Three notable events happened as I rode out of Tajikistan. Two of these were positive, the other was one of the most frightening experiences I have had in my travels. Let’s start with the positive ones.
1) When I was stopped by the side of the road to have a rest and eat some food, a passing car paused long enough to gift me with a delicious collection of fresh fruit. I devoured half straight away before packing the rest away for later.
2) Later, in the last settlement before the border, I stopped by a fresh lemonade stand to spend the last of my Tajik money on a cool drink. The stand was run by a couple of kids and they proved great company as we tried to have meaningful conversation. Soon a small crowd of locals had gathered. The kids refused any payment for the drinks I had and they even insisted on sending me away with my water bottle filled with lemonade. Waving to a crowd of friendly people and hearing them wish me well as I rode away was the perfect farewell from Tajikistan.
The frightening experience had happened a little earlier.
3) I was calmly riding along when the air was shattered by the screech of tyres coming from right behind me. My head darted around and sheer panic set in. A car was bearing down on me, its tyres fully locked up. It would have travelling at about 100kph before its driver realised he was about to hit me and slammed on the brakes. The most pure terror I have ever felt forced a monumental scream from my mouth. The car came as close as three metres before I managed to pull off the road. As it flew past and continued on, I collapsed over my handlebars and didn’t move until my heart had settled.
I faced a small problem as I entered Uzbekistan. Uzbek customs officials are notorious for being intrusively thorough as they look through your belongings, going so far as to search through every photo and video you have stored on your phone and laptop. Apparently they generally look for porn, and as I am a young, single male, I am a prime candidate for carrying such material. It came as no surprise, then, that during my inspection I was asked where I stored movies. I opened the right folder on my external hard drive. Having copied a bunch of movies from a friend in Dushanbe, I now have a decent collection of movies I have never heard of. It was one of these unknown movies that the customs officer opened. Bored by the opening credits, he skipped ahead to the middle of the film. We both got a shock. I immediately became amused and scared at the same time. Amused by the comical situation I was suddenly in. Scared by its implications. On the screen was a naked woman whipping herself in front of a Christian cross. The officer looked at me and all I could do was throw my hands in some kind of weak defence. He skipped through the movie several times and more often than not a similar scene was revealed. The officer began hunting intensively through all the other movies. Fortunately, the rest proved to me much tamer films and we both calmed down a bit. He moved onto my video footage from my travels and I showed him one of my completed videos, which impressed him. He also found a collection of photos of my artwork, which impressed him further. The shock of finding the first movie subsided and we began to joke a little and chat about travelling and hobbies.
It was late afternoon by the time I was free of the border. I had about 40km to ride before reaching Denov, the closest town with accommodation. I was about 100m from Denov Hotel, where travellers generally stay, when an 18-year-old kid came alongside me on a bicycle and struck up a conversation in broken English. Within a minute he had invited me to stay with his family. I asked if it would be okay with his mother and father and he said it would be no problem. I followed him to his home. He ran inside for a second, clearly announcing to his family he’d brought a stranger home. Herein lies a perfect example about how different (more suspicious/fearful) people are at home than they are in foreign countries. If I, as an 18-year-old, came home one day and told my parents I’d invited a dirty, foreign stranger who I’ve known for minute to come and stay the night, I’d have been yelled at and the stranger turned away hurriedly. When I stepped into this home in Denov, all I received was love and kindness. I was invited to sit on the chill-out/eating platform and within ten minutes an incredible feast of bread and fresh fruit had been placed before me. I met Anvar’s father, mother, brothers and cousin. Out conversation was helped along by Google Translate and I enjoyed learning as much about them and Uzbekistan as they did about me and Australia. After a while I excused myself to have a shower, emerging clean and more ready to relax and settle in for the night. We chatted into the night and through an amazing dinner. By 10.30pm I was falling asleep where I sat, marking the end of a wonderful welcome to Uzbekistan. I was shown a room upstairs where a bed had been prepared.
|Accommodation||Home of a lovely family|
|Distance ridden today||112.39km|
|Average cycling speed||18.3kph|
|Total distance ridden||20,986km|