Day 25. Wednesday August 23. Samarkand to Bakhchakalan. 137km, with 501m of climbing.
As a bunch of us cruised slowly through the Uzbekistan countryside this morning at a heat-and-energy saving pace, the scenery and routine were now so familiar I wondered if I might come up short of a story or two or a few good pictures for this day’s blog.
By lunchtime, after some four hours of riding (for 80km plus some pleasant drink / rest stops) all I had was this photo below. Just to let you know all our stopping places are practical but not always scenic. Note, tho, we’ve learnt from lots of punctures: park well away from thorn bushes and construction debris.
Post-lunch, my morning companions made a faster get-away than I did. So, I happily followed on behind them at my own pace. The first 30km were entirely uneventful. Then suddenly I was sitting on the tarmac with someone behind me helping me lift myself and bike upright again.
I have absolutely no idea what happened. A short while before I’d checked that the next turn was 1km away. The next thing I remembered was an instant of blackness and the pain of hitting the tarmac. I was so shocked I pushed my bike, handlebars and brake hoods now slightly askew, to some shade beside the road. When I looked back I saw no one. Was that sensation of being lifted a figment of my imagination? I’m positive I didn’t hit my head.
But I did see a speed bump, and an unusual one because it’s clearly homemade from some spare tarmac recently laid.
Speed bumps, official and freelance, are common on all roads through central Asia, from major highways to back country lanes, whenever homes, shops or other buildings line the road. Being vigilant about them then rocking over them — or bunny-hopping them if you’re a flash bike handler — is just a fact of our riding life.
The one I’d just hit was shallower and broader than most. Even if I hadn’t spotted it, I should have easily rolled over it. So, was something else going on? In the high heat of early afternoon, had I fallen asleep on the move? Highly unlikely, particularly because I don’t remember feeling even the least bit drowsy. Had I blacked out? Well, that is a symptom of heat exhaustion but I’d none of the other symptoms leading up to that; and I think I’d been drinking a lot of water.
Whatever the cause, I didn’t feel like riding the last 27km of the day. I was quite shaken-up, I’d scraped up both knees, my right elbow and thigh; and my right shoulder, front and back, was somewhat painful. Handily, our support van stopped beside me while I was weighing up my options. When Carolina, our tour leader, offered me a ride I happily said “yes, please.”
We were camping again in a school’s grounds, and all went well with setting up tents, having dinner, and turning in even earlier than usual. We were going to breakfast at 5am and begin riding at 5.30am tomorrow because our route was 159km on our first of four day’s riding across Uzbekistan’s desert.
No sooner had I dropped off to sleep in my tent, I and everyone else was woken up about 8.30pm or so by very loud Uzbek pop music and party hubbub coming from a neighbouring property. Not to mention a cacophony of energised local dogs.
People and dogs partied on ‘til just after 2am, with all of us lying in our tents knowing there wasn’t anything useful we could do about the noise…and that our alarms were set for 4.30am, give or take.
The video below is rather weird, but I shot it about 1.30am with essentially no light to try to capture the assault on my sleep and mind. Thankfully, by then the gaps between songs was lengthening. Once I was convinced the party really as over, I got a blissful couple of hours of sleep.