Two days of hot riding in a baking Uzbek landscape. Hottest ever recorded in April is 37 and it was 36 for us. The morning we were to leave Jizzakh, neither of the promised Savaras turned up or picked up their phones, so by 1030 we headed north out of town. Hot as hell and twice as humid meant it felt like we were drinking our body weight in water every few hours but we were finally able to find a place to swim – canals criss-cross Uzbekistan, but almost everywhere we asked people told us we weren’t allowed to swim there. One friendly shepherd told us to jump in the canal he was standing beside and we did so with relish. The current was strong, but it was so clean and so cold, it was one of the most refreshing dips I’ve ever had. Soon after, we crossed the Jaxartes, the Syr Darya, one of the most famous rivers of the ancient world.
200km from Jizzakh we arrived on the outskirts of Tashkent. We had no idea where to go in the city, so we found a place that had wifi and served food – standard approach – and got in touch with our couchsurfing host for our time in Tashkent, Feruza. The pizza turned out to be brutally expensive, but we managed to make contact, so not all bad. We were to meet Feruza later that evening, and since it was only 2pm we went to the park in the centre of town for a swim. We met a group of Uzbek guys our age who are all swimming and jumped in. Again, the water was such a welcome break against the humidity and we stayed with them for a few hours until it was time to head to our home for the next few days.
It wasn’t too hard to find the place we were meeting her, and as we waited a group of children appeared who tried, unsuccessfully, to talk to us. One nice surprise was a new friend we made, Ali, who spoke perfect English and offered us his house if we failed to make contact with Feruza. I took his number and we promised to stay in touch. It wasn’t long before our truly amazing host showed up. Feruza was an English teacher working in Tashkent, and she had the most amazing skill with children. She knew all the kids that were hanging around us and was able to play them so well, it was wonderful to see. She took us back to her family home with her friend Maktuba, where we met her mum, her brother and his wife and after a delicious meal we went back outside to hang out with the kids again. They were super curious about us and had followed us all the way back to her house – when we opened the front door two of them were waiting for us.