July 13, 2009 GMT
Uzbekistan continued

Bukara old town is full of old Islamic architecture, in particular tiled mosques and similar buildings mainly with blue colouring. They're really vivid in real life, I'm not sure if the photographs really do it justice.

This is the tallest minaret in Uzbekistan, I believe they used to throw unfaithful wives off the top as punishment, but there wasn't any of that in evidence while we were there!

Here's a mandatory overlander shot, bikes parked somewhere inside a hotel. OK, so we're not quite in the lobby just yet but down the corridor and under the stairs is a start. The owner did seem a bit worried that we would drop oil over his nice tiles.

Bukara's other big landmark is the castle, its pretty big but doesn't look too difficult to scale if required.

Next day we made the shortish hop across to Samarkand. It is a bigger and more modern city than Bukara but also has its share of ancient relics. They obviously need a bit of TLC now and again, but spot the workers in this photo and see if you fancy their job!

The most impressive building in Samarkand is the Registan. They're pretty huge and have different pictures designed into the tiles. The building on the right here has lions.

Everywhere has its markets too. They are organised into sections so that all the fresh fruit stalls are together, all the spice stalls etc. Without knowing the local language its pretty much impossible to differentiate one stall selling only tomatoes from the next, but I'm sure there are deals to be done!

Next day we headed for the border and Tajikistan......

Posted by David Newman at 07:08 AM GMT

Getting into Tajikistan was pretty easy and friendly although it did cost us $15 each for something, I'm not sure what! Getting out of Uzbekistan wasn't too bad, we didn't get the full customs search we had been warned about but we were apparently missing a vital yellow customs form which as far as I could tell we should have picked up in Bukara. Once they finally conceded that we really didn't have one (or a carnet, the first people to mention one) they filled in some more lines in a big ledger that they're so fond of and let us out. Usually there is at least one friendly bloke who is interested in where we've come from, the map on the side of Al's bike is very useful for getting this across. First minor glitch was an accident blocking the road, but it didn't take long to get past.

Bigger problems were not far away however, my bike had been spluttering and running badly all day, but eventually is got to the stage where it was unridable. I changed the spark plug at the side of the road but to no avail. We were forced to set up camp a few miles short of where we had planned.

We then spent the rest of the day, all the following day and the morning after trying to fix the problem. By swapping parts from our spares and from Al's bike we eventually worked out that it wasn't the electrics (which have often been a problem!) but something wrong with the fuel/air mixture. Removing the clogged air filters helped but the problem wasn't cured. We had several attempts at stripping down the carburettor and eventually after comparing side by side with the working one, and thoroughly cleaning (including removing a small beetle!) we got it working. This involved loads of test runs up and down the road, during one of which I melted the rear brake cylinder after not reconnecting it properly. So now I have a bike which goes but doesn't stop properly. Luckily, compared to a working engine, working brakes are a minor issue! We finally cruised to Dushanbe, not that the journey was without drama. To get there you have to go through a tunnel serveral kilometres long. The tunnel is unfinished, the surface is very potholed, its full of water, there is no light and no ventilation so you can't see or breathe properly. We made it, although the throttle stuck open on my newly fixed bike, which is interesting going down a mountainside on a gravel road with only a front brake.

Dushanbe is the capital, but a pretty small one, the best bit I thought was Lenin park at night. There were loads of people hanging about and a good atmosphere.

Next day we're off again, into the Pamir mountains. We've decided to take the southern route after hearing a few stories of people taking pot shots at people on the northern (shorter) route. It's starting to get pretty scenic again :)

We arrived at our overnight stop only to be mobbed by curious kids. This little fella had my helmet away before I had a chance to say no!

We're in a massive soviet style hotel for the night. Hopefully we will change tyres for the off road ones we have brought along. Tomorrow its ever upwards into the Pamirs......

Posted by David Newman at 07:18 AM GMT
Tajikistan continued

Heading into the Pamir mountains we came across our first dodgy looking bridge. There were big holes in it and the support beams were all bent. Still, if the trucks can come this way....

You see that across the river? That's Afghanistan that is, we followed the road long the border for quite a way. The Afghan side looked all peace and tranquility, but on our side the Tajik military are best avoided if possible.

Enjoying dinner Tajik style at our "guesthouse". A floor to sleep on and a hole in the ground to s**t in isn't my idea of luxury, but it kept us out of harms way for the evening.

The scenery kept on getting better and better...

But beware stepping off the road, this area is land mined, there are warning signs and evidence of clearance attempts all over, also some old russian hardware.

There are major problems on this road for bikes. There are some deep water crossings, one of which I charged through too fast and drew water into the engine. Thankfully it started back up after a few nervous attempts and revving it it blasted the water out of the exhaust. Then there was this fresh landslide, we helped get 2 cars across before digging a path for the bikes and hauling them through. I got very covered in mud, and had to get under a waterfall to clean up!

Eventually we got into the Pamir highway proper, and the scenery got BIG!


Strange place to meet up with Tiffany and Annie on a BMW R80. Thanks for the curry!

Proof, itf it were needed that these mountains are high, soon going over passes that are higher than those we had done in the Alps became an everyday occurance!

You would think that we would be pretty unique getting this far, but alas, when we were heading for the border with Kyrgyzistan we bumped into Tim & co on their BMW GS bikes, complete with support 4X4???

Posted by David Newman at 07:23 AM GMT

The road after the border is pretty steep mud and gravel, it is another version of the Stelvio pass, recreated in more dangerous form!

We're now suddenly in the land of the Yurt, everyone looks different too on this side of the border, like a taste of what Mongolia might be like.

We were on rough roads and camping wild each night by this stage. At some point my number plate had vibrated loose and fallen off. I thought I'd best create a replacement for borders etc. Here's my handiwork...

And here's a scenic place to have another carb problem, bike torn to bits on the road with snow all around, wasn't cold though.

After a single day of riding, my new numberplate was secondhand.

The camera really can't capture the views, but it is astonishing in real life, and lads on horseback race you along the road for a laugh?!

We camped next to Lake Karakol and were treated to a great sunset over the lake, from our hilltop camp.

Next day we went to the border and into Kazakstan. Mental note to self, fill out customs declaration on entry to the country or you will face being sent back to your point of entry and have to bribe your way out :-)

Posted by David Newman at 07:36 AM GMT

First night in Kazakstan was another unofficial camp spot, this time in the Sharyn Canyon. I'd climbed up a cliff which turned out to be a lot steeper than it looked to get this photo and a mobile phone signal!

Next day we made it to Almaty, the former capital, and civilization!

It's a big place, and for some reason the war memorial seems to be the place for photos if you're getting married?

We got the cable car up for a view of the city.

Odd to find the Beatles at the top???

A quality rip off, wonder where they got this idea?

Now we're waiting to find out the extent of my bikes problems. Fingers crossed......

Posted by David Newman at 07:38 AM GMT

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