From Kazakhstan to Tajikistan via Uzbekistan

Moro from Dushambe, Tajikistan!

Heard that road #372 is now open also for tourists, so could visit Tajikistan without going back to Uzbekistan. Unfortunately Pamir highway is still closed, so this part of the country is unreachable 🙁

Sunday
After dropping Miss E to the airport I got back to hotel to pack my bike and continue journey onward now alone again.
Ride of the day started around noon, so it was quite late start.

Did not want to stop immediately for fuel, so I kept going towards south. After around 100km I started looking for gas stations, because odometer reading indicated 550km since last refueling. Gas station looked a bit “crappy”, so I only put around 20l of fuel to the tank.

When I left from the gas station, I saw Russia biker going to same direction as where I was going. Stopped and greeted Timur. After a bit chatting, we decided to cross Uzbekistan border together. Timur was on his way to Tajikistan via Uzbekistan.

Timur was riding in front of me and his speed was quite much higher to what I have used to ride on this trip. We were going around 120km/h as I normally ride only 90km/h (to save tires and fuel. Also this way I can see more), but decided to follow him at his speed.
A bit later Timur turned to a gas station. This station looked much better than the earlier one, so I decided to fill my tank completely.
While fuel pistol was spitting fuel to a tank, I searched my small notebook to mark down litres and the price. Suddenly I noticed that fuel is spraying everywhere! Seat, hot engine, handlebar, everything was covered with fuel! Safetystop in the pistol did not work, so I had to grap spraying pistol and stop the fuel. My hands were also covered with fuel and no paper anywhere available.

After this scene, we continued our ride to Chinaz boder (Tashkent border was open only for pedestrians) without any incidents.
Kazakhstan border crossing was quite fast because we were guided directly behind the gates pass all other cars.
Uzbekistan border was totally different case…
We got through first gate fast, but then started waiting, waiting and a bit more waiting…
What made this waiting almost unbearable was burning sun, no shade and temperature well above 40C.
Luckily there was one water hose nearby so we could take a shower under it (of course with all clothes on :))
I created some shade by tying my jacket on top of the bike and just tried to squeeze to the small shade it provided.

Finally we got to the border control, but everything worked there like in slow motion movie.
We had to wait there also really long time before we could present our custom forms to the officers.
Some Russian truck drivers said they had been stuck on that border for three days.
I guess these officers have not smiled ever during there life and they have had smelly sock for breakfast, because their faces did not had a smallest sign of hospitality or friendliness towards travellers.
Timur had to explain really detailed his route plans, places to stay and border where he was planning to cross to Tajikistan.
I got a bit easier, because I do not speak any russian and these rude dudes did not speak any english.

I was quite afraid of the customs check. Just wondering how thoroughly they want to go through the bike (packing everything takes quite much time), but for my surprise, I had to open only one pannier and drysacks.

I mentioned to Timur that for me it looks like Uzbekistan does not want to have any tourists in their country. I still have this feeling.

Uzbekistan border crossing took totally close to 5 hours. Add to that damn hot weather and it feels like 10 hours. Luckily I had enough water with me, so I did not had to start drinking from waterhose.

Finally I was in Uzbekistan!

Both of us had had only breakfast, so we decided to ride to Gulistan for dinner.
My original plan was to go to Tashkent, but it looked such a huge city in my GPS, that I decided to skip it and head towards Samarkand.

First feelings of Uzbekistan were: roads are in surpricingly good shape; thrashes are burned next to the road, so air was filled with the smell of burning plastic; traffic was similar as in Kazakhstan.

Sunday was holiday in Uzbekistan, so most of the restaurants were closed. Finally we found open restaurant and enjoyed there extremely good soups. Here we shook hands and both got going to our own directions.
Thank you Timur for your help in Uzbekistan border!

Sun got down at the same moment when I started riding towards Samarkand. Here I now broke my rule #2: Never ride in the darkness…
It was a ride from hell! BMW lights are not good (I do not have additional lights) so I got scared numerous times of people running across motorway, dark donkey carts, dark bicycles, holes on the road etc…
I had one thing in my mind all the time, “this is too dangerous, and not worth it”, so decided to take first hotel/motel/hostel I could find.

I needed to stop in several police checkpoints and everytime I asked them any information of accomodation (gps did not show any hotels nearby). Finally I was directed towards Jizzakh. In Jizzakh I still checked directions from local police. Found small hotel. Price was 15USD/night with breakfast.

Needless to say that I did not need to wait sleep for too long 🙂

Monday
At the morning I checked the time and noticed it was already 09:30. Rushed quickly to get breakfast and there I realised Uzbekistan time is one hour less compared to Kazakhstan. This trip is real time travel, been crossing already 4 time zones and cannot be sure of the time after border crossing.

I still double checked from the reception for the price of the room. It was 15USD or 60000SOM. Hmmm, this did not match, but realised that these people prefer USD. I had luxury room which normal price was 80USD, but receptionist said this was gift from Uzbek people. Nice!

While I was packing my bike, hotel owner´s son came to talk to me with good english. He was 12 years old and said he can speak 5 different languages.
He asked if his father (hotel owner) could have a short ride with my bike. He said that his father is really experienced biker.
I do not know what the hell was going in my head (I guess absolutely nothing), because I told him his father can take few hundred meter test ride (maybe I was still affected by their hospitality). This was the time when I broke my rule #3, NEVER, EVER, EVER let anyone to ride your baby, NEVER!

I told them many times that his father need to be extremely carefull because bike is really heavy and powerfull.
His father climbed on top of the bike and I noticed that ceramic clutch makes tricks for him because bike moved couple times a bit forward and then started to fall to right side! D*MN F*CK!!!
My heart jumped when my baby chrashed to it´s right side and hotel owner was rolling on the ground. I quickly killed the engine and asked hotel owner if he was ok. Then bike up and checking for damages.
I am not sure if he would have still wanted to try again, but I would rather eat my riding socks and boots than let him try again. He would have just killed himself and destroyd my baby.

I noticed that chrasbars had moved a bit towards left and some new scratches here and there. Luckily nothing bigger.
I do not know why I need to learn everything the hard way? Maybe this sun has melted my brain… But no more braking own rules!

Before I left, I took son for few spins around the neighbourhood and then continued my ride towards Samarkand.

After a while I stopped for a drink and checked bike again. I noticed that rights side pannier had dents and lid did not close properly, shit! Also rear signal was pointing down (maybe it was twisted while hotel personnel helped me to pick up the bike). Well, I could not do anything to these damages next to the road, so decided to continue to Samarkand and fix these issues in hostel.

Day ride was only around 100km. At the horizon I noticed my first glimpse of higher mountains.

Traffic turned more maniac when I reached suburbs of Samarkand. Once I had to make full breaking to avoid collision with the car who turned straight in front of me. At this point I was happy that I ride slowly on this trip…

Timur (Russian rider) had suggested one cheap hostel in the center of Samarkand to me and now I was riding around trying to find it. I had only rough drawing of the hotel location so decided to stop few locals and ask them where I could find this hostel.
One of them hopped in to his car and guided me to the front door of the hostel. Nice!

Room price (with aircon) was only 15USD/night and bike could be stored safely in inner yard. Perfect place to cool down.
This hostel name is: B&B Bahodir (N39º 39.377´E066º 58.754´) and location is excellent! Highly recommended!

After a welcome tea I decided to start working with the bike. Here I also noticed that front turn signal glas was broken, fixed it with duct tape and now it is almost like a new :).
Used my axe to straighten dents in pannier and got it in good condition. Now lid also closes again properly.
I think this is not the last time I need to straighten them…

Could not do anything for chrasbars, but they were not so bad. Left side just had bigger gap between bar and cylinder head than right side.

While chrashbars were off the bike, I decided to check valve clearance. Left side was ok, right side exhaust was a bit too tight.

I noticed that 2 different threads in cylinder head (where cover screws will go) were in really bad shape. I should have checked these during winter and used helicoil to fix them, but did not do it…
Plan was to use next day to visit some bazars and try to find helicoils

Air filter was covered with sand, so washed and oiled it.

At the evening I got email from my French rider friend Nicolas that he had crossed the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. He had passed out two times at the border (he had been sick, so I guess he was still weak due to this). His mobile phone was stolen when he passed out first time and at the second time he was sent to a “doctor” where he had to escape quickly (do not ask why).

Later in the evening I got headache and noticed that my stomache was quite swollen.

Tuesday
Morning started with a visit to a toilet… And it continued for some time… Hmmm, travel stomache wished me a nice Tuesday morning 🙂
After breakfast I continued my sleep till noon.
At one 13:00 I had gathered enough strength to pack up all lenses to a backpack and go walking (carefully) around and do some touristic stuff. Every mosq here seem to have entrance fee, which varied between 8000 to 13500SOMs.
I was speechles when looking at these highly decorated mosqs. So beautiful and full of small details.

Once I got back to the hostel, I noticed Italian bike behind mine. Now I was not the only biker in this hostel (all others were cyclists or travelling with other means)! Italian biker said he was going now back to home and had only 10 days time until he needed to be back in the office! Wow, some long days in front of him!

Spent evening by going through my photos, writing diary and drinking water-mineral liquid (should help to restore mineral balance when you have travel stomache). Thank you Ari for these meds!

I had planned to stay here only 2 nights, but since Pamir was still closed, I thought that I spent one more day in this hostel and check if I could get transit visa to Uzbekistan from Samarkand (if road #372 is not open).

Had a dinner with Italian couple who are going to ride through China in the same group with me. Thank you Marco for the nice dinner!

Later in the evening I met Italian biker who had been invited to a wedding party (together with few others from the hostel). They had had good time in the wet party and now he was thinking he would not be in a shape to ride next morning 🙂

Wednesday
At the morning I went to a local police station to check if they cold give me transit visa. Nope, they instructed me to visit central passport office.
Got there and after intensive signlanguage I got instructions to go another office.
Second office guided me to third one.
Here I met local officer who spoke good language and she told me I could get transit visa either in Tashkent or in Dushambe.
So, decision was now done, I would go to Dushambe, Tajikistan and sort things out there.

Later that day I got message that road #372 is now open for tourists, so I would not need to get additional transit visa! Excellent! Things start to work out now 🙂

Rest of the evening I spent updating massive story of Kazakhstan trip. Missed dinner during the update, so had only chips and beer for dinner.




Thursday
Got up before seven, had dinner and packed the bike.
I had rough idea which roads I needed to take to get close to the border. I could not pass the border on Thursday, because my Tajikistan visa would start on Friday, but this way I could pass the border early in the morning.

On a first pass of the day I stopped to take some photos when one car stopped next to me. People came out from the car to check who is this traveller. One of the people spoke english and he was here to get married. He invited me for his wedding on Saturday! Wicked! Unfortunately I could not accept his invitation because I have only 5 day visa for Tajikistan and I needed to cross the border on Friday.

Had to stop several times on police chekpoints during the day and once they wanted to go through my medkit. I felt a bit uneasy while guy behind black sunglasses was asking a lot of questions and checked my meds. I have heard some rumours that some normal pills in europe are treated in this part of the world as drugs…
Luckily my explanations of each meds were accepted and I got going.

In another checkpoint I had to give detailed explanation of my route, where I planned to sleep and where I would cross the border.
Here these police checkpoints are not there only to annoy travellers. Guards are wearing helmets, bullet proof vests and nasty looking guns… No sudden, unexpexted moves please…

On a ride I was thinking that normal people here in Uzbekistan are nice, polite and really hospitable, but officials are quite nasty. Maybe there is a reason for their behaviour, but this makes me feel like tourists are pain in the a** in their mind.

Day´s ride was in hilly landscape, not high enough to cool down the temperature, but still nice change to a flat lands in previous weeks.

Tried to find place to sleep from Sariasiya, but could not find any hotel or motel. Local police told me that I need to go back around 30km to Denau to find hotel.
Found Denau´s only hotel (Hotel Europe Asia) with reasonable (16USD) room price. Restaurant in that hotel was really expensive. Beer costed 4€ and food was also extremely expensive compared to any other dish I have had in Uzbekistan. Hotel was ok (even bedsheets were dirty), but restaurant was place to rob poor traveller (NOT recommended).

Friday
Breakfast was not included in a room price, so got going early.
Arrived to the Uzbekistan border early, wondering what kind of process is awaiting me this time. To my big surprise, things went smoothly and officers were helpfull.
I do not know why, but in customs check they wanted to check every single item what I was carrying on my bike. This check lasted around 30 minutes, but finally I was allowed to leave this country.
Do not get me wrong, Uzbekistan is full of nice people, but officers and border control made me feel uncomfortable.

So, next was Tajikistan border. Cold chills on my back I arrived to the border, waiting similar or even worse officers…
No! Did not believe my ears when officers at the border wished me “Welcome to Tajikistan”!
Got pass all lines, because I was tourist. At customs check I did not need to fill any forms, one of the officers filled a form for me.
I do not know what payment it was, but at the customs office I had to pay 15USD.
No customs check for my luggage, gate was opened for me and I was allowed to enter Tajikistan with another greeting “Welcome to Tajikistan”!

Changed Uzbakistan SOMs to Tajikistan Somonis at the border and then headed towards Dushambe.

I already had Adventurer´s Inn GPS coordinates in my GPS, so riding there was easy.
Road between the border and Dushambe is under construction at the moment, but most of it is decent gravel road. Felt really nice to leave trail of dust behind me on these roads 🙂

At the adventurer´s Inn I managed to get a room (few days earlier it had been totally full). Some of the travellers are camping in a small yard. Price for the room is 16USD/night.
Spent evening updating blog and chatting with the people.

Because Pamir is still closed (and stays closed for unknown time), I decided that I will stay here one more day and catch up with my blog updates. Then on Sunday I will start heading towards Kirgistan.
Weather should also start to cool down here, which is welcome change after weeks and weeks of really hot temperatures.

7 thoughts on “From Kazakhstan to Tajikistan via Uzbekistan

  1. Hi Marko,

    Sad to hear that you needed rehydration salt, but good if it helped you to get well. Greetings from cold Finland, 15 degrees in south and today Lapland got first snow this autumn.
    Keep on riding and writing, it’s really interesting to read your stories.

    Take care
    Ari

  2. Hi Marko, I always enjoy your posts. But you really should follow your rules :-)!!
    I would never give my bike away, even it is not that big and expensive as yours. Not even unpacked, which is much more easier to ride then. Be careful because once upon a time we all want to see you back here and in healthy condition.

  3. Moi Marko,

    I cannot believe either, that you gave your bike to some stranger! It doesn’t really sound like you 🙂 Keep on driving & follow you rules! :o) Enjoy!

    Sari

  4. I noticed one fail in your bike…
    You don`t have a proper handlebar protectors, if your bike falls down, I hope that it wont break clutch- or brakehandle…

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