[‘Friends of the road (Vrienden van de weg)’ bestaat enkel in het Engels, excuses hiervoor]
As usual, in every country, I meet wonderful people.
People who make the country memorable.
People who deserve a place on my blog.
People who deserve a special thank you.
People who are ‘friends of the road’.
Thanks a million!
Meet very welcoming and kind Matt. Living in Tashkent, originally from the UK. He involved me in his life. I got to know his friends and co-workers through Tashkent’s great nightlife. A nice experience I won’t forget! Thanks a lot, Matt. Most welcome in Belgium, especially once I’m around 😉 #Uzbekistan
The ‘Plov’ evening with Tashkent’s Couchsurfing community and friends of Matt turned into a big success. Plov (Pilav) is a traditional Uzbek (and Central Asian) dish. Simon and Samuel, two super nice French cyclists, made especially for me a yummy vegetarian variant of it. Thanks a lot guys! #Uzbekistan
When you’re in Uzbekistan, you don’t go to the bank to change your dollars. No, you go directly to the black market. These men (in black) weren’t my cash machines. But they were trusty fruit vendors who filled my bags with free fruit and connected me to the man with piles of Uzbek Som #Uzbekistan
While washing my clothes in a puddle of water next to the road, these three brothers and their kids came towards me. A little chat and a huge bowl of fresh cow’s milk were my first acquaintance with Uzbek generosity. ‘You need energy’ they said. After months of drinking milk made of milk powder was this an amazing treat #Uzbekistan
What an experience! What a day and night! I was cycling through Juma, a town in Uzbekistan. My nose led me to a table where bread was sold. ‘Buy one’, said my nose! Behind that table were the fire wood ovens. Speaking of fresh bread… There was also a guy, Adhamjon, who asked me if I wanted to have a look inside the ovens. Sure I wanted. Although it was early morning and I didn’t have a lot of kilometres in my legs, I asked if I could see how the bread was made. The bakery was run by Adhamjon’s family. They didn’t only made the best bread in Uzbekistan but also different kind of biscuits. I wanted to help. I could. I wanted to know how the process was like. ELEVEN different steps were needed to bake one bread (sold for € 0,5)! At 1 am I was still rolling and folding the dough. My fingers were hurting, my legs were tired but I didn’t dare to stop. The mother of the family was falling asleep while kneading the dough. I said she better went to bed. She didn’t want to. Work needed to be done! Finally, I stopped working, felt guilty about it, but my body protested. I left four more people in the bakery. They worked till 3 am and at 6 am they woke up to finalise the bread and start baking them. Unimaginable! My respect for this family and team is enormous. They stayed so positive and enthusiastic. They also offered me home made samsa and a good bed to sleep in. The next morning I could join Adhamjon to the bazaar where all the biscuits were sold. What an experience! Thanks a lot guys and good luck! #Uzbekistan
The father of Adhamjon is a very good cook. Especially for me, he made a vegetarian version of samsa. It tastes delicious. Thanks a lot Akram #Uzbekistan
Cycling out of Juma, I cycled together with this man and his son (grandson?). A short chat, but memorable, because the man was an extremely gentle person. We kept on waving goodbye. He ringing his bell and I smiling and shouting ‘Dasvidaniya’ #Uzbekistan
How long I talked with this man (right)? No idea. What I do know is that he was extremely hospitable. He invited me to his house and wanted to offer food. ‘Njet, spasiba’. But I did accept the water where I asked for. He also called his son, who came over and spoke better English than he. He wanted to make sure I understood I was invited to his house #Uzbekistan
I met Elliot (UK) and Mayu (JP), cyclists too, in a hostel in beautiful Bukhara. It was their last night and my first. They invited me to cook dinner together and spend the evening. Nice welcome in Bukhara. Thanks a lot guys #Uzbekistan
A moment I’ll never forget… I was cycling through the streets of Bukhara. Meanwhile, I heard a man calling ‘Hello, hello’, he was running towards me as fast as possible. Just to offer me this cute bouquet of self-picked flowers. This together with the most beautiful gesture in the world: holding his hand on his heart (a gesture so many people in other parts of the world use, just to say ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’) #Uzbekistan
The hostel in Bukhara was a nice place to meet other tourists. Like Anne and Tom, a lovely, funny couple from the Netherlands. Travelling from Dubai (the place they used to work) to their hometown (Amsterdam). A great couple with who I spent a lot of time with on my so-called ‘productive’ day. I really hope to see them again, somewhere on the road or in Ghent. Check out there nice and funny-written blog posts on ‘desert to the dam’ #Uzbekistan
Oh, I also met other Dutch overlanders in Bukhara. Same place, same good feeling. You can follow Aschwin, Leonie and Meike (van Reij) on the nice travel app Polarsteps #Uzbekistan
Dozens of stairs to cross the railways. This man insisted on giving me a helping hand. So he took my bike and went all the way down. Then went up again and took his bike. Because I couldn’t take his 😉 Thanks a lot, helpful stranger #Uzbekistan
These two men were in a hurry to catch up with me. They wanted to cycle with me. Invited me to go fishing together and sharing their bottle of vodka. Have a great afternoon, guys! #Uzbekistan
What a coincidence… I didn’t want to cycle on the main road and saw a kilometre further a nice track next to a very long fence. I started following it. The scenery was beautiful. It was an Uzbek desert landscape. Suddenly I saw a panel with a big drawing. In the middle of it a WWF logo. ‘This must be a national park’, I thought, ‘supported by WWF’. I entered. Yes, it was! I told about my project, was offered chai and received (for a couple of hours) a very interesting guided tour through the park, offered by the enthusiastic Sasha #Uzbekistan
Because I took a lovely dirt road through thorn bushes, I knew many flats awaited me. Stopping over and over again and not having water anymore to find the I-don’t-know-how-many puncture, the tire lost air constantly. After a while, I saw a couple of houses and this man, Mohammed, working in a field in front of the house. He could help me with water and a bucket and like that with a ‘new’ tire. He also invited me to his house. His wife immediately showed up with tea, biscuits, candies, bread and fried fish. The man was also a loyal lottery player. He was super proud of telling me his brother recently won it (€13.000). He himself showed me his notebooks with all the number combinations he played the last 25 years. Now more than ever believing that one day he will become a winner too. Good luck dear stranger. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you #Uzbekistan
An evening of camping in a field turned out of leaving the next day at noon. When the owner, Shuxrat (left), noticed me in the morning, he started talking. Talking turned into inviting me at his house. But because this wasn’t possible -I had to cross a canal and with my bike it was impossible-. His whole family came over to have a cosy picnic under the trees. They started searching wood to make a fire to heat the water for the tea. A huge blanket was moved from inside the house to the shady spot. And bread, candies and biscuits were brought over. Although I was planning that day to cycle may kilometres, I didn’t regret a minute of spending my time with this warm family #Uzbekistan
Just a nice encounter with this shepherd. In the middle of nowhere, just he, his herd of sheep, me and my bike #Uzbekistan
I covered hundreds of kilometres while cycling along railways. Now through vast pastures, then again through hills and like that up to the mountains. Water wasn’t around but the hot sun was. I ran out of water but I luckily saw from afar a gas plant from Lukoil. ‘There must people and water’ I thought. ‘Yeah’ my guessing was right! There was one man who spoke English, he’s an engineer and invited me to have lunch in the canteen. I didn’t only receive water, but also plov, salad, bread and kefir. WOW, how delicious! With a full belly and a big smile I jumped back on my bike #Uzbekistan
Just buying some energy food in this small stall along the road. The lady invited me to share her ‘macaron plov’, bread and tea. Amazing! #Uzbekistan
When I was passing by this terrace, these men insisted on eating ice cream with them. First I got an ice cream from the man in front. Then the man next to him offered me a second one. And the man in the middle gave me the third one. A ‘no’ was a no go! Knowing that I don’t like ice cream, I think I’ll go to heaven for being so polite and eating all of it. After finishing the last ice cream, they asked the local photographer next-doors to take a picture from us. It got instantly printed and I received one as a souvenir #Uzbekistan
It was in Sharg’un, before sunset, that I met these kids, playing football on the playground of the school. The moment they noticed me, they enthusiastically ran towards me and wanted to chat. The cute, smiling boy in the middle climbed in a tree and picked a bowl full of mulberries. Just for me. So sweet of him and so yummy for me! #Uzbekistan
In one, two, three, the whole village surrounded my bike and I. A teacher computer science passed by. He spoke English. A conversation started, I showed my odometer. Everybody wanted to see how many kilometres it took to cycle from Belgium to Uzbekistan. After a long time chatting there, I suddenly realised that I needed to find a camp spot (although I was invited to many houses for sleeping). I went off. After a while, I noticed I didn’t have my odometer anymore. I went back, but couldn’t find it. Bummer! Some kids were still hanging around the football field. They came towards me to help to search. One of them decided to call somebody who speaks English. Unfortunately, the level of his English was not good enough to understand my problem. A couple of guys cycled with me through the dark village streets. I thought they brought me to the house of the computer science teacher. But no, I was suddenly in front of a woman, the teacher English. She was super glad to welcome me. She wanted to practise her English. She offered me food and a bed and invited her brothers to come over and spend the evening with. All of them wanted to practice their English 🙂 I thought I spent my last evening in Uzbekistan in a real Uzbek family. But no… the whole village was Tajik #Uzbekistan