I have survived the night, as has the boy, who returned for a visit while I was packing up my stuff. He waved me off from my campsite as I hit the road, determined to find some medication as soon as possible. On reaching Korashina, I began to ask around for a pharmacy. In the end a friendly guy in a car led me to a part of neighbourhood lined with them. I stupidly forgot I had stored the label from a packet of metronidazole in my wallet for such situations, so I struggled to convey what I wanted. In the end, and I guess not so surprisingly, writing the word metronidazol in English did the trick. I attracted a bit of positive attention while in the pharmacy and a friendly group of old guys were keen for a ‘chat’ outside. We didn’t really get past the usual questions of ‘where are you from?’ and ‘where are you going?’ though. A nearby shop gifted me with a packet of baked goods, of which I ate half before moving on.

The day was really hot and I was in much need of a rest when I came across a chaihana midmorning. Unfortunately, the place attempted to overcharge me outrageously for a bottle of water and a coke. I got it for the normal price once they realised I wasn’t going to be fool, but it meant I didn’t really like being there and I moved on without getting the break I needed.

My next rest came at a bus stand. When two young locals cycled past, they did a classic double-take before turning around and coming to look at the lone foreigner sitting in the middle of nowhere with a bicycle. They didn’t speak English but didn’t mind hanging out nonetheless. We rode as a threesome for about 15km before I needed another break. They left me to it as I found some shade underneath a shelter that sits beside a lush green field. Two guys were out in the heat shepherding goats.

I was utterly exhausted by the time I reached Qarshi and keen to find a hotel quickly. My first attempt failed when I was asked for US$98. My next two attempts failed when I was told the hotels at which I was enquiring did not accept foreigners. I asked a guy on the street if he knew where any cheap hotels were. He glanced at his watch and I could see him struggle slightly to make a decision about whether or not to help me. In the end he proved good company as we went on the hunt. He spoke quite good English and said that he wasn’t from Qarshi and was also looking for a hotel. Yet another hotel refused to take me in, but we were at least told of one that should. We were on our way there when my new friend asked a pair of locals if we were heading the right way. One of the guys was super friendly and asked me a few basic questions in broken English. At the end of our very brief introduction, he invited me to stay at his house. I agreed immediately, happy to have the end of the day in sight. I left the other guy to continue his search without me. This was how I met Shoxruh, who is a building manager. The younger guy with him is his neighbour and offsider. They had just finished work for the day. ‘We are going to dinner before we go home’, Shoxruh announced as I pushed my alongside them back towards the centre of town.

We walked for a while before reaching their target restaurant where we secured a table in the cool night air. A very wonderful thing happened next: three large glass of draught beer were delivered to our table. It took an incredibly strong will not to down the cold drink in one go and instead maintain the more respectable pace being demonstrated by my new friends. There is nothing like a good cold beer when your body is destroyed from physical activity, especially when it’s been a while since your last. We feasted on bread, meat and salad, topped off by vanilla ice-cream made locally. We found we could chat about most things, but only if I talked slowly and picked my words carefully.

It took a long walk for us to reach Shoxruh’s home. I began to admire the two guys for walking so far every day, when it was revealed to me that they normally get a taxi and were only walking because I have my bicycle. Stupid me. I then felt quite bad, for it really was a long walk. I thought my body was destroyed before, but it definitely was by the time I stepped through Shoxruh’s gates and into his backyard. I was invited to sit on the outside seating platform and it was there that I was introduced to Shoxruh’s wife, two young children, parents and brother. I was treated to even more food (bread, melon, grapes, tea) as I chatted to everyone as best I could. It was nearly midnight by the time we retired to an upstairs part of the house where a bed had been laid out for me. Not quite letting me go just yet, the family sat around me and treated me to a photo album viewing session. I learned the story of how Shoxruh met his wife and got a nice glimpse into the lives they have led until now.

When the time came for bed, I received a concerned talking-to from Shoxruh. I quickly realised he and his family had the impression I was some kind of vulnerable homeless person having a rough time in life and he wanted to make sure I was okay. I couldn’t help but be slightly amused, but had to work hard to reassure Shoxruh that I am fine. His concern stemmed from the fact that I was alone in a foreign country without having a place to stay and it was reinforced by my dishevelled appearance – the fact that I was wearing a shirt that is falling to bits and looking out from an eye that is underlined by a fresh cut and slight swelling. Shoxruh thought some local guys had roughed me up. In reality the injury had occurred in the morning when I bent down to open one of my front panniers and banged my face on one of my bar ends. While we were looking at the photos, Shoxruh’s wife searched through a nearby wardrobe before presenting me with some of Shoxruh’s clothes. I started to refuse the gift, but the expression on everyone’s faces when I did this convinced me to shut up, smile and accept them with grace.

Some of my adoptive family (the grandparents and grandkids)

Accommodation Home of a local family
Distance ridden today 130.68km
Average cycling speed 15.1kph
Total distance ridden 21,273km