Almost in Turkmenistan
We woke up our last morning in Samarqand and signed the guest book at the Caravan Sarai Guesthouse. It was really a fantastic place, highly recommended to all you AsiaWheeling readers who are by this point just salivating to go visit the Uze.
From there, we strapped our things down onto the cycles and made our way to the train station. We arrived just in time to catch our train to Bukhara. The ride was short and sweet, and we spent most of the time working tirelessly on correspondence for you, dear reader.
When the train arrived, we climbed off and began to take stock of our surroundings. One of the first things we realized was that we were not in Buhkara. The train, it turns out, actually takes you to the nearby town of Kagan, from which Bukhara is only a 20 km wheel away.
That was all fine and dandy, but if we were about to wheel 20 km fully loaded, we needed to get a little food in our stomachs. So that became the first order of business.
We rode around hungrily for some time before selecting an outdoor shawarma place for lunch. The fellow who ran the place was thrilled to see us arriving, and quickly busied himself attempting to resurrect his wimpy little piece of shawarma. It seems the flame had long been off, and the rotational functionality long out of operation, but after hammering on the gas can, and eventually going inside to boil some water and pour it onto the thing, he was able to coax a small flame and warm the meat a bit.
He produced for us two sandwiches, both of which were scrumptious. By the time they arrived, though, word had spread throughout Kagan that AsiaWheeling was in town, and a crowd was forming around us, including a number of small business owners and a small collection of local children. We were offered a cool beverage made by boiling dried apricots, and a plate of fresh fruit by one of the fellows who came to see the spectacle. After some more conversation with him, it was disclosed that he owned a nearby butcher shop, and he asked me if I might accompany him for a tour of the operation.
I was, of course, happy to, and accompanied him inside, where he showed me his apparatus for the gutting, bleeding, and slicing up sheep. He also showed me the many cuts of meat that he had for sale, contrasting their qualities and general price performance. And for the coup de gras, he took me around to show me his air conditioning unit, which he explained paid for itself in the rate that it slowed down the rotting of meat in the shop.
I thanked him very much for the tour, and when I reappeared in the sunshine, it was high time for us to get on the road to Bukhara. So we shook hands, took photos with the rest of the team and hit the road. We were about to head onto the main road to Bukhara when we had the thought that it might actually be easier to buy our ticket out of town now, while we were at the station, so we quickly wheeled back to the ticket hall.
With tickets in hand, we hit the road, and started riding hard through Uzbek farmland. The road was relatively new and smooth, the elevation change was negligible, and it felt good to be wheeling. We continued to follow the signs and ask people until we got found ourselves entering the city.
Now it was only a process of asking people where the Hotel Malika was, and riding around in circles for a bit before we were throwing our things down onto two giant beds in our startlingly large room. There was even wifi at this hotel, though its speed was enough to make a level headed AsiaWheeler pull his hair out.
So rather than battle the terrifyingly slow Internet, we decided to go out wheeling. The city of Bukhara proved absolutely excellent for wheeling. It was a quiet town, with very little traffic and plenty to see. The architectural style here was similar to what we’d seen in Samarqand and Tashkent, but less colorful and more brutal.
This city had a violent past, full of maniacal religious rule, and people being sewed into bags and tossed from the highest minaret. It also had some of the most inviting ancient crumbling streets. We found Bukhara’s wheeling simply irresistible. We continued to pedal on past ancient and monstrous buildings, most of which, in sharp contrast to Samarqand, were locked up tight and not open to visitors.
We wheeled on, eventually passing out of the old city, and came across an old Soviet stadium. We rolled around it a bit, vowing to return when we had more time to explore. For the time being, we were interested in finding something to eat and heading back to the Internet to get some things done.
Unfortunately, finding a restaurant in Bukhara proved easier said than done. We ended up wheeling for some time before, while rolling by a kind of kid’s play land, we spotted a place that looked suitable. It may have been a restaurant designed for parents to relax in while the kids enjoyed the carnival. Whatever the business strategy, it was delicious.
We were served by a very friendly and rather gigantic Uzbek woman. The first waiter who had attempted to help us had spoken only Uzbek (one of the first people we’d met who didn’t speak Russian) and had been quickly replaced by this woman, who obviously held some power in the organization. She wasted no time in ascertaining what we wanted to order, instead just serving up some wicked Manty, Somsas, and Shashlik and trusting that we’d enjoy them.
Right she was.