with Rod Oram


B to B 2024

B to B 2023

Tour of NZ 2023


Tour Aotearoa

Into the wild blue yonder

Sep 1, 2023

Day 33. Thursday, August 31. Rest day – Tashkent

Geopolitics is the reason we’ve back tracked in Uzbekistan. Having biked over the past five weeks southwest through the country to Khiva, just over the border from Turkmenistan, we flew yesterday up to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, which is only 13km from its northeast border with Kazakhstan.

In past Silk Road adventures from Beijing to Istanbul – TDA has run one every three-years for some decades – riders had carried on southwest through Turkmenistan and Iran before heading northwest into Turkey to the finish in Istanbul. Back in 2018 that was the route I signed up for the 2021 trip.

But then came Covid, which nixed the 2021 trip completely. Because the Chinese border was still Covid-closed earlier this year, TDA had to plan to start our trip in Almaty, Kazakhstan, not Beijing.

Originally TDA hoped we could travel on through Turkmenistan and Iran. But last year it decided their politics and safety had deteriorated too far. So we would fly from Tashkent to Azerbaijan, then ride up into Georgia and then down into Turkey from the northeast.

But by this January decades of intermittent conflict between Georgia and Azerbaijan had flared up again, closing their border once more. So tomorrow we fly from Tashkent to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital.

Central Asia’s politics, rivalries and conflicts have always been complicated down through a few millennia. Our ride is simply adapting to current circumstances; and a minor branch of the Silk Roads had led up into Georgia then down into Turkey.

We riders, though, feel this will be a journey of two very different halves. We had a glorious time in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. But the grand and famous sections of the Silk Roads are now behind us. We’re heading into quite different terrain, culture and histories in Georgia and Turkey, which will be splendid in their own ways.

Tashkent is the perfect transition point between the two. For centuries, it has been the largest city in central Asia; and particularly pivotal to the Russians in their 150 years or so of building, exploiting and losing their central Asian empire.

I didn’t have a chance to explore much of that history today in Tashkent. Instead my fellow riders and I had some practical things to do such as packing up our bikes for our flight tomorrow.

But anyway, a devastating earthquake in 1966 destroyed much of the city’s physical history. Under Soviet rule, it was rebuilt in a quasi-European style of broad tree-lined avenues, apartment blocks, parks and other amenities such as an extensive subway system in which many stations are highly decorated in specific themes.

Thankfully some historically and culturally important buildings were also restored or recreated. By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tashkent was the USSR’s fourth largest city.

Given I had only a precious few hours to explore this afternoon, I chose to do only one thing: walk through my hotel’s very pleasant neighbourhood to the nearest subway station…

…and ride the train one stop to Kosmonavtlar – the cosmonaut station. There I said g’day to Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova, the first man and woman to venture into space, amid the station’s splendid tableaus and decorations.

1 Comment

  1. Geoff

    The stations looks architecturally amazing!! Superb photos and wonderful stories – the videos are also excellent for a little taste of actually being there!