The day greeted me with raging wind. Knowing that Nukus was within reach, I cleared all feelings of weariness and hardship from my mind and replaced them with daydreams totally unrelated to my cycling adventure. I thus managed to avoid getting frustrated at the harsh headwind that had me moving at just 8kph for the first two hours of the day. I had to ignore the rough road surface too and just let every bump wash over me and get left behind. In this way I made slow but steady progress and by mid-morning my luck had turned around. The wind turned from a cross-headwind into a cross-tailwind and my speed began to pick up. I also managed to access a brand new bitumen road being built alongside the original one. Gone were the bumps and so too was most of the traffic, which was restricted to the original road. As I entered Nukus I stopped in at an internet café where I checked emails and worked out which hotels I should hit up first.

Finding a comfortable home and a satisfying meal without wasting time can feel miraculous sometimes. I had such a miracle tonight and, being utterly exhausted from riding 570km through the Uzbek ‘desert’ over five days, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Still, it wasn’t without some running around. The hotel I’m in is the third one I checked out. The first had no rooms available and the second was too expensive. When I said I couldn’t afford the US$37 price tag on a single room, the second hotel offered me a mattress on the floor of an unused office, with use of the staff bathroom. For this they wanted US$20. I continued my search and came across my current hotel, which has granted me a large, beautifully decorated room with a fridge, TV, western toilet and clean modern bathroom, for US$25. I ran into a small problem when they asked to see my accommodation registration slips for the last three nights. In Uzbekistan you are meant to stay in government-registered hotels, which give you a special slip of paper as proof of your stay. I said I didn’t have any from the last few nights. They asked where I stayed last night. I said I slept in a chaihana. I then offered the only registration slip I have, which is from my stay at the hostel in Bukhara. They called the hostel to confirm that I stayed there and they seemed happy with this. I was free to stay.

A walk down the street took me to Grand Lavash, which is heaven for a hungry cyclist lacking local language skills. I was handed a menu containing clear prices and, most helpfully, honest pictures of every food item they were offering, which included burgers, kebabs, pizzas and salads. I ordered a kebab (the size of two small kebabs at home), fries (a large plateful), Olivye salad and 1L Coke – enough to feed two people with normal appetites – all for less than AU$5. I am writing my diary while in the restaurant, having just finished my feast. On the walk home I plan to stop in at a shop and stock up on junk food (lollies, chocolate and soft drink). I plan to eat this junk food too quickly while watching a movie on my laptop and relishing the feel of a soft bed in a well-appointed hotel room.

I just got home. My junk food binge has turned into a fresh fruit kick. My miracle continued when I found a well-stocked supermarket on the way home. When I saw the fruit, I couldn’t help buying a load of it, having not had much of it in recent days.

My shopping list:

  • 2 x 500mL beer
  • 4 tubs of yoghurt
  • 1L fruit juice
  • 2 bananas
  • 5 nectarines
  • 2 peaches
  • 2 pears
  • 2 razors
  • block of chocolate
  • can of condensed milk
  • jar of generic Nutella.

The price: AU$12.

Waking up

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 101.22km
Average cycling speed 16.6kph
Total distance ridden 22,025km