Day 30. Monday, August 28. Sarimoy to Khiva. 164km, with 409m of climbing.
Same desert, same distance. But two very different rides. Yesterday’s blasting wind was today’s breeze – yet the temperature still stayed just below the 30C threshold between comfort and pain. Plus, the same bonuses – such as another colourful sunrise half an hour or so into the ride.
I hooked on to the Dane Train again because its two couples are such good company. They are excellent riders, keeping a steady pace and good road discipline in their relaxed way. We tootled along with no drama to report except for a fast-running, teeth-baring, snarling dog. We had to up our pace to out run it.
At our lunch stop a couple of hours later, we discovered Terry (from Australia) wasn’t so lucky. The dog’s incisors had chomped his calf, spilling lots of now-dried blood. “I better get that fixed after lunch,” he nonchalantly said as he pulled in. Moniek, our doctor, had different plans. She allowed him only a quick bite before she took him off to a clinic in Khiva, our destination for the day, for his first of five anti-rabies shots over coming weeks.
My body issue was a lot simpler. After lunch, I was just plain tired on this, the third big day’s ride in a row. And my (legal) drugs were letting a bit more pain through on the right side of my upper back, which was my main point of impact in my spill five days ago.
Still help was at hand. Temur, who was behind the till of his family’s drink stand, offered me this tonic, which I chugged almost in one gulp.
Besides, this tiredness I could cope with, I kept reminding myself. It was nothing compared with the exhausting Summer Solstice ride I did with the Queenstown Pedalers in December 2009. We set off from Sumner on the east coast of the South Island at 5.45am as the sun rose out of the Tasman Sea and rode 255km over the Southern Alps and across the South Island to Hokitika as it set in the Pacific Ocean at 8.15pm.
I could barely stagger from the beach to dinner. I was very glad Lynn, Celeste and Bill (Lynn’s Dad), riding in a camper van, cheered me on through the day.
The Solstice Ride was the idea of Peter Atkinson, my great friend and cycling companion. He cooked it up for me as I was preparing for the Great Ride for Heart early in 2010. On that 13-day, 2,300 km ride end-to-end of Aotearoa, organised by the Heart Foundation, we raised $5m to endow a new chair in heart health at the University of Auckland.
I’d first met Peter cycling on Tamaki Drive as I was coming home from work one evening on my very English Dawes touring bike. Unfazed by my trousers tucked into my socks, he invited me to come for a ride one Sunday with his cycling club. That quickly opened up delightful new riding vistas for me, often in his company.
Peter’s great passion was encouraging people to ride, whatever their level of skill or ambition. Over many decades he must have helped some thousands of us. I’ve written more about Peter in the long piece about preparations for this trip which I did for the Ground Effect website.
I’d talked lots with Peter about this Beijing to Birmingham ride in the last few years before he died. In his delightfully wry way he expressed amazement I’d want to go for a long tour. Frequent day rides were his idea of a good time. Of course, though, he encouraged me to jump in, cleats and all, and plied me with good advice.
These past three days across the Uzbekistan desert were a classic peak pedalling endeavour worthy of Peter. So, I rode them in his memory, with great love and thanks for his friendship and cycling companionship over many years.
Khiva’s allure also kept me pedalling. While it is far smaller than Bukhara and Samarkand, the other two in the trio of famous old Silk Road cities we’re visiting, we’d heard it was even more beautiful and better preserved. As we reached the outskirts of this small town, we picked up our pace…and were soon rewarded by our arrival at the main city gate…with our hotel just a short walk inside.
A couple of hours later we dined at a roof top restaurant with a grandstand seat for the city’s sunset music and nightlife. We celebrated our three-day, 430km ride across the western Uzbek desert.