Finally it’s warm enough to sleep without the sleeping bag. Only issue all night was when a dog came up and started barking at us but apparently a bollock-naked Scottish man waving a torch is enough to scare away any midnight hounds.
We took it easy today, with Andijan and the border only 85km away. We set off from camp about 830, waving goodbye to the group of children and Uzbek men who has gathered around us. By 12 we’d found ourselves some red hot samsa to have for lunch and an hour later we’d found a green field to lie down in and relax. The road conditions were pretty poor once we got closer to Andijan but we made it the city with good time. We found a nice restaurant and got some cheap food, surrounded by hordes of interested people. The waiters spoke good English and sat with us as we ate, asking questions and telling us about their lives. We mounted up after finishing our meal and rode out of town, meeting a new cyclist friend, Tim, who rode with us to the outskirts of town. A dark orchard offered us a great place to camp among the long grass and a friendly dog joined us for the night.
The night wasn’t particularly comfortable for me, as I’d caught a touch of food poisoning. I woke up at 11pm for absolutely no reason, and knew immediately there was a bout coming on. Wandered out of the tent and came back about four hours later, a little drained but otherwise alive. We hit the road, and even though we only had 40k to go, it was bloody hard work. I was cycling much slower than I normally would, and even though it wasn’t too hot I was so dehydrated I was barely able to sweat. It took almost three hours to go the 30k to the border with Kyrgyzstan – although admittedly the terrible condition of the roads added to the difficulty. The govt seemed to be building all new roads along the route, so every so often we would have perfectly smooth tarmac roads, built just yesterday, and then the next minute it would be pebble-dash or dirt tracks which would slow me down dramatically.
I finally reached the border and after being directed into the customs point by the friendly soldiers, I spied Ryan. He told me that customs would want to see all my photos and medicines, so I was a little concerned. My intelligence so far was that the medicines I brought into Uzbekistan were illegal (basically anything stronger than co-codamol) and I might get in a spot of bother. Also, we hadn’t properly registered in time so there was a good chance we were going to be deported when we left. Not ideal.
I filled in the forms with trepidation and handed them over, then was ushered past the metal detector where a very friendly guy interviewed me for a while. I showed him the photos on my camera, my phone and my laptop – over 3000 so he got bored very quickly. He asked me if I had any erotic photos, or anything of top secret facilities. I thought that I probably wouldn’t know if they were top secret facilities, but I decided to stick with ‘no’ to both questions. He then asked if I had any tablets, to which I assumed he meant tablet computers – another no. It’s only once I’d answered he probably meant medicines – and since the guards on the entrance to Uzbekistan had stamped me with having no medicines he had no reason to check. Conveniently, no-one even mentioned the registration so managed to dodge two potentially tricky obstacles with ease!
Pushing the bike through to the Kyrgyz border, I started speaking to a couple of officers and after twenty minutes of chatting about the world – one of them still wasn’t married at 25 which is wild for this part of the world – I wandered into the border checkpoint and got my stamp within twenty seconds. Wheeling into Kyrgyzstan, I saw Ryan standing on the corner and we pedalled the seven km into Osh. We arrived in the centre and I was able to find some bananas – the first thing that seemed appealing after the night before – and then Ryan found a fancy fast food place a block over. We wheeled our bikes over and took a look at the prices and it was cheap as hell. Two milkshakes, a caesar salad and a cheeseburger later, we were satisfied. they also had great wifi – Kyrgyzstan was looking amazing!
The best hostel in town was 3k away, back the way we’d come, so we jumped on our bikes, and after a dusty ride through town, involving some Kabul-feel streets – all dirt and pebbles and people everywhere – we were able to cross onto the other side of the canal and find our hostel. I was totally exhausted, so after chatting with the guests for a little while I passed out (4pm) and and woke up at 9am the next morning!