Into The World - 2Up around Africa, 2 bikes along the Silk Road

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by mrwwwhite, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    904
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    It is Europe's longest river and it crosses world's biggest country. Yes, we are in Russia. One month every year - half of May, half of June- the mighty Volga gets mightier. We happen to be here slap in the middle of this flood season, after having spent days into the desert and the dry steppe. In this weeks the Delta is the domain of some nasty sweat flies. These bloody creatures fill up the air, creeping into every available opening into inanimate things or living beings. They enter our eyes, our nose, our mouth. They enter into our helmets even while riding at 70 ks per hour. They sting, bite and suck our blood or whatever they may find in there. This non-stop attack prevents us from enjoying as we'd like the charming canals where the houses look just like in Ana's childhood fairytales books.

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    We have arrived in Astrakhan, and we are together with Merlin, a German rider who has come here alone, from Hamburg. He is going to Kazakhstan, then back home. We met at a crossroad, while searching for a bite. And in Russia in every such place there is at least one food joint to solve our problem.

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    We have plenty to share. Merlin tells us about his travels. We, in return, recount how we have camped in a nettle field, overlooking a curious establishment with the Ingushetia flag on top. That was the only sign that we were crossing a separatist republic.

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    We tell Merlin how lots of critters conquered our tent: snails with fragile shells, overweight bees, short-sighted crickets, cheeky grasshoppers...

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    We also tell the story of the last night bush-camp: perhaps one of the prettiest ever. Between gently curved hills, their shoulders covered in all the colors of the steppe. Above us, the night spread a black sky and a gazillion stars.

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    We share our impression of the Russian countryside: clean, organized; difficult to hold on to our Romanian prejudices there, and easy to like.

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    We discuss with Merlin about the hospitality of these people, no matter their ethnicity. One morning we knocked on the door of this woman, who was making meatballs, and she fixed us a hearty breakfast with some of the best tomatoes we ate in years!

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    We have crossed many settlements and most still bare the soviet symbols that make us feel uncomfortable. But even so, people are curious about us, and happy to hear where we are coming from, to shake hands, to share a laugh, to teach us a word or two in their language. This is by no means a uniform nation, but rather a mosaic of cultures and ethnicities that have all brought something to the mix.

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    On our way to where we have met him, we tell Merlin, Ana ran out of gas, and we both ran out of drinking water. It happened right next to a stinky marsh, infested with huge dragonflies and snakes. There was no water there, but there were toilets, even two of them.

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    But maybe the most touching was the warmth of this family from Dagestan, where Fatima fixed us lunch and showcased here little niece, Jasmine.

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    While her other daughter, Raia played waitress in their small cantine...

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    ... and while Sveta kept making fresh piroshki.

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    We must admit though, after all these days in the flat expanse of the steppe, we are starting to miss the Caucasus.

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    The food of the Russian is simple, but honest, much like our own. There are no spices or sofisticated techniques. Of course the nomads of this area have never had time to think about such things. The Russian fare is nothing to write home about, but it will fill you up for the long road ahead. Merlin could not agree more. And in this caffee, Madina serves us the best example of what I am talking about. Plov (a rice and meat meal widespread in Central Asia), borsh (a soup, really) and mahan (a thick soup with flat noodles).

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    Madina's face reminds us that we are indeed in Asia. Actually so far we have talked more with the minorities, rather than the Russians with white skin and fair hair we have known from the news. Urajgali (and his g-friend) wants us to take a photo of them. We are happy to oblige, and we print them out a copy. Even Batir, a worker who also asks for a photo, is not quite from around here. He is from Mongolia!

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    Madina wants to give Ana a present: a fragrant soap. That will come in handy later on :) Then a lady from this small dry fish boutique insists that Ana takes a few pieces. It tastes like caramelized fish, or like a fishy biltong if you want. Ana loves it, but she comes from the Danube area, so she was basically drinking fish from her mum's bosom; she might not give the most impartial testimony about this fish.

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    Sasha, who is from Afghanistan (again, not a full blood Russian!), wants us to go stay at his sister's in law in Astrakhan. The next day we will be searching for her address in vain :( It won't be the last allusion to the Afghani people...


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    On the way to Astrakhan we ride by a strange Fata Morgana in the desert: sea salts. Delicate insect bodies lay entrapped into the translucent layer of salt, like some sort of outlandish jewelry.


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    Wha'cha reckon? winks Merlin. In the hysteria of midday sun, the mirror of salt makes my head spin. It feels no longer like we're on the same planet. It crosses my mind that perhaps faith is offering my revenge for the fact that I was not able to go to South America this winter, and that I missed the Salar de Uyuni.

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    Are you coming also?I ask Merlin, as Ana is likely to get stuck in the soft layer of clay and salt, and it's better that we keep the number of vehicles we might need to push out at a minimum. Neah... says the German.

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    But I give into temptation. I must ride at least few rounds!

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    Merlin and Ana are waiting patiently while I have some sun in the salty concoction.

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    As the sun is about to set, we reach the outskirts of the city and of the Delta. We search in vain for a spot without sweat flies. Every second we stop we have million of hungry beasts eating us alive. This damn creatures will not let us be, we have no choice but ride back about 30 Ks to the desert. I'd say this looks much better, ain't it? And the altitude is... -82 below the sea level!

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    Ana goes for a quick jog through the thorny bushes. Us men enjoy a cold beer. I am looking with pride of what I have done to my bike. Tomorrow I must wash this salty dirt off the KTM< but tonight it looks damn fine.

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    We dine on fish: canned, dried and souped. After the last bite, we all get back to our respective tents and dreams. In the morning we say good bye to our friend, Merlin, and get back to Astrakhan.

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    We plan to spend here one more day: for rest, a bit of a walk around town, perhaps a spoon of caviar or two. We know that the numbers of this ancient fish have been plummeting, but even the signs urge us to investigate.

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    On the banks of the Volga, along the promenade, some ladies are sweeping the sidewalk. In the meantime the kids in town don't seem to be bothered by the fact that some mighty sturgeons the size of an adult male are lurking somewhere in the deep.

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    My mind is set on cleaning the salt off the bike before it eats it all up. And once again, the Russian generosity saves the day. Andrey, the dude on the right, does an amazing job and flat out refuses to take any money for it. Do you want me to wash yours as well? asks Andrey, looking at Ana's DRZ. Why not, she agrees, blushing.

    But as both bikes get the spa works, and as we are ready to move, my KTM won't start... What the hell?

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    The Russian are all over me. We try to dry the water, to move some bits, to change some other bits. Nothing. Dead. I take out the laptop and the data cable to try a diagnosis. The battery is out, the license for Windows parallels is expired... Man, what have I gotten myself into. And it's hot, and those flies... I find a wifi connection, log in, start updating the software... Two hours pass. I change the exhaust map, I fiddle with it a bit, and hurray, the bike starts.

    We can finally start looking for a guest house or something. We gotta take a shower tonight or our skins shall fall. But the hotel rates are outrageous, and we cannot afford to check in. We are not that desperate anyway. Ana asks a few people about gust houses. And a guy, Goof, accompanied by his wife, Lyudmila, and their daughter, Anna, stops and looks like he has an idea. I'll call my friend, he days, she has a room for rent. OK. Soon we meet Tatiana. Ocin priveat Tanea, says Ana as she shakes her hand. Oh, are you Russian? No, that's all I know. So, how much for the room. 1500 rubles, in a soviet "kvartir". Expensive! For us such places do not feel at all retro or cool. They just remind us of the sad looking communist apartment buildings we were born in. Well, we have no choice, if we want to enjoy a few hours in the town and still have some time to wash our stinky clothing. That's what the place looks like:

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    Showered and with a line of laundry set out in the sun, we hit downtown. The Kremlin in Astrakhan is one of the most beautiful. The hefty walls are a nice background for the exuberant golden crosses on top of the cathedral, for the joggers and horse jockeys, but also for the drunken dudes. Overlooking this lifestyle mosaic, there's an absent looking Lenin.

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    Atrakhan Opera & Ballet

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    By night the crowds gather for sweet treats and vodka along the river. We are shocked by the number of gorgeous women in town: is there a Miss Russia conference being secretly organized in here? We debate the issue back in our communist flat, over some of the best fish we've had in a long time. Smoked sturgeon, salmon, mussels, Lithuanian bread, and yes, some caviar. Not the best, just what we could grab from the supermarket, but still very good! Sadly while in Russia one can only buy vodka between 10 am to 10 pm.

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    Now we should say a few words about the visa: we took it in Bucharest, for 46 USD/pp. We used a LOI from Real Russia (15 euro/pp),and it took 5 days to have the visa ready.There is no fee for your vehicle. We did not register to OVIR, we were not bothered by any policeman, we have nothing bad to report. Ocin spasiba russkaia zemlia! We'll see if the next stop in Russia is as pleasant as the first.
  2. Luna Negra

    Luna Negra Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2010
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    29
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    Central Texas
    Keep it coming....
  3. nomad guy

    nomad guy A legal alien

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2008
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    900
    Location:
    Stranded in Berkeley, CA
    Thank you for sharing with us your adventures. You guys should be sponsored by a food magazine:D
  4. Flys Lo

    Flys Lo cool hand fluke

    Joined:
    May 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    321
    Location:
    between my last drink and my next one
    I really want to thank you for the effort you have made not only in composing amazing photographs to share with us, but some great tales of your experiences while travelling.

    Cheers!
  5. vander

    vander full-time dreamer

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    922
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    Barcelona
    It's a GoPro you're using for your helmet shots? If yes, is there much afterwork applied to them or what you see is what you get?


    And also: after this time and km with the 690 do you miss the Ténéré or it's just something of your past?
  6. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    904
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    Bucharest or RTW
    hehehe, that'd be nice even if they would pay us in meals

    it s a GoPro Hero 2 with minimal post-processing in lightroom, too little time and no computer at the moment to go further; the gopro it s good little tool to capture the moment, but as you can see it has its limits
  7. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    904
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
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    Until the 20th century Kazakhstan was the domain of nomadic horseback animal herders. Except for the south Silk Road that is. And that's the road we're going to take. Most overlanders these days choose to drive or cycle or walk to Azerbaijan, then ferry across the Caspian to Aktau. We avoid ferries if we can - the costs and mess make no logical sense in our case, so we cross a little border, lost at the fringes of Volga Delta. As the last time, the border control is not fast, but courteous and friendly. Being still in the delta, during the dreaded fly season, comes with evident unwanted benefits. While we are waiting for our passports to be registered, Olea, the nice policewoman at the counter, takes pity on our fly-infested faces and offers Ana some mysterious white dust. Rub this on the skin, she says. Soon Ana is sporting a dubious white powder around her nose. For a split second the exchange stirs a bit of emotion among the audience! But soon it is revealed that the powder is not a controlled substance. It is just vanilla sugar!

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    The road across the Delta allows us to glimpse how the villagers are coping with the seasonal flooding. Their cattle and horses do enjoy the cooling effect of these ephemeric pools, as the summer has been already heating up since weeks ago. To cross certain areas we need to take temporary bridges, which in fact over time - due to poverty and laziness and possibly the poor administration - have become permanent.

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    Immediately the sights broadcast the news of a dramatically different place. The road is a mess: a layer of melted asphalt interrupted by patchwork of sand, gravel and debris. Our fellow drivers are well equipped. They zoom by, at full throttle, in brand new 4x4s or soviet cars. It's everyone for themselves here, and we go with the flow. So do the camels, layered in their furry coats.

    Soon though, we need to stop, and refuel. All four people and machines. The gas station looks like an UFO in this hazy, dusty, sandy nowhere. It looks and functions just like an ordinary gas station in Europe, except for two small details: there's no toilet (one must use the revolting WC of the chaikhana across the road, where we'll end up for lunch) and if we want to buy the fuel, first we need to go to the counter, say how many litres, pay, come back at the pump, hand the guy the receipt (if there's any, if not, just shout the numbers in Russian my friend) and finally watch as the precious liquid flows into our tanks. This is the blood of this huge country, which has brought upon it - just in any other part of the world - both blessing and doom. Kazakhstan is struggling to cope with the many effects of industrial pollution. Scattered throughout the country there are radioactive or toxic chemical sites, leftovers of former defense industries and test ranges. The soil has been depleted of nutrients from overuse of agricultural chemicals, salination from poor infrastructure and wasteful irrigation practices. The two main rivers that once flowed into the Aral Sea have long been diverted for irrigation of the dreaded cotton fields. The kazakh steppe is in effect drying up at an astonishing rate. The brittle grasses that gave such a charming background to our bushcamps are actually not so charming after all: they are chuck full of chemical pesticides and natural salts. In time the wind picks up these harmful substances and blows them into noxious dust storms, further polluting the Caspian Sea. Well, enough with the environmental propaganda, let's sample some proper central asian cuisine. In our case, plov and chai.

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    As we chill by a tasty plate of food, we meet a couple (a Polish girl and an Irish guy) who are taking part in one of these "challenges" ("charitable rallies" they call them) that have become the rage among Europe's youth. I guess the "gap year" is so yesterday! Well, they're gonna zoom though the same deserted veld like us. Which appears flat, arid, lifeless.

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    Unless one takes one of the side trails that winds thru, and up to the shores of the Caspian Sea, where semi-wild horses and people enjoy a bit of tranquility.

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    While I'm exploring the area in search for a decent camping spot, Ana is waiting for the sun to set. Already the quality of the light has changed: eye-burning, even in the early hours of the morning, and surreally orange at dusk. Well, we longed for it, didn't we? The desert - spanning this huge continent up to the tundra.

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    But this is no Sahara. The colours, the flora and fauna, everything is different. The thistles have delicate flowers that die at the touch of the sun, only to resurrect by night. The sand bears the evidence of mysterious creatures that crawl in its underbelly: hairy spiders the size of my palm, huge dragonflies, and of course plenty of dung beetles.

    It does not deter us from enjoying a sunny breakfast.

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    The second day deepens our sentiment of the strange. We barely pass any settlement. Villages (or towns?) display of mix of mud brick huts and ultra-new residences that employ almost the same unsustainable materials that we use. The cemeteries though, placed in the immediate vicinity of the villages, are quite interesting. The size and decoration of the tombs suggest a strong desire to invest and hope in the afterlife.

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    The ethnic Kazakhs are actually a curious a mix of Turkic and Mongol tribes, who migrated into the region in the 13th century. They are one of the last nations to have lost their nomadic lifestyle, having been rarely united in the past as a single people. The name of the Kazakhs comes from a Turkic word meaning free rider, adventurer or outlaw (nomadic). Their territory was eventually conquered in the 18th century by Russia, and later assimilated to the Soviet Union. In 1920’s Stalin began denomadization, but kazakhs slaughtered their herds and died of famine. Those who resisted collectivisation were deported and population fell by two million in a decade. During the controversial agricultural "Virgin Lands" program of the 1950s and 1960s, Soviet citizens (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities) were encouraged to relocate to Kazakhstan's northern pastures. This dramatic influx of immigrants further added to the already confusing ethnic cocktail. Soon non-ethnics started to outnumber natives, and only after the independence, in the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s, the ethnic Kazakhs were repatriated. Since then, Kazakhstan has been struggling to manage Islamic revivalism (the country is more than 70 percent Muslim) and to develop a cohesive national identity.

    As for the vibe, we can report that the people are an instant coup de foudre: outgoing, daring, jovial. Stopping in chaikhanas for a refreshment and a chat is a joy! In this particular spot for example, Gulshat is eager to try the bike. Salamat dashes in the back to put on a better shirt so she'll look good in the pics. She practically asks us to photograph her super cute son, Sultan (2 yrs) and Amina (4), the daughter. The women actually seem to like me: I guess I'm kind of exotic around here. Rahmat!

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    Suddenly the decrepit road evolves into the smoothest tarmac one can desire. With the ubiquitous camels on the horizon, that is.

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    This is a country of vast natural resources (it belongs to top 5 nations for oil reserves) after all! We are flying on the highway of this unknown Kazakhstan, stopping only to tea-up and sleep. Some are a hit and some are, unavoidably, a miss. We sleep on the bottom of a dried-out seasonal lake. We have developed by now a habit of carrying extra water for showering at the tent. So we can both fully enjoy a short jog and a relaxing evening in our quiet little spot in the steppe.

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    The tea drinking business is another matter. Surprisingly in a fancy tea-house lost in the desert, everything is impersonal, but cheap (decor, service, flavor).

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    While in this charming tea-house with the most horrendous toilet I've even seen but one of the best cup of teas ever brewed, the lady rips us off with a disarming smile: 500 tenge for three servings, go figure! Her sun, Ilsgur (8), looks a bit spaced out. It might be difficult to grow up in this isolated place, while his dad is working across the border in Uzbekistan.

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    In most places though there is no reason to ask for prices or a menu. We simply sit down and enjoy a teapot full of strong, dark, aromatic liquid.

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    As I am thinking about the next cup of tea, I see Ana breaking violently. What the...? I'm out of gas, she says. You were doing 90! You gotta pay more attention, I scold her. She turns the reserve on, and takes off. And soon stops again. Now, you gotta be kidding me... but I notice the reason for this impromptu stop. And it makes me smile. You see, Perizat and Aidos are getting married :)

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    We are outside the town of Beyneu. For some reason, the bride and groom and their closest friends have gathered here, out of all venues, to enjoy a glass of vodka, while the most talented guy is serenading. Come on, join us! They wave vigorously, and frankly, it's not a call to dismiss. Well, you've been looking forward to attend a wedding, haven't you? I tell Ana, and she nods joyfully. Kuanish, the brother of the bride, sporting a generous set of golden teeth and a strong vodka breath, invites us to toast for the newlyweds. Thankfully we are handed glasses of grape juice! Perizat is demure in her white dress and heavy jewellery, but the rest of the ladies are far from shy. Soon we start dancing, clapping and chanting.

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    Now we go at the house to feast. You must come, da? Well, how can we say no to this? You ride in front, next to our cars, ok? It's going to be beautiful, says Kuanish, who is the director of the convoy of party-goers. He drives in front, while the other 9 cars follow, with us in tow. The driving is chaotic: drifts, horning, the lot! Before entering town Kuanish stops again: you need to horn also, and drive parallel to me, it's nice like that. So we drive all over town, horning like mad men, passing the red light and waving at the police, to let everyone know that the wedding is here, starring exotic guests from abroad, on bikes! At the compound there's a huge yurt where tables of goodies have been laid. As we are called to ride into the garden, a DJ shouts over the microphone something about the Romanian bikers. That's us! And so the party ensues: bride dances, candy and gifts are thrown in the air for good luck, songs are sang, amazing food, hugs and warm handshakes are shared.

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    Over the next hours we manage to discuss about the aspects of life in Romania versus Kazakhstan: prices for an apartment, wages, taxes for small businesses and stuff like that. In all this meantime, women keep bringing finger-licking dishes to our table: plov, mutton, soup, dried fruits, salads, cakes and candy. The men are busy getting us drunk. Soon we realise that we we don't leave soon, we risk getting smashed: we manage to split after enough vodka to keep us going. Or so we hope...

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    While the alcohol starts settling in our system, we need to navigate around town for fuel. Or should I say around camels?

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    The next 80 kilometers to the border aren't tarred. It's not easy.

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    We both have dusts in every pore and every nasty place you can imagine. And the passing trucks do us no favor.

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    But I guess the vodka helps. The booze feeds our confidence that we can still make it to the Uzbek border today, and we roll through clouds of dusts and gravel. Rumour has it that this is how the roads will be from now on. Well, I guess there's only one way to find out...

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  8. davesupreme

    davesupreme grand poobah

    Joined:
    May 1, 2011
    Oddometer:
    2,982
    Location:
    palm harbor, fla
    just amazing!......

    lemme tell 'ya boss... that's a good girl you got there!....
  9. Bonnie & Clyde

    Bonnie & Clyde Wishing I was riding RTW

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
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    2,966
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    Gardnerville NV
    Great report.... thanks for putting the time in to post it. :clap
  10. Jazzers

    Jazzers n00b

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2
    Location:
    Turkey
    Extraordinary report and ride.. GREAT..
  11. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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    Jan 23, 2002
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    Location:
    Harrys place
    I thought riding from New York To California and back on I80 was big time...


    my god what a ride report. :deal:bow
  12. dallastx

    dallastx Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    459
    Location:
    Holland
    As usual, top of the bill! Awesome RR and beautiful pictures. Thanx again!
    Greetz, Hans.
  13. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    904
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Cheers, guys!

    I miss riding in Africa on a 690 :p The 690 is pure fun; lightweight, lots of power and good suspension, everything that the Tenere was lacking ;)
  14. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    904
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    After lengthy procedures at the Uzbek border we manage to sort out our papers and exit to a wide empty wind-swept field. We meet Axel, a French engineer traveling by Ural side-car, but the sand storm prevents us from spending the night together. While we decide to pitch a few yards off the road, Axel returns to a shelter of some sort closer to the border. We park our bikes so that we have a bit of protection against the strong winds and go to sleep haunted by our last year Turkey mishap, when our tent got damaged under similar inclement weather conditions.

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    We don't get much rest. And wake up covered in a fine layer of dust, blown into the tent by the relentless wind. But we feel lucky to still have a tent to clean and fold back into the bag.

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    Around noon we are reunited with Axel, who catches up with us and stays ovr at this tea house for a brief lunch. Because the toilet in the back of the yard is not working, we are told we can use the one inside the building. We discover that they are fitting what it looks like a hostel of some sort. In the toilet there is a shower, Ana cannot resists to use the opportunity to wash the sand and sweat off.

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    I say I'll wait until we get to the sea.

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    What see am I talking about? Why, the Aral Sea, of course. But where in the world is the sea? It's been dieing out since the 60s, its waters pumped out to irrigate the soviet cotton fields - the "white gold" of the former union. As we make our way to this sad environment disaster, we pass decrepit settlement and more soviet cadavers scattered in an expanse of sand and fog.

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    100 km more to Moynak, where we will spot the first rotting shells of the former boats. We change some money, share a frugal dinner and organize petrol. Because of the inflation our 75 bucks gets us a brick of soiled banknotes.

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    Axel leaves for Nukus, we hit it hard to Moynak. We want to camp on the dry sea bed so we drive under dwindling sun across silent villages and empty fields, until the first ships rise under a pale moon.

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    As we set camp and try to take some night shots, we are interrupted by a guard. First he tries to scare us with stories of wolves and scorpions, than to extort a bribe, and finally he is just happy to chat with us.

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    In the morning everything is different. It still feels like a cemetery, but less lugubrious. The ships look like toys abandoned by a careless giant. If there were no shells in the sand, we would never guess that this was once one of the largest seas in the world.

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    There's a bit of tourist infrastructure: info boards, a viewing platform, even a monument. It's a confronting place, inspiring a mix of pity, sadness, revolt, curiosity, acceptance...

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    But it is too late to save this place. So why should I not ride a bit these dunes while I'm here?

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    In the meanwhile Ana packs up our luggage. Our guard is back to see what we are up to and to check that we will split as we have said we would.

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    Moynak is a bit depressing, it looks devoid of people and purpose.

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    We have breakfast in Jana's restaurant: eggs and tea. Jana is a retired English teacher. Her customers are all coming from families of fishermen, now disillusioned into a destiny of alcoholism and purposelessness.

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    We notice a small crowd gathering across the restaurant. A bus has arrived, so Uzbek women in colorful dresses and matching scarves rush out of the market trying to fetch a ride out of the town. I can't imagine that there are many opportunities like this in a day.

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    The bus station is right in front the bazaar, so we cannot miss the chance to take a peek inside an Asia market.

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    The market has plenty of goodies: from food to textiles, from local produce to Chinese products, from livestock to imported dry fruits and cosmetics. It's a heartwarming sight. The Aral Sea may be dead, but the Silk Road is alive and kicking!

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  15. latris mixanis

    latris mixanis n00b

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2012
    Oddometer:
    3
    amazing... keep going :wave
  16. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    904
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    On the outskirts of Moynak we hit the trouble zone. We barely find 80 petrol, but no
    ATM and no sign of any other way to get cash.

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    After we feed our metal horses we order a plate of mant? in a local bistro.

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    While we eat we are approached by a group pf foreigner: Chinese, Brazilian and
    Spanish riders on an organized tour from China to Portugal. The crowd gets bigger:
    Phil is riding solo from the UK to Magadan, and he stops to say hello. We meet him
    again in the next town, 2 hours later. We still cannot find petrol and he is out of
    cash. He has a full tank and we have the moneys, so we decide to reunite forces and
    continue together to Khiva, the first of the three Silk Road cities that have
    survived a cruel past.

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    Khiva offers not only food for brain, but also treats us with some of the tastiest
    breakfasts in existence. Our merry group enjoys morning kebaps with tomato salad,
    meat pies called somsa and tons of strong black tea. !

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    Every morning the stalls in the market start smoking. Some double for a mini-bakery
    on wheels, their tandoori ovens full of meat pies spreading an irresistible smell
    into the air.

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    Khiva has some of the best shashlik of Ce?tral Asia, bits of met-in-your-mouth meat
    rolled in a thin layer of juicy fat, then charcoaled to perfection for under a
    dollar.

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    Even if the town has been beautified by the soviets into an open air museum, the
    ancient Khorezm khanate has retained much of its culture. Artisans still embroider
    colorful suzani, carve wood into delicate furniture, paint on silk or rice paper
    with coffee or tea.

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    Surrounded by the Kyzylkum desert, Khiva is made out of two very different areas:
    the Itchan Kala (the old town, which contains monuments built during 6 centuries)
    and the more modern Dichon-Qala, where mots locals live and where drinking water is
    pumped from dubious-looking canals.

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    The bazaar is the liveliest part of Khiva with great produce on display since 6 in
    the morning to about 6 in the afternoon

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    But the tourists are temped to come here for the monuments: mosques, mausoleums,
    Koranic schools, all restored with controversial techniques in the 50s to give a
    coherent idea about the past splendour.

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    To visit on foot we leave our bikes parked in the inner yard of our hostel, a
    typical Khorezmian house.

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    Once of the loveliest sights: the unfinished minaret, covered in mosaic.

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    Khiva is most charming in the surreal haze of the sun setting.

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  17. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    904
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    From Khiva to Bokhara we continue riding together with Phil. Next stop: the ancient
    Silk Road cities scattered in the Kizilkum desert. Once resplendent, today little
    more that a blob of dirt, they are knows as the sand-castles of Uzbekistan.

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    Even if the sights are not as impressive as their history, the trail leading to
    their locations are fun to ride. Not to mention that we meet quite a few locals
    eager to chat and more!

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    Tonight we camp by a lake. Don't these KTM, DRZ and Xchallenge machines look
    handsome together?

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    It's too dirty to swim, but it's a nice and quiet place. We shower with the bottle,
    Ana goes for a trail jog, me and Phil for some sand fun.

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    Next day we reach Bokhara, where locals congregate around the central pond, taking
    photos, playing chess and domino, eating sweets and ignoring the monumental
    surroundings.

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    The old city has an undeniable charm. The architecture is more refined and the
    soviets has allowed the building to age gracefully. Even if the central square is
    zooming with locals, the historical sites are quiet and dreamy.

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    Back to Lab-i Hauz we see the crowd doing its thing.

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    This KTM is the biggest piece of shit in the world, I hear a voice behind me. Jon
    and Andrew are from the UK and they have embarked on a RTW tour by 690. They had a
    bunch of problems, so I get why Jon says this, even if I cannot agree with his
    opinion. As I have the data cable with me, we run a diagnostic. Only the next day
    they will solve the issue, after they discover that a hose was not fitted properly.
    Wishing them good luck, we say also good bye to Phil, who has decided to stay with them for a while, as we continue to Samarkand.
  18. LusoViking

    LusoViking Aspiring Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2013
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Copenhagen/Portugal/CA/AZ
    What a fantastic journey you two have embarked on together, and what a perfect couple of characters you are to undertake it, not to mention document it so elegantly. Very inspiring, I love the attitude and I must say it has certainly changed my preconceptions of some African countries! If your travels ever take you thru Copenhagen or Southern Portugal, please get in touch, I would love to share a bottle of wine or two! Best of luck for the rest of the trip!
  19. bob66

    bob66 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2007
    Oddometer:
    153
    Location:
    Bucharest, Romania
  20. skian g

    skian g Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2010
    Oddometer:
    74
    Location:
    Reading, Pa
    This report is Awesome! I can not get enough of your pictures and how motorcycling is a means to for your travel not all the journey is about. You have done an amazing job showing the human side to traveling, not just the traveling itself. Your Pictures are also do a wonderful job of telling the story and show the emotions! Love It! Carry on!