Day 28. Saturday, August 26. Bukhara to Gazli. 103km, with 103m of climbing.
Welcome to a modern-day caravanseraion the Silk Road to Khiva. Though it’s tour buses, trucks, cars and EV drivers pulling in for a rapid charge these days…with no camels in sight. Oh, there is a bunch of crazy people here cycling more than 400km through the western Uzbek desert.
We arrived at this splendid place at 11.30am this morning…and it is our home until 6am tomorrow. After a brief description of our ride today, I’ll give you a photo tour below.
We left Bukhara at 6am, about half an hour before sunrise, because we were keen to get this short desert day done in the cooler hours of the day. So, it was only 9.30am when we got to our lunch stop in the shade of an abandoned petrol station at the 75km mark on our route.
We had some pleasure along the way…such as riding 10km on a completed new stretch of road not yet open to traffic. The government is spending big money on making this route dual-carriageway all the way to Uzbekistan’s western border because this is one of its main truck routes through to Europe.
While local people will benefit from the road, it’s not about local economic development. Small towns and villages are far apart in this sparse desert landscape. Plus a very rare drinks stop or two.
The riding was easy, until a head wind picked up mid-morning. But we worked together to cruise to this establishment. We arrived by a back entrance down a lane off the main road and initially saw only our bucolic camping and mobile kitchen set up. Then a fellow rider found a door through into another universe – the main indoor and outdoor dining areas, facing the main road and thronged with people.
Our hosts have very kindly let us set up our own kitchen outback where we’re camping. As for bathrooms, well there is a single basin in the men’s side of the toilets and one in the ladies. But the basins share a common area. After a long, hot, dusty ride, it’s amazing how motivated you are to wash as much of your crucial body parts as you can while your lower half is draped decorously in a towel.
We need a good rest tonight because the next two days are both around 160km. Wonderfully, though, the forecast for tomorrow is cloudy, a high of only 26c and a chance of rain. But headwinds up to 50km/h.
We’ll cope OK with the wind, though, because we will be riding ‘caravan-style’ tomorrow for the first time because of the desert terrain. We’ll ride in three groups of 5 or 6 cyclists, with our baggage, kitchen, equipment and passenger vans interspersed between us.
Thanks to the efficiency of bikes we’ll cover in a day about three times the distance a camel caravan did in the distant past. But, of course, the trade the camels enabled spurred for centuries the spread of ideas and arts, culture and religion, power and wealth, war and peace across central Asia and far beyond. We’re mere tourists.