We and the boys of 67 degrees managed to get over the border into Uzbekistan. It was the whole package again. Forms, stamps, passport checks, visa checks, Boris' visa, taking our temperature, asking Tom if Saskia is his wife, hitting on Saskia after Tom says no and of course disinfecting Boris....
We hit the lovely town of Urganch and are trying to find some money and Petrol. Both can be a pain in the ass to find in this country apparently as there is a shortage of both. Petrol is hard to find because there is no legal way of getting it in the the country- all the cars drive on gas and the trucks on diesel and money is difficult because, well just because.
We've found a bank! After trying all of Toms cards and all of Alex' cards we have to conclude that this machine does not accept non-Uzbeky cards. The nice workers tell us we have to go to the national bank just a couple of meters further away, so there we go.
Found a bank, but they couldn't help us. They said there is a bank just a couple of meters further that accepts visa. We know the bank is there because it was the bank we were just at. So back we go, because we didn't try visa yet. Walking back to the car we see Chris waving an enormous stack of money, he changed some money to Uzbeki money. The whole stack of 40.000 Uzbeki Somma in 500 and 1000 bills is just under 13 euro's worth. Lovely to see Chris handling that stack though.
Back at the first bank now and trying Chris' Visa card; nope. Alex' Visa card; nope. F*ck. Now what? One of the employers comes to help us and tells us there are two places to get money. Hotel Horizon Palace and the national bank of Uzbekistan NBU. Both only a couple of hundred meters away. We now have some kind of directions to both so let do this.
We're lost again. After asking for directions it appears that we are very close. After taking a left we find the hotel. After we entered the lobby we find an ATM, what a relief! As Tom was starting to push in his card he reads "Temporary our of order" on the screen. You have got to be shitting me! We ask the lobby attendent for help. He tells us to go to the national bank of Uzbekistan. So with a new drawing of a map for the bank and a petrol station we head onwards again.
We found the national bank, after a quick check at the door we are now on the second floor where we can get money with Visa cards. After checking the visa and passport we can finally take out some money; dollars that is. After typing the pin code we think we'll get some crispy stacks of dollars. But nooo, that's not happening! After the attendent copied the passports and the Visa card and sticking a receipt on both the fun part starts. She grabs a form with 31 blanks on 2 sides and start to fill in the details. Nice, easy and correctly. After 5 minutes she is done. So now she grabs another blank similar form and starts to fill in that same details again. Why not photo copy the damn thing!! So as nice tourists we wait. After she is done and stamped all the documents and we signed them we now presume we get our money. No, no, no. "You go down to 3" and she walks away. So we now have two beautiful forms with stamps and receipts stuck to them. After going down the stairs we found booth number 3. After an additional 5 minutes we finally have our money! We were quite close at losing our tempers and that's not just due to the heat; it's 36 degrees.. Now to the petrol station!
We found the petrol station! As we pull up a young buy comes walking towards our cars smiling friendly and saying: "no petrol".... F*ck! After asking for directions to a petrol station the boy starts calling his contacts. He says he knows a petrol station that has actual benzine!! After he tried to explain the route to us many times and we told him we did not understand, he decided to drive with us and gets in. So very kind of him.
We arrived at the petrol station. After unlocking some stuff and starting the pump the attendant was ready. After discussing the price for the petrol we could get started. We filed up both cars and four jerry cans. This should be enough for our journey through Uzbekistan. Hopefully, because finding this petrol did take some time and at least 6 different places selling us "no".
After buying some snacks for the road and dropping off the boy again we finally hit the road towards Buxoro! Where has the time gone?!? Hope the roads are not as bad as in Turkmenistan because we have about 450km to go and don't want to be driving at night.
Finaly we hit the motorway. We can now go an astonishing 40 km per hour zig-zagging in between holes in the Tarmac bigger than Boris. Sometimes we even drive on to the gravel next to the tarmac to avoid all the holes. This is going to be a problem. If this is the quality we can expect of the roads in Uzbekistan our drive up to Buxoro can be a pain in the ass and will take all night. And probably break some parts of Boris at some point.
While Tom takes a nap Saskia is still sweeping from left to right to avoid the potholes. We have an additional 50 kilos of petrol on the roof so we now are heavy, very heavy. We must stay alert and go slow. We can't afford more parts of Boris cracking! Full concentration : ON.
The bad roads end. Thank god! We're hoping the roads will stay like this for a while. And can catch up on a little time, we are one day behind on our original schedule.
Alex and Chris get stopped by the police. Turns out the cop tried to bribe them. But it probably was his first time. He started writing the ticket and then turned to Chris like,"you know what, just give me 50 dollars". Chris looked at him and told him to just write the ticket. Then the officer offered "25 dollars". "Nope" Chris replied. "Haha okey, okey" he smiled and waved them off "you can go now." Right, one hell of a bribe you did there mister officer.
Tom warns Saskia "roadblock up ahead"! We see a roadblock moving over the road blocking our passage. Saskia lets go of the gas and starts to apply the break. Moments later we realize that it's just a group of sheep crossing the road.
We spot another rally car on the side of the road. So we parked Boris on the hard shoulder(gravel) and started reversing back to them. Turns out they were just cooling the car and washing of the bugs off the radiator with a toothbrush. They some how managed to kill an entire colony of bugs in one hit. They had passed through a swarm of crickets which might be the reason Yakrisson Ford's Micra was overheating. No problems to help with so we head off again.
We are speeding down a great, smooth, asfalted and wide motorway..at 85 km per hour! We have weighed Boris down with the petrol and it seems the quality of the black gold is getting bad. So no more 600km per full tank it seems.. Not that it's that expensive here, it just that is the days to come we are not sure how frequently we will pass a petrol station.
We pass a car that had troubles and smell something. We stop immediately to check if it's not Boris and after inspecting him we conclude it isn't. We drive on but after a few meters Tom stops suddenly: "it IS us" he says and looks at the power distributor and sees that his other phone charger has touched it and caused a fuse shortage and melted the charger - again. He now has no way to charge his phone, and we are in the middle of the desert! We later on also notice that due to this one of the USB sockets does not work anymore.
The road has started to go bad; more bumps and the occasional hole. No lights and just one straight road so almost impossible to see distance so overtaking is scary and we can't see any signs. We aren't going at top speed anymore and the lights of the other cars seem to be on 'big' constantly blinding us and giving us a ruff time - concentration ON again.
With 40km still to go to Buxoro, still driving in the desert with roads getting worse by the minute we decide to drive into the desert and set up camp in the middle of nowhere under the stars. The bugs and insects love Boris' lights so we switch them off as soon as we can. A kettle is boiled for some tea and dinner and after seeing a number of shooting stars and talking a bit about days to come we go to bed.
Alarm and there is no one to be seen just small yellowish bushes and sand as far as the eye could see. After concluding that our left rear shock absorber has definitely died we head off to Tadjikistan. We want to start our Pamir adventure tomorrow!
The closer we get to Buxoro the worse the roads get. Strange. The Tarmac now actually more resembles a cobbled road with large potholes scattered out which you have to avoid at all cost to not break through Boris' frame. Almost a kind of computer game with Tom making numerous special moves and Saskia adding numerous special noises and sounds, gasping at every jump. What a way to start the day! Oh and it's about 30 degrees already.
As the potholes continue we enter Buxoro city limits and have to say goodbye to Alex and Chris as we are headed straight for the border and they have to go east to Samarkand to pick up another passenger. We continue our adventure solo and drive through Buxoro in search of a petrol station that sells Benzine. At the fifth petrol station the attendent smiles and says; "da". Jackpot! Sas asks if he can fill up the tank and fill two jerry cans and if we can pay in dollars. The filling was no problem and if we were willing to accept Uzbeki Somoni as change the deal could be done. We received a package of bills wrapped in an elastic band the size of a brick. There is less money in the board game Monopoly than what we are holding now! We decide to ask if they know a place where Tom can buy a new charger for his phone and one man drives him to a bazar close by, at this bazar the man helps Tom to buy two chargers and offers him a drink. Some extremely sweet ice tea like beverage. In the meantime Saskia drives Boris to a garage next to the petrol station and shows the mechanics the problems we are having. A good thing because we can now hammer away some metal and plastic that's getting in the way of the tires, we can also change the original tire back on the left rear side as it will not rub now and apart from that we also realize that the shock absorber is not as broken as we thought. After getting some more air in all tires we thank the lovely mechanics and are off once again to Tadjikistan.
The roads are good and Boris is great! Our mental state has gone from irritated to relieved and ready for more adventure. We also heard that although there are no Peugeots in Uzbekistan there will be in Tadjikistan and we can have the car checked there.
After crossing a provincial border with checks on either side the roads have become volcano-like again and our special moves and gasps return
Saskia hears a new noise and we stop at a petrol station. We decide that the right rear wheel is rubbing into the flap at the back, so we get ride of the flap and back-flap-lessly continue our journey.
Tom spots a carpenter up ahead and decides to pull over. Some part of the spare battery holders isn't in it's starting position anymore. So we need some nails to fix it. It took Tom a while to explain what he needed but he managed and the batteries are in place again.
We are now driving in the dessert as a dessert is supposed to be. Just imagine what you think a dessert looks like; Sand, hills and an additional donkey with the sun glowing bright on the yellow-white sands which have been blown into wavelike forms by the wind. Lovely views appear on these last kilometers towards the border.
Time for lunch. We stop at a lovely place and ask if we can get something to eat. It seems to be no problem, but they don't speak English and don't have a menu. So they invite us to the kitchen to look in al the pots and pans filled with all kinds of different stews and broth and we can organize our meal for today by pointing. We even arranged to get two cold beers with our meal. Nice! We install ourself on one of the beds. Yeah beds. In these countries you can eat on some kind of bed which is 2 by 2,5 meters and you'll lay down and eat. Very lovely.
A French rally team spotted Boris on the side of the road. They came over to make a little chat. They sort of have the same itinerary and time schedule as we do so this might become our new convoy. However we're not sure yet as their Tadjik visa goes in from tomorrow so they might not get in to Tajikistan today. They decide to drive on and let us finish our meal. We'll catch up with them at some point before the Pamirs.
Police road block. This is number 5 of today. This time looking at our passports was not enough. Tom has to go in to a office to get our details noted in some big book. The problem is the guy can only read Russian letters so he has to like copy or draw our letters from sight which takes some time. We have also noticed that they draw the road signs themselves in this part of the county sometimes leaving information out, like the percentage of decent. It's quite heartwarming.
As the sun starts to set and the surrounding dunes start looking more and more like our imagination of the Silk Road (which we have been on and off since Ashgabat) Saskia wants to gasp at the view so Tom takes over the wheel and the race has begun ! We need to get to the border before it closes for the night otherwise we loose another day. There are 60kms to be done in about an hour and the roads are still windy whindy going up and down with numerous potholes scattered about. What a race it's going to be.
We realize that the one who has had a shower most recently is Boris!!!
Driving intensely concentrated to make in to the border in time but their is a lot of traffic, potholes and no lights.
We have arrived at the border. The French team told us that the border was to close at 22:00 so we are really really hoping that they will let us in.
After checking our passports at the entrance gate, asking the usual questions; if we were married and if Saskia had a boyfriend and then staring at us for a couple of minutes they let us through and we were secretly celebrating in our heads that our efforts were not in vain and no more time was lost!
Tom has to take Boris another way than Saskia who has to walk through. Apart from the form which she had to fill in declaring contraband and stating personal information the usual questions were elaborated on and she had numerous conversations with guards. The main topic was the same as in the other countries they crossed; her marital status. Only this time the topic 'children' was brought in "why don't you have any"? And some could not understand she had a boyfriend but was not married. But all were very very friendly and one guard explained that she was a Western woman and that they HAD to respect her, not sure whether this also goes for Uzbeki woman.. They also told her that the border was open 24/7 and after a number of checks she goes through and has to wait on a bench in no mans land for Tom and Boris.
In the meantime one guard asks Tom for insurance papers, which we don't have. "Tom, Tom, Tom, You can't go through the border without" he says. After checking the car he then wishes Tom good luck and says "you can go" . A bit baffled Tom starts Boris and picks Sas up in no mans land and we are off to our 14th country.