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 🙂