Rich in Uzbekistan!!

Well, not really rich…far from it in fact, but we felt rich this morning when we counted all the local money we had just exchanged for $140 USD!

Us counting 900,000 SOM

Us counting 900,000 SOM

Due to the black market for USD here we had to get a ‘money changer’ guy to meet us at our hotel this morning so we could change some USD. It took us about 20 minutes to count all the money which didnt seem to be the normal thing to do as they had been bundled and stamped by a bank but after being burnt a few times in Venezuala we weren’t going to trust anybody! All was in order so we handed over our 4 US notes in exchange for the thousands of Som! Its a pretty ridiculous situation! Imagine a night out on the town?! Lucky women dont wear skin tight clothes and tiny handbags here!!

The equivalent to $96 USD

The equivalent to $96 USD

We have spent the last couple of days riding around the Fergana region of Uzbekistan which is marked as a tourist attraction with beautiful scenery… there have been some grape vines… that was nice… but no wine in sight… its all a bit overrated in our opinion.  And bloody hot!!! 40 to 42 degrees is where its currently at in the air and it muust be an extra 10 degrees inside our suits when we are on the bike! Not much fun but we try to train our brains to deal with it. Dean is a lot better at that than me however as my temper seems to rise with the temperature 🙂

Despite the financial crisis that Uzbekistan is in,  accommodation is some of the most expensive we’ve come across on our trip so far. Most places are asking for $80 USD a night which is kind of ridiculous and when we do find cheap hotels, they dont accept tourists. We also appear to be back in a racist price structure (prices for western tourists three times more than locals and two times more than Russians) so all this teamed with the heat makes the end of the day that much harder! We’ve managed to find a hotel around the $20 mark for the last couple of nights, however we did have to ride an extra 60 kms yesterday to get to it!

The people here are very friendly and enthusiatic about the bike and we get lots of hoots from passing cars and waves from everyone. Sometimes its a challange to smile and wave back when we are burning up on the bike and have been riding around in circles looking for  place to stay but Dean and I usually seem to be able to compensate for eachothers lack of patience. My strength is when people ask us where we are from in the middle of a traffic jam and Deans strength is whenever we are at border crossings!

The other very special thing here is the ‘toilet paper’. Its actually really thick crepe paper which gives you a more exfoliating effect when using… I’m happy they at least use paper here though so I wont complain too much 🙂

Lovely rough paper for your bottom!

Lovely rough paper for your bottom!

Dean has had to ride to the Kyrgystan border today to pick up a new tyre which we managed to order from a contact we had in Osh. Its a bit of a life saver really as if we couldn’t organise a new tyre here we would have no choice but to try to make it to Turkey but it would have been a dangerous risk. The guys in Osh have found a Russian guy who will carry it over the border for us for $50 (only Russians can cross the border freely – Uzbeks need permission from their government to leave the country and I think its the same for Kyrgs!) so hopefully that will all work out smoothly however there will no doubt be a hiccup! (Edit: Dean has just arrrived back with no tyre as the Uzbek guards wouldnt let the guy through with the tyre – so, back to the risk taking option…)

Im lucky enough to have a day off the bike today but as there is not so much to see here I will probably just enjoy being in the airconditioning. Thanks to a 3AM phone call last night from the bank, I also have the fun task of trying to work out my finances as it seems that someone has got hold of my card details and spent $400 on pizza??!! Wow, they really know how to live it up! Meanwhile I’m left without a card to use until I get to Turkey as I dont think they will be able to send a replacement anywhere betweeen here and Iran. Hopefully nobody gets hold of Deans card too! Skype seems to be the enemy of the government here so this has been blocked which makes contacting anyone that much harder!

Off to Tashkent tomorrow where we have been kindly invited to stay with a friend Dean met last time he was here 🙂

Welcome to Uzbekistan!


In the 40 deg heat we processed immigration and customs at the quietest border post in the world today – we were the only people there.

So quiet that after an hour we were wondering whether they had ever stamped a passport before… Let alone seen one…

Anyway… mid process one of the guards noticed this, it’s hard to make out, but is a pretty big cut in the rear tyre, right through the steel belting that holds it together.

Not ideal.

Moving along from that rather large problem, after 3 hours at the border, we stopped in a town called Kokand, which we of course have dubbed Cockland. 

Lucky for us our ATM cards don’t work in Cockland, that’s lucky because there is a foreign currency crisis in Uzbekistan, meaning the bank will give you 3000som for 1 usd, whereas on the black market you get 6000!

So ‘officially’ everything should be costing us 2x more, but because we have all this usd on us, we’re saving lots of money.

Good right?

No bad! Because we weren’t aware of this, so we only have enough usd for Iran, which is in a similar but slightly less extreme situation…. It’s apparently virtually impossible to draw money out of ATMS here, Turkmen and Iran so we have the next 6 weeks to budget for in the small amount of US we have!

Keeping up?

Back to the tyre woes.  That tyre was supposed to get us to Turkey, (because there are no bike shops between here and turkey).  As it stands I’m not sure it will last the day out tomorrow, let alone another month.

So now what?

Now, it’s time to sleep.


letter from the Australian Consulate in Pakistan

Now that we’re safely through that part of the world, I’ll share the letter sent to me by the Australian Consulate in Islamabad.  I emailed them at the request of the Pakistan consulate in Canberra, to register our travel.  I didnt include their response in our visa application for obvious reasons.

It seems that the Australian goverment’s stance on travel anywhere except New Zealand is that it’s dangerous, dont go!  They have travel advisory warnings for every country we have been in since leaving home… crazy.

No doubt Pakistan is a dangerous country to travel in, and some parts are definite no go zones for travellers, we didnt go to those parts.  But equally it was an incredibly interesting place to see, full of welcoming generous people.  It’s a shame that the actions of a minute few give the entire country such a bad reputation.

Enough of that, here’s the letter…


Dear Dean,

Thank you for your email and sharing your travel plans with us.

We wish to reiterate that your proposed travel from Islamabad to China border crossing through the Pakistan province of KPK is dangerous and we strongly urge you to reconsider this.  As stated in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) travel advice for Pakistan there is a high threat of kidnapping across the whole of Pakistan, but particularly in Karachi, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).  We recommend that Australians not travel to these areas.

In addition to reading the DFAT travel advice for Pakistan and the other countries you will be visiting, we would also like to draw your attention to DFAT’s travel advice on kidnapping, which can be found at  and on terrorism, which can be found at

There is no way you can ensure your safety while travelling by road across KPK.  Even hiring local armed escorts is no guarantee of your safety.  You need to carefully consider the impact on you, your family and friends, resulting from possible kidnap, injury or death including very large financial ransom demands in the event of kidnapping.  We urge you to seriously reconsider this part of your plan and to avoid those provinces in Pakistan where we recommend no travel and reconsider any need to travel through other provinces.

Given the Australian Government’s advice against travel across Pakistan, we regret we are unable to provide a letter stating that such a visit is welcome.

If you proceed with this travel, you should ensure that you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out appropriate insurance. You should also register your travel and contact details online at DFAT’s Smartraveller website before you travel, and subscribe to the travel advice for the countries you are visiting so you can receive updates should the security environment change in those locations.

With regard to travel insurance, make sure your travel insurance covers all medical expenses for injury or illness, as well as theft of valuables and damage to baggage etc.  Check the policy’s exclusions and be aware that it is unlikely to cover you for areas that are assessed as ‘Do not travel’ by DFAT.  Please make sure the insurance covers you for all of your activities and for all of the countries you intend to visit, noting any of the policy’s requirements for driving a personal vehicle.



Amna Pervez

Consular and Passports Manager

Australian High Commission Islamabad
Ph +92 51 835 5500 | Fax +92 51 282 0114

Our Marriage Certificate for Iran’s conservative hotels :)

We have it on good authority that in Iran the hotels will give us seperate rooms unless we can provide a marriage certificate.  So here it is, courtesy of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Sally wore red because her favourite spaghetti sauce is puttanesca, and I wore nothing but my riding boots and used lasagna sheets to hide my privates.

pastor Pasta Farian...from the Church of the flying spaghetti monster!

pastor Pasta Farian…from the Church of the flying spaghetti monster!

Some Boring Info on Dushanbe Embassies

Some Info on the Embassies in Dushanbe, as of June 2016.

(for AU tourists). Visitors to Iran, Turkmen, Azeri and Russia… read on.

Iran – tourist visa.

We applied for the LOI through Stantours and were told that this would take 10-12 days from receipt of payment. We paid on a Tuesday night, but the application wasnt  lodged until the following Saturday. This had something to do with the fact that Iran doesn’t work on Thursdays or Fridays.

We received notification that our LOI’s had arrived 10 days after lodgement. On the email it said we should wait for three days before applying at the embassy, but Stantours told us to ignore this delay, so we went the next day (Wednesday). At the embassy we were invited into an office and had a short interview, then we were told to come back in 3 days as the embassy hadn’t received our LOI’s yet…

We went back the next day anyway and they had arrived. We then had another hour interview with another man who asked lots of bizarre questions. Then we were told that we had to go and pay the fee at a nearby bank (150 Euros per person!) and to return with the slip before 12.30pm. The bank is about 1.5km north of the embassy, on Rudakai Ave, on your rhs going north, just past the Southern Fried Chicken shop, 10mins walking. We returned at 12pm but they were closed. Very frustrating.

So we had to wait out the long weekend (the embassy is closed Fri-Sun), before finally lodging the documents (3 weeks after paying for the LOI). (Application form, Receipt for payment, 2 photos – headscarfe optional, Passport Copies). They told us to come back the next day at 10, but we asked if it was possible that afternoon. They told us they closed at 4pm, so we went back at 3:30 but… they were already closed. So the next morning we were back at 9:30am, told to wait until 11, and finally got the visa then.

The people at the embassy are relatively polite, if not overwhelmingly helpful. Being told to return before ??pm and finding them closed 30mins earlier was really annoying. Also the second interview was quite strange with some odd questions “Does your husband show you respect” “are you athletes” “can you define athlete for me?” etc. The guy at the front desk speaks no English, Russian and Persian only. The embassy is exactly where google maps puts it.

Turkmenistan – 5 day transit.

You can either apply and then collect from Dushanbe in 7 days, or apply in Dushanbe and get the approval via email, then collect from any other embassy, or at the border. We decided to receive the email and go to the border.

So you fill in the form they give you, hand write an accompanying letter (which they have a sample of in the embassy), provide a passport copy and a copy of the Iran visa. That’s it! Then hopefully the email will arrive in 10 days so you can get the visa at the border for USD$55.

The consul told us we were 100% guaranteed to receive the confirmation email in 10 days, but we nominated 13 days from applying to our entry date just to be sure. Note that the dates are fixed.

Contrary to information given to us by Stantours, the embassy did not need to see our Uzbek visa, and the turnaround time is 10 days for the approval email, or 7 days for collection from Dushanbe.

Not many tour companies will tell you about the option to collect the visa at the border or a different embassy to avoid waiting around for it – i think this is because they want to sell you the tour guide that you need for a tourist visa.

The embassy is not on Google Maps. So… going north on Rudakai Ave, turn left onto Karamov St, then it’s the 2nd on the right, and first on the left.

We only applied today, will amend once the email arrives and we hopefully get into TM!

Azerbaijan Transit Visa

Very helpful consulate, provide application forms, require 2 photos, passport copies and pay the fee at the Orien Bank (USD$20), return with the receipt and 3-5 days later collect the visa. It’s valid for entries across one month, and gives you 5 days transit. Keep in mind that if you’re in your own vehicle, you only get 72 hours from customs for the vehicle before it needs to exit, or be in a customs impound.

Russian Transit Visas

Consulate is where Google says it is, and very helpful once you get inside! So ignore the crowd and push forward to the intercom, shout “visa” into the microphone, repeatedly if needed and they will let you in. There was just one counter that spoke English so we had to wait a bit, but then they need:

Fill the online form and print it, 2 pics, passport copy, 2 blank pages in your passport (that are facing each other!), and the visa fee.

AU passport transit visa costs USD$70, ready in 7 days, or USD$105 express 2-3 days. EU transit visa costs EUR 35 in 5 days, or EUR 70 in 2 days.

They will give you a transit visa that requires you to travel 500km per day. So trip length divided by 500 = transit days.

If you plan to transit from KAZ to Georgia the approval time is 10 days because of instability in that area, and “it takes more time to make sure you aren’t terrorists”.

The Russian embassy in Dushanbe does not issue tourist visas for non Tajik residents (you’d need to show an OVIR registration longer than 30 days).

Hope this helps others!!

Time to leave Dushanbe finally!!!

The most expensive visas we’ve ever had to pay for!

Feeling pretty happy at the moment!! Picked up our Iran visas this morning (not without an hour of having to wait and a few rounds of cards in the meantime) then went straight to the Turkmenistan embassy with an hour to spare to apply for our transit visas. They will be ready in 10 days and we have been promised that we’ll be able to pick them up at the border in that time… We gave ourselves an extra two days just in case. The visas are date specific so if we don’t enter on said date we will be turned around. So, providing all that works out and they don’t reject our change of passport (which may be an issue!) we will be free!! No more dates to wait for!! 

We really hope Iran is worth it. Not only has it been a total headache it’s been a really expensive excersie.

Our days have been spent trying to organise air freight home for the bike and crating options. We thought it was a good opportunity to try to get organised. Not much else really… Lots of card playing, a bit of cooking and some vodka drinking! We’ve been bored!

After spending the last month or more sifting through reviews and information about visas on the internet we thought we should give a bit back and write about our embassy experience…. Dean getting at it…

So tomorrow we head north towards Tashkent in Uzbekistan where we will spend some time riding around and slowly make our way down to the border to hit our date… A little bit more time wasting ahead of us but at least we are moving!xx

Iranians making life difficult

We pull up on the motorbike and park across the road, gather all our paperwork from the panniers and walk through the tall steel embassy gates, around the corner and into the tiny waiting room.

The room is about 3m long by 2m wide, with a cup-less water dispenser and three plastic chairs.  On one of the chairs sit an elderly man with a long white beard and strange hat, he immediately begins talking to us in Persian, we reply in English that we dont understand him, and he reverts to sign language.

In sign language he tells us that he has a lengthy matter to deal with (arms outstretched and frown on his face) so we should go first.

The counter at the end has a semi circular hole at desk level, a bit like a bank, and also a dozen holes drilled at eye level, poorly, such that it looks like someone has fired a gun through the window.

Interesting effect.

In preparation for the lack of english, I have already typed “We are here to see if you have our approval number today” into google translate on my phone, and i pass the phone through the glass, the man reads it, opens a folder on the desk, looks at the front page and then motions us to sit down.

This is promising.

Yesterday they looked at the same folder, and through many pages before telling us to sit, maybe we’re on top?!

The man who was working the counter yesterday enters the room behind the bullet riddled glass, looks at us and starts moving things around loudly looking a bit pissed off.  He told us to come back on Monday… why are we here today?

As it happens we’re in luck and the paperwork has arrived, and it’s on top of his pile.  He mumbles something about a bank and writes something down on a piece of paper.  We’re about to take the paper when another guy, the actual Consul pokes his head around the corner and tells the guy behind the bullet riddled glass that he needs to see us in his office.

Now we’re directed into the Consuls office, where he sits on one end of the room behind his desk, (which has a TV on it!), and he directs us to sit on the far end of the room, on some old luxurious queen anne style lounges.  Another guy comes in wearing a blue suit, and sits next to us.  He has our application forms and passports, but wants to chat a bit.  Another guy brings us all a cup of tea and serves it like a waiter in a nice restaurrant.  How bizarre.

So we answer about 2o0 stupid questions…

“what do you think of Iran”  We dont know much about it but everyone says it’s lovely

“Are you athletes” no

“are you married?” yes (Iran is Muslim and they look disapprovingly on unmarried couples)

“do you like tea?” it’s ok

“how will you travel to Iran” by bus and taxi (they wont give us the visa if they think we’re travelling by bike)

“did you see the football game where Iran and Australia drew 2-2?” yes

“does your husband show you respect?” yes always  “really?” yes always.

“do you play sport?” no

“did you know it’s ramadan starting in June?” no

“do you know about the clothing expectations in Iran?” yes

“where are you going in iran?” it says on our applications

“did you include your email addresses?” no the form does not ask for them

“can you define the word athlete for me”  someone who plays sport professionally… why?

Do you want to work for the government?”…. No?!

“are you familiar with Iranian food” no

it goes on and on and on. We’re a bit edgy becasue we have to lie about a few things, I try to make some jokes and divert the conversation away from us and towards Iran instead…

Sally is looking at the time and starting to get impatient, but finally the guy says

“Bon Voyage” which we think means we can go.

“But what about our visas then?”

“ah… ” he mumbles something to the guy on the other end of the room watching tv.

“you pay first at bank”

“which bank?”

“The sdibufgisdbfvipuf bank on Rudakai opposite the old palace, near here”

“and how much should we pay?”

more mumbling in Persian, and then “150 euro each”

WTF?!!!!????  “but yesterday we were told 35 euro each”

“no, 35 euro is for Tajik people, you are Australian so it costs more”

“ok… so when will the visa be ready”

“first you pay”

“ok, if we pay today, when can we collect the visa?”

“if you pay today, and return before close at 12:30, can collect on Wednesday”

“Wednesday??? Is it possible on Monday?”

“Ok first pay and we will try to make fast”

We collect our forms and passports and run out to the bike, it’s 11:40am so we should have enough time to get this done.  Except that we werent given an address, just some vague directions, and in total shock at the visa fee we forgot to clarify them.

So now were riding up and down the main street through Dushanbe, stopping and asking people if they know where svgdsfghbpifuubv bank is.  Which of course no one does because we cant even pronounce sijuhdsfgkinfb bank.  We ride up and down getting more and more frustrated as everyone we ask points in a different direction, the minutes pass by.  Eventually we find a bank that sounds like siishfgfngofuh bank, but they are closed for lunch.

The anger levels are really setting in now, but we need to stay calm.   Eventually a guy tells us this is not the right bank anyway.  Fuck it, so we decide to return to the embassy to get clearer directions.  We pull up at 12:00pm but the gate is locked already.

The security guard does the closed mime (forearms held up in an X), I point to my non existent watch and make an angry what-the-fuck?? mime (arms held out with palms facing up and out).  He responds with the lunch time mime (cupped left hand in front of mouth, right hand pushing imaginary food into mouth), I continue my angry what-the-fuck mime, but he just shrugs his shoulders and returns to his little hut.

I swear and return to the bike.  We’re really upset.  They told us to get back by 12:30, then closed for lunch at 12.  Assholes.  Impotent rage is the worst, so we return to our sink-less apartment to calm down and see if we can find this fucking bank online.

“I dont even want to go to Iran anymore, 150euro is crazy!” says Sal

“well babe, we dont have much choice, we cant get the Russian visa for another ten days, and the boat across the caspian is almost $500 extra anyway”

I rinse cups in the bathtub and fill the kettle from the shower.  We make coffee by pouring hot water over a big spoonful of ground coffee beans, and then waiting for the grinds to sink to the bottom of the cup before sipping it slowly to avoid mud-mouth.  Sally reheats some leftover pasta piselli on the barely functioning cooktop, located on the enclosed balcony.

Eventually we read some blog reports that say the bank is only 100m from our apartment.  Anyway, the consulate is closed until monday morning now so no need to rush anymore.

I look at Sal and say “hey that pub we passed back there looks pretty cool, ‘Public Bar'”  “yeah like an actual pub, apparently it’s the place all the ex-pats hang out”  We both smile and our mood lightens.

An hour later Sal heads out to get a hair cut (by a woman who looks and sounds like Red from ‘Orange is the new black… Scary) and I walk over to the bank, “skudhfgiijfbn bank” reads the sign totally obscured by trees.  We passed it 4 times on the bike.  You have to laugh.

Once inside I fill in a couple of deposit forms and pay the cashier in USD.  $330 USD for 2 visas, the most expensive we have ever had.  Now we need to wait 4 days before returning to the assholes at the embassy to ask for the visa express.  Then we’ll apply for Turkmeistan and finally get the hell out of here.

But tonight, we’re going to the Public Bar.

Visa update

The visa circus continues…

A couple of days ago we were certain that the best option available to us was to get a transit visa through Russia and make our way back down to Iran through Georgia and Armenia …

Yesterday we were told by the Russian embassy that the route we were planning on taking was dangerous and the processing time would take 10 days as opposed to 2 as they needed to make sure we weren’t terrorists…

Back to the drawing board…

Maybe a transit through Azerbaijan?  This would also involve a 2 day boat trip across the Caspian Sea from Kazakhstan… A boat that has no timetable so a bit more waiting would also be involved… Not ideal but an option.

We got excited last night because we found out our Iran LOI had come through! With thoughts of getting out of here sooner than we had thought possible, we went to the Iran embassy today only to wait for ages for a translator and then to be told that we had to wait another 3 days for the embassy to receive the LOI…

Which makes it Monday… And then it will take another 2 days… Awesome 😣

So, then we head back to the Turkmenistan embassy with a few more questions before we applied for the Azerbaijan transit visa. 

It turns out that while we still need to wait until we have our Iran visa before we can apply for this transit visa we do have the option of picking the visa up at the border! It takes 5 days extra but this makes everything a little better for us as it means we can leave Dushanbe as soon as we apply for it, travel around Uzbekistan for a week and then head down to the border and hopefully, fingers crossed we can get our visa organised then! It’s a bit of a risk because nothing works out smoothly in this part of the world and we are also going to have to swap passports at the border as our Uzbekistan visa is in our EU passports and the Turkmen will be in our Australian passports 😁 .

There is also the issue that if things don’t go smoothly at the border we would be stamped out of Uzbekistan and stuck in no mans land!

However, I think we are going to go for this option. The Azerbaijan transit visa seems pretty straight forward and cheap but it’s a long way round and the boat is expensive… Still, it’s a plan C if it all falls through with Turkmenistan… Or Iran for that matter as nothing is for sure!

So, we’ve been told to go back to the Iran embassy at 10am on Monday to see if the LOI has been received (I think we may go tomorrow just to check!). Hopefully then we can apply and beg for it to be processed urgently and then once we have that we will apply at Turkmen and beg for that to be processed urgently too!

Who said travel was all fun?!