After some internet research it seems the visa authorisation code is all we need to enter Turkmenistan, so tomorrow morning we try 🙂
This just came from the Turkmenistan consulate…
Hello Mr. your visa ready code TJ-5009 visa invitation is not sent to me as I get what I sent to you and your visa starts from 20 to 24 June the border Farap-Howdan
If you can understand it please explain it to us!
Either way, it’s positive!!
So here we are… Friday afternoon and suprise suprise no news from the Turkmenistan embassy!
Due to cross the border Monday morning but still we have no confirmation of visa.
So… All we can do is continue with our plan and head down to Bukhara and hopefully get something from the on Monday! If we don’t hear anything we have to travel 2000 kms to Kazakhstan and then apply for an Azerbaijan visa and then get a two day boat across the Caspian Sea into Azerbaijan and then in to Iran. A very long expensive boring way round that puts us about 3 weeks behind but we literally have no other choice.
Feeling pretty over it 🙁
I keep saying ‘never again’ to carrying tyres, but it keeps happening…
In the end, both Eugene and Valentina found us a tyre ☺. We opted for Eugene’s as it’s a good brand, but it’s quite worn out so we’re delaying fitting it for as long as the current one holds on, in the hope that it will then get us home.
We said goodbye to Eugene and Alena this morning, they’ve been very kind to us and we hope to see them again one day!
Eugene was keen try out Betsy before she disappeared again, I was a bit nervous about it, but I gave him the keys anyway…
As it turns out sometimes you need to listen to your gut… but no damage done, the tree probably came off worse than Eugene or Betsy 😜 I hope you got some ice on that bruise Eugene!
Then we said another sad goodbye to Valentina, who has been extraordinarily kind and helpful to us again. Such a lovely lady! She took us out yesterday to mail some clothes forward, then sight seeing in Tashkent, and eventually spent a few hours finding us a dentist and fussing over us in the clinic.
We enjoyed a meal together last night, spent looking at photos and making the best conversation we could with the help of Google translate.
Today we rode 350km to Samarkand, narrowly escaping some bad weather, as we pulled up the heavens opened and it’s pouring rain now ☺
Waiting nervously here for news from the Turkmenistan embassy, they were supposed to let us know about our transit visa today, but nothing. If it’s rejected we need to go back to Tashkent and apply for Azerbaijan… that would suck!
7 years ago Paul and I rode into Tashkent (the capital of Uzbekistan), tired and lost, and were befriended at a set of traffic lights by three lovely ladies who literally gave up their homes to give us somewhere to stay.
That was another story from another trip, but now Sally and I are here, and instead of three, there is only one lovely lady, but the warmth and generosity is still unbelievable.
Valentina took a taxi to meet us in the restaurant we stopped at on the way into the city, and brought us to the little apartment we’re in now. Then she showed us around the place she’d freshly cleaned, filled with some food and snacks, soap and shampoo, and asked us to give her our dirty washing before disappearing until today at lunchtime 🙂
Then she returned with a sim card she’d bought that moring (we aren’t allowed to buy one as foreigners) – already preloaded with data, and some birthday presents for me, then took us out for lunch in a lovely local restaurant!
We only know about ten words of Russian, and Valentina is the same with English, but with google translate and a bit of patience we all make ourselves understood.
Then there’s Eugene and Alena… who I also met 7 years ago. Eugene invited Paul and I to lunch after meeting us in Valentina’s carpark, and helped us exchange some money among many other things. I contacted Eugene and Alena a few days ago to let them know we were coming to Tashkent again, and so we’re headed out for dinner tonight to celebrate both our birthdays, Happy birthday Eugene!!
The tyre problem seems to be nearing a conclusion, we made it here, 350km without it deteriorating much, so there’s a positive, and now we have Eugene and Alena, along with a friend of Valentina’s all looking for a replacement for us in Tashkent!
I’m not holding my breath to find a good replacement, but hopefully we can find something that will get us out of jail. Even if we find something old or the wrong size, so long as it will fit and get us a few hundred km (in case the current one fails) then we’ll be happy.
Huge thanks to Valentina, and Eugene and Alena for all your help, you guys rock xoxo
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!
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!!
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 🙂
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 🙂
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.
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.
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!
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.