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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by guerreronegro, Apr 18, 2020.
Montezuma’s revenge - Just one of the many joys of traveling!!!
Patiently waiting for more here.
Fervently hoping you'll finish this entire report (including your ride home, please?)
Thanks for posting all that you have to date, tho @guerreronegro really appreciate it- this is super entertaining and a very fun read!
Thanks. I will restart posting next week. It's been an intense 20 days of summer break with no time to go back behind the keyboard
Cool, man thanks! No "pressure", just wondering if I could bump-start you, shake the tree, etc.
Glad you're having a nice summer break. I'll keep checking back to see more whenever you get around it.
Great ride report! Thanks for sharing!
I soon reached a point in which the roads were no longer roads. The tarmac had deteriorated to the point beyond repair. I could literally not pass 15 mph else I would be risking fatal damage to the tires or aluminum wheels. It was 200 km of this madness and little traffic in between. Every time I was able to see a parallel dirt road, I took it as it was much smoother than its counterpart. I covered 100 km in three hours’ time approximately with half my body and back destroyed. If I had to name a bad road in the whole journey, this is definitely the number one for that. I run across some Italians going the other way on BMW GSs. They told me that what was up ahead was not any better. I answer them with a smile to expect the same and we looked at at each other as if each of our sections could not possibly be surpassed in terms of bad road. At that time I would kill to be riding their GSs as the Varadero’s suspension was clearly not enough to absorb the bumps of a road that could perfectly look as if the would have bombed the shit out of it.
I kept going and there was a point in which I had to get off my bike as it was a extremely sandy section to get to the next transitable section of road a few feet on the left. It looked as if they got tired of building a road, ended abruptly there and then decided to continue the same road just a few feet on the left for some weird reason. I managed at least not to get stuck and continue my burden. It was in sections like these ones in which having my interphone certainly helped in keeping myself motivated. At least listening to music or the local radio makes matters a bit more enjoyable.
Then at some point I stopped in the one and only petrol station in a 200 km radius to load both fuel, water and eat some chicken. Even though I didn’t feel like eating anything, I thought to myself I should eat something anyways. The food poisoning had my morale pretty low today but locals were as charming as ever. Traveling again solo made them approach me as if I was one more. As soon as I stopped, I always had some locals waiting to do some talk. Most of the times I appreciated it but sometimes I also wanted some privacy to just be with myself specially when not speaking the same language. In any case these stops were always good to gather some intel on how far the next village is, what services do they have, etc.
For the rest of the day I really had to concentrate on maintaining equilibrium. I was following at this point all the time the agricultural trail next to the road. The road literally seemed to have been used to move tanks 1000 times a day in the last 20 years. I passed the last village in the map thinking it would not take long to reach the border. There was a car wash in some kind of compound used to fix cars so I thought it would be a good idea to get rid of all the dust before crossing the border. The guy in the place did not accept any money and even let me use the washing gun to clean the bike myself. I could’t believe how these people could be left uncommunicated like that in the north part of the country. That road was completely unusable, it would kill any car’s suspension just by using it once and indeed, I did not see any traffic on the way I took.
I soon reached the border almost without knowing it. The building up ahead seemed as impressive as the White House and the road seemed to just end there with a closed gate cutting it. An official soon came by to help me out. After the terrible experience of coming in the country these officials proved me wrong. The officials nevertheless were the complete opposite to the ones I have found at the port. They were even throwing jokes at smuggling catanas and AK47 on the exhaust. They also told me how is it that I had so much paperwork on me. Only a couple of papers were needed according to them instead of the many I was given at the port. When I asked the guys if they knew their counterparts back in Turkmenbashi I got a response that I interpreted as “Oh, those guys, yeah we know, they are dicks, you only needed these papers”. I didn’t know what to say. In Turkmenistan it seemed every official had its own interpretation of the jurisdiction. All officials waved my way out hoping I returned back to their country. Just the way things were supposed to be. I could even get away with some fuel in my jerry can visible to the eye. Either they didn’t want to work that day or they were being extremely nice to me.
On the other border with Uzbekistan I started to feel really sick. The officials soon realized I was not feeling good and didn’t give me a hard time. I was all by myself but it took a good 30 minutes to cross. One of the requirements they had was to make a photo of the rear license plate but because it was so small, their camera had trouble catching it. The rest was a piece of cake. The usual jokes about soccer teams and a seal here and there and that was it. I was soon in Uzbekistan. I couldn’t help but notice a picture of both presidents hanged at the fence as I exited. A sign of good diplomatic relations maybe? Some of the Stans they still have territorial claims after the dissolution of the USSR but as far as I know these two were stable. Maps me marked an area of cultural interest, an ancient cemetery. Despite not feeling well I decided to stop briefly. I took a couple of pictures and came back to the main road.
Sand was no longer a problem but the terrain was certainly arid. Funny thing is that all cars in Uzbekistan kept being white so this might be a culture thing after all. Later I learnt in Uzbekistan they had a Chevrolet factory and that all cars were mainly Chevrolet, a basic sedan painted in white, the cheapest and most sensible option due to heat. I went straight to the hostel and I found they had no rooms available. Apparently this is not a problem and the owner soon improvised some of the tables they had for lunch and converted into a bed with a mattress he had laying around. They were many people, overland cyclists from Germany and some tourists from the US. The place even had a kitchen to cook something. The owner gave me a pill for my stomach also free of charge. They washed clothes also, but their prize was a strange scale that varied depending number of clothes, type or weight. We negotiated the price for a fixed one to wash everything I had on me. After a shower and drinking some tea I felt a bit better. I had to plan on what to do. Waiting one day resting was an option but Nukus didn’t have too much to see. My main option was to spend the day at the Aral Sea remaining maybe even try to go a bit in depth and camp. I would see tomorrow on the go.
Great to see you continuing the report @guerreronegro! I wondered what had happened, summer break makes complete sense
Doesn't sound like the last bit of Turkmenistan was much fun; especially being sick and dealing with that road - that sucks man. Just looked at the last post and noticed that was from day 28...wow. That's a long time to be on the road doing what you're doing.
Look forward to what comes next
¡Eres un héroe !
Tu viaje me encanta y es una prueba de que no necesite un GS 1250 y muchísima poder para viajar muy lejos.
Quizás te gustaría la historia de mi amigo Jaime que viajó en Suzuki 125 de Congo a Capetown y entonces de allí hasta Tanzania? (Se encontró en UKGSer...puedo enviarte un enlace si quieres).
Y por fin, gracias de darme la oportunidad de escribir en español!
The Aral Sea is only three hours away from Nukus to the first coastal village, Muynak. This is where the Aral Sea memorial is now located and a Museum telling the story of the former fisher town. The story of this place could be perfectly the plot of a movie on how this came to be one of the greatest environmental disasters of our history. What it used to be the fourth largest lake in the world is now a massive desert mixed with steppe and shaping geopolitics between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan over new territorial claims. I have read about this place before and my conclusion is this is one of those places it is better to see for yourself. In the 1960´s the soviets started diverting water from the Syr Darya river and other feeding the Aral Sea to boost agricultural production of cereal and most importantly cotton. I went to bed last night thinking about all of this and when I woke up early in the morning, even though I was not feeling well I put everything on the bike again and decided to go directly there. Having had a very light breakfast I said goodbye to the owner of the place, and we made the almost compulsory by now picture together. I told him I might be back for the night. The guy was kind enough he gave me a few more pills for the stomach problem.
The first problem of the day was the lack of petrol in Uzbekistan. I didn´t know this was a problem and like a naive person I went to the first place that actually looked like a petrol station. The people there looked at me strange giving me signs with their arms crossed indicating it was not possible to get petrol. I soon realized why. It seemed the absolute majority of cars in Uzbekistan work on either propane or methane and these two are the only official fuels avaialbe for sale in the "fancy petrol stations". The people there redirected me to a place with black market petrol. This was like going back in time 60 years to a petrol station seemed to be frozen in time. The guy there wrote me on a piece of paper the number 80. I guess this refer to the octane of the petrol. Anyways, my jerry can was now almost empty so I decided to first pour something of this petrol inside to see what colour was it like just out of curiosity. I was really confused, the smell of it didn´t really smell like petrol and I was afraid the guy was selling me diesel instead. I know colors may vary in the refinement process and this was a yellowish kind which made me suspect even more as in Spain this is how diesel looks like. The guy swore to me that this was petrol 100% and then an old Lada sedan came and filled with the exact same fuel so the guy gave me the “see, I am not fooling you” kind of sight. So I filled the Honda with this 80 octane fuel that didn’t smell like fuel and the jerry can also just in case. With this combination in the deposit I knew my range would be affected and also because of the nature of these engine I would be sure having some engine knock if revving high, which in a 125cc bike is almost all the time.
The second objective of the day was to but a SIM card so I asked someone to give me directions to the main bazar in town. Once there, in the main street, two cops that saw I was clearly lost approached me and gave me the final directions to a place they could have SIM cards for sale. I noticed that Uzbekistan is kind of keen into tourists making it into their country. Maybe this equivalent would have had another ending specially when involving the police. The bazar was full of people and my bike was fully loaded. I parked it next to some guys that seemed to be friendly. By now, most of my experiences were positive enough to kind of trust strangers. These guys turned out after a few minutes looking for a place to exchange some money to be the ones owning that business, yes, there were not any official exchange places in the bazar. So after bargaining a little here and there I got a good exchange rate according to my phone. Then I found a BeeLine shop, this is a Russian telecom provider working in most of the exUSSR countries and got a SIM card with unlimited internet for cheap. When I came back to the bike the currency guy invited me to have with him what it seemed to be the local soft drug of choice. This is a greenish powder that you put in between your teeth and upper lip. I thought it would be the same as the chewing tobacco they commercialize in the Scandinavian countries, so I decided to give it a go. It was really disgusting, and they had a laugh at me for not being able to tolerate it more than a few seconds having to spit it out. Anyways, we have compenetrated and we also made a goodbye picture together.
Having solved all of this I kept going towards Muynak and passed many green fields which was a contrast to most of what I got to see in Turkemenistan. Then I crossed into a herd of camels and a very friendly shepherd going after them down the main road. The heat was killing me, I hardly had any food due to my condition and all I was drinking was water with isotonic powder. Eventually I had to make another emergency stop with really nothing to worry about, the road was completely deserted. I soon arrived to Muynak and to the Aral Sea Memorial. There was a restaurant there with some overlanding vehicles with foreign plates probably looking to do the same as me. I was not feeling hungry but I had to fill up the stomach with something if I was going to go in the remainings of the Aral Sea.
I decided to take a sandy track leading to the inner lake to see if I could spot at least some water. I wanted to check by myself if what I was seeing in the satellite imagery was real or not. Going 150 km north on paper will allow me to see some of the remaining water in the lake so that’s what I aimed for. With my fuel deposit almost full I ride for almost two hours at slow speed. The path was transited by 4x4s taking tourists frequently but riding with an underpower heavily loaded bike on sandy terrain is a different task. I got to a point in which the sand was just to deep to continue and after falling one time I decided maybe it was not such a good idea to be doing this solo. I did not see anyone during the whole excursion and the heat was intense. I was not feeling at my best having had little food. After picking up the bike and drinking almost one litre of water in one go I rode back to Muynak. I didn´t see any water, just vegetation, steppe and sand. I missed having someone to ride with me that day as I would have really liked to go a bit more inside the lake and camp there for the night.
Bad roads are a part of the adventure, a test of psychological and physicial endurance. Now that I think about these from a positive perspective they became a great training to be psycologically prepared to what was coming up next. It was not worse than this but they certainly spoiled my idea of arriving at point B at a planned time. A good thing to get rid of , the planning mentality which in these places it just does not apply. In the end, i found out there is always that someone that will be willing to help even when you dont need that help. That's the beauty of Central Asia as I experimented it.
And yeah, it has been a long time, i was missing coming back to this one as there are so many good memories. I went on a 21-day walking hiking trip covering 440 miles.I brought one of those portable BT keyboards to keep writing with my phone but it proved to be too difficult to continue where I left off as all the memories, photos and diary are on my laptop. Recording a diary has become one of my obsessions while travelling but doing more than one at the same time spoils part of the current adventure
Muchas gracias, me alegro de que te guste. Claro, enváme el enlace, me encantaria hacer un viaje futuro a la África negra y todas las ideas son bienvenidas.
Hey, thanks so much for continuing this great ride report. We (OK I) really do not get to see any type of reports (much less moto reports) from this portion of the world, I personally find it endlessly fascinating.
WOW what a crazy story, that of the Aral Sea! While the idea of humans completely desecrating natural resources, features, and wonders for their own benefit (never mind at the expense of others) is far from surprising, still, somehow I find it shocking.
Guerreronegro, great great report !!! I’ve read many of them, and this one makes me stick in front of screen. Very good experience. I did Mongolia many years ago by bycicle enrolled into a race because it was the only way to get there quick and safe, but in the further it’s planned to reach it by bike as you from Barcelona.
Keep pushing !!!!
Thought of the safety thing as I signed for the rally thinking having others nearby at some pount would somehow make me feel safer. Cycling there must be an experience, met many cyclists on my way there and always wondered how it would be cycling all day on those roads.
I decided to come back to Nukus, the same place I spent the night yesterday. I tried going back following a different way but as soon as I deviated from the main road, it would turn to the war road seen in Turkmenistan, so I turned around and continue on the shortest path. My neck was also in pain due to the prior wreck on the sand, it was not too bad but it was be best to come back and rest.
I was surprisingly able to cover a bit more than 400 km with that 80-octane fuel and run out just a few miles out of Nukus. I pulled over with the remaining inertia into a commercial street on the right and while I was taking out the jerry can a kid approached me asking for money. He was not aggressive in any way and it happened to just ask as I was taking out my knife to cut a funnel out of an empty water bottle. I could see this was not a demand but there were more kids around the block, and it made me feel a bit suspicious. Coming from a Latin American background this is never a good sign. Luckily a few adults came by in seconds and started to yell at them to stop bothering the tourist or at least I interpreted it that way. They left me there to mind my business and as soon as I emptied the fuel, I continued my way to the hostel. I didn’t feel like finding one of those black market fuel stations that day.
Back in the hostel already I found more teams from the rally. We decided to go all together have some dinner later in the day. The English couple, Paul and Holly came also a few minutes later. They just arrived from the crater following the same road I did and looked equally exhausted. One local, Shakh, contacted me via social media. He had been following the rally for many years and he wanted to show us around Nukus. We met later with him. The germans needed to take some cash out of an ATM and we learned that not all of the ones worked equally. Uzbekistan has its own network for local issued credit cards. Shakh walked with us to a restaurant he recommended and then left. It was already late and although I was still not feeling at my best what we ordered looked delicious. I did not know how long it would be until I will find again such a thing so I went ahead with it.
Woke up at 8 am from the guest house finally feeling much better. I started the day with maintenance, cleaning and lubing the chain after that little incursion in the Aral Sea. I wanted to also remove the air filter to clean it but that would have taken me much more time plus looking for an air compressor which I didn’t have available to clean it up. Gaining access to the air filter requires to remove the fuel deposit and since I didn’t notice any particular loss in power I decided to postpone this operation for another time. The guest house let us store the bikes within the house itself so working indoors was a plus. As other days I didn’t have any particular plan regarding my destination for tonight. Many people where heading to Bukhara, a city with lots of sightseeing attractions as well as history. I was not sure if I wanted to spend an extra day for some more tourism or just ride. My visa to Tajikistan was not approved yet and I was started to worry about something going wrong.
Anyways, I was not in a rush for now so I would just set route east and ride until I was tired. Before leaving, the Germans asked me if I could go with them to a local workshop to raise the suspension on a 2000s Opel Astra. They have had problems driving in those roads in Turkmenistan and all the shock absorbers have apparently died in the process. We found a local workshop specialized in this kind of jobs and I ride with them. This seemed to be the place. Other ralliers were also there for the same thing so without much delay we said goodbye and I went to a find a petrol station where to fill up. When I found one, I made the conversion and realized what was obvious, fuel was much more expensive due to its scarcity. I realized this because the amount of sums I had reduced by half. I didn’t take into account fuel price when I exchanged last time. I didn’t pay much attention the last time I refueled. I was just distracted to the smell of petrol not smelling like petrol at all. I was just wondering how these people made it in the winter. As far as I understood it, LPG conversions do not work well in low temperatures and it needs petrol to raise the temperature of the engine up to operating condition. Maybe the black market fuel stations have a little more business during this part of the year.
I was just following maps.me directions when I found for the first time it was asking me to take a different road all of a sudden. I stopped and asked to be sure it was taking me the right way. It turned out a new motorway was being built. Now, I am not a fan of motorways but for the first time in a while I was damn happy to see one. Uzbekistan roads were considerably better than its neighbor Turkmenistan but not that great either. I had to spend lots of energy concentrating not to hit any pot holes which happened to be well hidden. When you thought: “Oh, this road seems to be in good condition” then and only then I would happen to hit the alloys hard. This of course had its translation in going very slow to avoid any cracks. In one of those bumps I lost my front light I had stucked in between the two windshields and a truck following after me ran over it. I didn’t even stop, it was gone.
In the same village I stopped for directions, I also found a good place marked as a restaurant in the GPS. It looked more like a business centre with multiple stories. Five guys sitted outside welcomed me in and together we went to the first floor. The place looked fancy and all for what I was used to see in the last weeks. More like the kind of place in which to celebrate a wedding. I was worried due to not having much cash available and the menu didn’t indicate the prices. Using the Internet on my phone I turned the google camera to have a direct translation to somehow understand what was on the menu. I played it safe and just ordered a kebap, fanta, and a coffee. They didn’t take long to prepare it and it was really good. Now, the most surprising thing came as I finished. The person who appeared to be the one running the business tells me: “I don’t want money”. His English was broken, but I didn’t know how to take this. How can I pay you then was my answer, not sure of what was to come next. The man wanted an interview and he ordered one of the guys who came up with me before to record it with his phone. His concept of an interview was me to speak in English about how great his place was, some sort of a review. I wanted to tell him that maybe the best way to do this was to show him how tripadvisor or google reviews worked for businesses but he wouldn’t understand me. Who knows, maybe they have their own network of reviews. So, I did the video with one of the guys recording me and basically saying how good the kebap was and how friendly the staff is. It might sound more frightening as I am writing it from my diary than it actually was in person, but these people really proved to be excellent hosts. After this, they signaled me the next petrol station in town where I will refill.
At the petrol station I met another friendly local curious to see a foreigner and trying to decipher the license plate on the back of the bike. In general, people in Uzbekistan were superb, they were all beyond friendly and helpful. It is a weird feeling. The more I navigated through the country, the more comfortable I felt despite being alone. It was also hard to explain to family and friends that I was not alone for a big part of this trip. Every time I stopped to eat, refill, or ask for directions the locals always made me feel as one more. Their conception of the time dimension is very different and probably this has to do with the latter fact. I guess that back in home stress and pressure sometimes makes us forget about other existential matters. I kept reflecting again and again about this throughout the whole trip.
Anyways, back on the road I finally found the motorway. The fitted sprocket limited the bike’s speed to 60 mph but it was also a security measure. No need to ride fast in these roads. For all I know it could turn from good to bad in nothing. I loved the Varadero so far, it was a very convenient bike for this part of the world with a good reliability, and a small and simple to fix engine/carburettor system. The only downside was the lack of parts but I guess that happens with many bikes not just this one.
Eventually I reached three more teams and passed them. At this point I knew I was not going to reach Bukhara with daylight and the motorway as I thought, ceased to be one to turn into a multiply repaired secondary road. I was not able to see much so I turned left in a crossing heading to a river. I figured I could camp there so with the last minutes of light I was able to find a spot and set the tent with the motorcycle’s auxiliary lights on. It was a sandy surface so I was happy about that. I prepared some dinner and filled the water containers boiling and using a purifying tablet. I slept relatively well but this was the first night I was awaken by an animal at around 4am. I am not certain of what kind of animal it was but it seemed like cattle as I could here a cowbell. If it was a cow or a donkey I don’t care, but it sure scared me as it woke me up by directly touching my head through the tent’s wall and taking down one of the tent’s pickets
If that picture of your bike in the tent doesn't end up on their web page I don't know what will. Fantastic shot, and amazing story.
Next morning, I confirmed I camped close to a cattle area. No wonder that cow last night run into the tent. Donkeys and cows were now at the other side of the river eating their grass and I ran into the shepherd as I was having breakfast. He didn’t care too much about me sleeping there, we just said hi and he continued his way. I did not make it to Bukhara last night but I made it my mind and today I will go straight to Samarkand. If I stopped in Bukhara that was going to take a big portion of the day and then I will be forced to either sleep, there or camp like today. I regretted a bit this decision but again time saved now it would be put to good use hopefully in Mongolia.
After making a morning tea I put everything back in the back of the bike and started rolling. And when I thought Montezuma’s revenge had come to an end, it came back. Probably due to drinking water from the same source as the animals. It didn’t matter I boiled it nor that I used a tablet to purify it. For now, I could continue, I still had some pills from the guest house owner back in Nukus so that came handy.
Samarkand was not far away compared to the distance covered in previous days and I happened to find a nice guest house were I would wait until my visa situation was sorted, hopefully in two days. It was my second consecutive day I was not allowed to pay for my lunch, someone else I just met covered it and just wouldn’t let me pay. All he wanted was a picture on top of my bike with the helmet on. A bit intimidating when you see the guy has all of its teeth gold or whatever shiny metal is the one used for the local odontologists to resemble the terminator. I heard tales of people visiting Iran in which something similar would have happened to them. I didn’t know how to proceed, it felt so inappropriate but then again, I didn’t know their culture in depth so it was just a matter of trial and error.
In this same place I met a very curious character. Speaking perfect American English, he was with his family and dressed following more the American standards, although he looked like a local. When he saw I was a foreigner we started talking and he said he came from Hollywood. I asked if he was an actor and he said yes, but I don’t watch to many movies lately to recognize this guy. To this day I wonder if what he claimed was true or not, another story for this adventure, I guess. Anyways, I had to keep carrying on, so I said goodbye to everyone and carried on.
Before arriving to Samarkand, I ran again out of petrol but managed to find a place to refuel on reserve. What I didn’t have was more cash on me, so I managed to convince the guy to pay him with a 20 dollar bill and have him hand me local currency for the change. Seems he was used to it and the exchange was also fair so everyone was happy. Arriving in Samarkand was a bit of a shock. There were as many tourists as in Barcelona. Uzbekistan was probably the country out of the stans which had put more effort in developing tourism or so I was told. There is definitely a massive contrast between the eastern side of the country and the Karakalpakstan region I just came from. I went straight to the guest house to take a warm shower and figure out the next move.
Just caught up on your last few days of riding @guerreronegro and had to quote this statement - what a fantastic observation. The stories of the people you've met during the course of your journey is awe inspiring and the last couple days are no exception. What an incredible experience to have that hospitality shown to you. And just think - you might be the first Spaniard (right?) who's ever reviewed that guy's restaurant...lol. I mean, what a oddly amazing thing to have happen.
Still very much enjoying your RR and the stories you've shared, look forward to what comes next.
Looking forward to Samarkand, I just love that place!