Day 21. Saturday, August 19. Bekobod to Jizzakh. 149km, with 501m of climbing
Our minds were very focused on one fact this morning – this was going to be our longest day’s ride to date on our tour. Oh, as usual there was also going to be high heat in the afternoon and intermittently poor road service much of the day.
Technically after the first couple of weeks of riding, the rest of our entire route to Istanbul is paved. But that comforting term comes with one big caveat – sometimes, the surface degenerates in a flash into a mosaic of potholes and patches.
That can happen on main roads, which cramps your style when lots of traffic is passing by on your left. More often, it happens on quiet rural roads. Shake, rattle and roll becomes the sapping riding style for kilometres on end.
Still, the day passed pleasantly enough with our usual stops for drinks and lunch along the way plus some new farming features to spot – such as deeply green, lush rice paddies. They made the air so moist, riding between them felt like a gentle, warm facial.
I neglected photos today, possibly because I was so mindful of the distance, I just wanted to keep pedalling. Thus, this photo was a risky experiment of getting my new iPhone out and taking a photo while on the move. In front of me are two Danish couples – Søren and Nina, and Jette and Lars, and a Canadian couple, Joanne and Warwick – tho they were riding in such tight formation it’s hard to make out the six of them.
The Danes are charming and relaxed company to ride with. They have strong road disciplines yet set a very comfortable all-day pace…and they keep their eyes peeled for drinks stops (at which the shade is almost as important) every 35km or so. Joanne and Warwick are delightful twitchers travelling the world to spot birds. Warwick has an encyclopaedic knowledge and extraordinary skill for identifying them from his bike even when they are mere specks in the sky.
Late in the ride I slipped off the Danish pace and made my last drinks stop with Jerry (from Singapore) and Andy (from the US). While an older local lady ran it, Mira, one of her young neighbours who spoke excellent English, hosted us. It turned out Instagram is her great passion in life, which kept her and her two phones busy through our conversation.
The last 25km or so of the day was slightly downhill on a good road into Jizzakh, giving us a relaxed end to our longest day yet.
Still, it was a tiring day so we were thankful of a change in accommodation plans. The school that was going to host us camping on its soccer field called Carolina, our tour leader, this morning to say we couldn’t stay after all. Perhaps they’d feared the worst about rowdy cyclists and checked with the school that had hosted us 10 days ago. What? All tucked up in their tents by 8.30pm? Surely not?
Anyway, Carolina scrambled to find a hotel that could accommodate 28 riders and crew and came up trumps. Our bedrooms had the fanciest flocked wallpaper I’ve ever seen; and the staff laid on a delicious dinner for us all, cake and all to help Leonie (from Australia) celebrate her birthday.