Once again I am writing my diary by the bright light of a full moon. Every now and then I forget it’s there and then have a moment of alarm when I think someone is shining a torch at me. It’s so bright that I will be using my eye mask. I just had one of those spectacular starts to a night when the rising moon tries to outdo the setting sun in putting on a spectacular show. I have to say the moon, which appeared in the sky just ten minutes after the sun had sank below the opposite horizon, might just have won. As well as the moon, the night also brought out some wildlife. I have discovered that a cluster of bushes about ten metres from my tent hides an entrance to a Golden Jackal den. It was while I was completely helpless, squatting with my pants down, that a jackal popped out. It sniffed around a bit and edged ever closer until I shone my headlamp around. An infamous arachnid also emerged around my tent: a white spider, which, according to the stories from a guy in Dushanbe, is very poisonous and as fast as lightning. Not sure how true this information is, but it was nice seeing another wild animal.

Should I explain why I was squatting so close to my tent? I don’t mind, but you might. The answer: Giardia has re-emerged with a vengeance and it was all I could do to grab the roll of toilet paper I had placed at the ready and get a few metres away before having to get the pants down in a panic. It was a close call. Too bad I can’t say the same for an incident a couple of hours earlier when I completely shat myself. How’s that for honesty? With only three seconds warning before it came out, I simply had no chance. Luckily I’d jumped off my nice new bike seat. It happened in a pretty terrible spot. The only place I could try and hide was in the ditch that ran between the road and the steep slope the road was carved from. I’d made a complete mess of myself, but nothing that a bottle of water and a packet of wet wipes couldn’t begin to fix. Luckily today I’d decided to wear undies, so I at least had one layer of protection between my bum and my bike shorts. F*%ing Giardia. I’ve been off my Giardia medication for nearly two weeks now so I thought I was done with it. (The jackal has just come out again as I’m writing. What a beautiful creature!). I seem to be getting hit hard with it right now, with painful stomach cramps and frequent (about four times in the last three hours) toilet runs. I might be in for a very rough night. Unfortunately I didn’t reach a place that has a pharmacy, so finding medication will have to wait until tomorrow.

Going back to the start of my day: everything started off fine. I packed up while the two guys slept and got away as soon as I could, thinking I could beat the heat of the day. Fat chance of that. The moment the sun arrived the day felt stiflingly hot. Within a few kilometres I passed through Boysun, where I stocked up some food supplies to get me through the day: bread, tomatoes, pears, salami and water. At a rest break a little further on, I bought a cold water and was treated to a couple of apples. When I got totally sick of the heat and hungry around 12.30pm, I found some shade under the roof of a derelict petrol station, where I made a couple of sandwiches before laying out a bed. It was here that my toilet issues began. I didn’t get going again until 3.30pm.

A pair of cyclists heading in the opposite direction spotted me and stopped in for a chat. Earlier in the day I’d passed Stefania from Switzerland (sheisaround.com), who is riding on her own. I was really surprised to hear that since she started her trip a few months before, she has only seen two cyclists. I got the impression we would get along really well, so it felt quite unfortunate that we were heading in opposite directions. Even earlier in the day I stopped to chat to a Belgian couple who were two weeks into the Mongol Rally, driving a 1970s VW Beetle. All the while I battled the extreme heat of an Uzbekistan summer. At times I felt like it was the worst thing ever (especially when on a climb with no wind). At times I felt good (when on a downhill with my shirt open). At times I felt in between (when on a long climb but with a cooling wind). As the day wore on I began to curse the people that told me Uzbekistan is flat, because where I have been so far certainly isn’t. While there were some nice downhills, I think I spent most of the day climbing.

I haven’t made it as far as I wanted. I am camped not too far past Oqravot. I stopped in Oqravot to stock up on water and ask if there was a pharmacy around (being told there wasn’t one). Where I stopped was a restaurant and a little shop. A group of guys called me over to their outside table (low platform surrounding by cushions) and invited me to join in. They treated me to a coke and gave me a plate heaped with bread and meat cooked on the bone. The meat was so soft and tender it pulled away from the bones with the gentlest of tugs. Delicious! Back on the road, I soon reached the top of the main climb and began a joyous descent. It was getting towards 7pm by this stage so I began keeping an eye out for a campsite. I took my chance when the road was empty and I spotted a track disappearing into some hills adjacent to the road. The area isn’t as empty as I’d hoped and I was within sight of a couple of houses and what might be a railway work station as I pushed my bike away from the road. I dropped off the track into the flat little area I’m in now, hidden from one house by a low hill and from the other by the patch of bushes. I was cooking dinner (pasta, sweet corn, salami and tomato sauce) when the family of one of the houses walked past, carrying a few ‘garden’ tools, obviously returning home after working some cropland nearby. I had the usual short chat that my limited understanding of the Uzbek language allows, answering their questions about which country I’m from, which direction I’m riding, and whether I am alone or not. The boy, around 13 years old, returned after I’d finished dinner and poked around my campsite a bit asking questions. It was while satisfying his curiosity that I had to apologise profusely as I grabbed my toilet paper and dropped the dacks. He stood around awkwardly for a few moments before saying goodbye and running home, either scarred for life or keen to tell his family what he just saw…maybe both. I packed up my dinner stuff, then used my folding bucket and spare water to have a wash. I also gave my cycling shorts a good wash too…you know…to get any remaining poo residue out. My stomach is gurgling unpleasantly and my Giardia burps are noxious enough to kill. Perhaps this is a good thing, given the proximity of jackals.

Outside is free

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 62.6km
Average cycling speed 12.2kph
Total distance ridden 21,143km