 895m, on the road 0900, villages every 10-15km, 72km, 1330, 3 passport checkpoints - the 3rd one being the Tajik exit stamp. 4th checkpoint was the Uzbekistan entry stamp. 5th checkpoint is the Uzbekistan customs - where I had to fill out 2 identical pages (one for entry, the other for exit) Make sure you declare all cash and medicines you are carrying. I also had to take all bags off bike, open each one up, get it inspected by officer and run them through x ray machine. Although he didn't bother doing a body search. It was 1615 by the time I had got through and was packed ready to roll. There were 2 more passport checkpoints within the next kilometre. 92km passport checkpoint. 95km village, setup camp under awning of house under construction. 615m. Given bottle of water, hot bread & grapes by locals. Cook


06/07/12 - 615m, on the road 0900, villages every 10-15km, 76km mark original front tyre carcus gone. Fit new tyre on rear with tube from front, and put rear tyre on front with dicky rear tube. Was 1445 by the time I cleaned up and got going again. 1700, village, 815m, invited in by local family. Got watermelon, fried potatoes, onions, salad, yogurt, milk, bread, tea and place to sleep. Tough day, undulating, bumpy, sticky bitumen, patches of road works.


07/07/12 - 815m, on the road 0730, villages every 10-15km, undulating, bumpy bitumen, patches of road works. 50km mark, 1300, passport checkpoint. 72km mark, 1700, village, store, 1435m, setup camp front of workshop, cook, clean up, nearby well.


08/07/12 - 1435m, on the road 0700, 10km mark passport checkpoint. Villages every 10-15km. 66km mark invited in for lunch by restaraunt owner, hot, 40C, 112km mark, 1600, village, store, 410m, invited in by store holder to stay for the night. Given watermelon, traditional dinner (plov & salad, tea)


09/07/12 - 410m, on the road 0900, 42km mark Kashir, change money at markets, ride around town, invited in by man & wife to his apartment.


10/07/12 - 282m, Rest Day at Kashir, wander around town, update website.


11/07/12 - 282m, on the road 0915, villages every 10-15km, 98km mark, 1630, village, setup camp in bus stop, cook


12/07/12 - On the road 0800, strong headwind first 28km, then head/side winds. 53km passport checkpoint. 74km mark village, setup camp under awning of building under contruction. Cook


13/07/12 - On the road 0800, town every 15-20km. 51km mark, 1200, Bukhara, rest in shade, invited by locals to have lunch with them at restaraunt. Setup camp in back streets of old town. Wander around, cook.


14/07/12 - Rest Day at Bukhara, Found cheapest hotel in town 5USD, own room with a/c, TV. Met 4 frenchman here (2 on mbikes & 2 in 4x4)


15/07/12 - Rest Day at Bukhara, wander around old town with frenchmen, relax, play football with locals, update website.


16/07/12 - Rest Day at Bukhara, wander around town, check out markets, bazaars, old buildings and monuments


17/07/12 - Rest Day at Bukhara, wander around town, relax, update website


18/07/12 - Rest Day at Bukhara, wander around town, relax, update website

 

19/07/12 - Rest Day at Bukhara, wander around town, relax, update website

 

 


 

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