I left Bukhara after an unsuccessful internet connection attempt. When I left the cafe, there were a dozen little Bukharan boys on bicycles admiring my motorcycle. I may be a little older, motorized, and a bit further away from home, but basicly we belong to the same category. Boys on wheels! We played a bit and I gave them some baloons. Then they escorted me out of the center since the road I came two days ago was now closed.
On the road, I met some other boys in uniforms with guns and sticks. They were doing radar speed checks ad pulled me over. I gave them cigarettes and started talking with my silly Turkish accent. I talked so much that they had to forget why they pulled me over. Pushing my luck even further, I asked them if they could take a photo of me with the radar gun on the bike. They were happy to do it. I left without any tickets or bribes. I may be the first to say this, but the Uzbek police are actually very nice! The best I’ve seen so far.
I’m beginning to believe that I may be able to complete this trip without any tickets. Has any other biker done that or would I be the first? We’ll see…
I decided to get a proper plug on the puncture I had 4 days ago. The one I did on the side of the road didn’t feel safe and it actually popped out on the way out of Bukhara. I wasn’t going fast but still, it wasn’t fun. I plugged it again and rode to a proper tire shop. He vulcanized it. It feels much better now. The Karoo T’s are holding surprisingly well in terms of wear. My only consideration is the cracks. I guess I pushed them a bit too far on hot stretches.
It’s 3:09 in the morning. Everybody has gone to sleep. I’m alone in the courtyard of this cheap B&B. There are many travelers staying here. Many have in the past and many others will. It’s cheap. Cheap enough that people get a little more time than they expected. A little more time to hang around, talk, develop relationships. That’s what makes this courtyard so nice. Not the white cat that climbs down the grape vine every night, or the green light diffusing from the cheap plastic roofing in the morning… It’s the voices of people. It’s the warmness that transpires, after being away and alone for so long.
Having seen Khiva and Bukhara, I thought I reached my limits of Islamic architecture appreciation. But Samarkand proved to be unresistable with its amazing Registan square composed of three enormous madrasas, Shah-ı Zinda mousaleums, the lively bazaar and an unforgetable hamam visit.
I met Richard, a Norwegian cycling the silk road. Beginning with the night of my arrival, we spent two full days talking and sharing thoughts, visiting sights together.
This morning, we met at around five in the morning to go to the Registan. Ulugbek Madrasa has an accesible minaret. You need to bribe the guard and climb the stone stairs inside the minaret to reach the top from where you can watch the sunrise. Beauty has its price. It’s not expensive but still there is one.
Then we walked to the hamam to get a decent bath and a Samarkand style massage. We waited for the “tellak” (masseur) to finish with two other guys. I watched the long routine three times before going through it myself. It’s already very tiring and hard to breathe as you’re lying on the ground in this exremely hot and steamy room. I can’t imagine how he works here all day long, washing and massaging numerous bodies.
There is an uncanny pleasure in being reduced to a body. An object of flesh, bone, blood and nerve without the auxiliary constructions of privacy, personal space and hygene.
One of the men washing in the room had an abnormally deformed body. His head was very small and looked as if it was missing a large section in the back. He had an assymmetrical face and a slim body making his bones and weak muscle structure extremely visible. He kneeled on the marble bench, staying that way for almost three hours. Obviously, he felt more comfortable this way and not as much when he sat. He washed himself slowly in an incompetent way as if he wasn’t very used to his own body. Or as if he was unwilling to display his own methods of washing and was trying to apply a more socially acceptable version derived right there and then by observing other bathers around. He noticed me. I closed my eyes, trying to enjoy the eerie contentment of being just a body…