The Golden Road: Back on Two Wheels
“For lust of knowing what should not be known. We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.” ~ James Elroy Flecker, The Golden Journey to Samarkand
I sit branded by wind and sun in the golden land of Samarkand. In a courtyard, in a dank guesthouse where travelers have came and gone for years. I sip warm chai on raised carpet platforms. Tea flakes bubble and float to the bottom of saucer cups as they have for centuries. In the piercing shadow of the Registan I reflect on the wonder that this city holds. The history, the people, the sheer depth of complexity that has went into it’s fashioning over the frenzied times of past, present, and the glory days of ancient lore. At the disputable heart of the ancient Silk Road, Samarkand’s beauty is something more than alluring for any intrepid adventurer. Captivating the hearts and minds of those from all corners of the globe. The ancient Madrassas, Mosques, Bazaars, and observatories, are but a testament to a time of great power and wonder.
The road has changed these days. It is much more defined. However, in a police state, like Uzbekistan, passage is still highly regulated. Police weild batons and command cars off the road for inspection and expected bribes. In a country ruled by a dictator hellbent on growing cotton in dry landscapes where little rainfall occurs, they are draining the Aral Sea. Their children won’t thank him. Ludicrous bureaucracy and restrictions on tourists and citizens, alike, make this place feel like nowhere else. Follow the rules. But still, have a good time.
Crossing the border at Osh, Kyrgyzstan into Uzbekistan was not as simple as one might hope. After arriving in the early morning I spent the next few hours careening my bicycle to the front of the line and eventually being sent through as an honoured tourist. After more checks, paperwork, questioning and rifling through my pictures and vitamins I was set free. The open road to country number three. Well somewhat open. In Uzbekistan one must register in certified hotel each day, or pay unknown consequences upon exiting Uzbekistan. A difficult task for any cyclist hoping to cover long stretches of flat terrain on minimal budgets. But, I do my best.
On the road to Samarkand I visited interesting cities like Andijan, with more than accommodating citizens. Soviet hotels with less charm then windows. I’m not about to get into the news of recent history in Andijan, but have a look about what happened not long ago. ‘HERE’ Then onto Kokand, with Madrassas and a Khan’s palace completely devoid of any tourist. Weathered women blowing burning scented spices onto my bike to bless my journey at an ancient cemetery. I snacked on delicious skewers of meat called, Shashlak with yoghurt and sipped tea every step of the way, while fending off other people on the roadside for invitations to join them as I meandered along pretending not to understand them. If I stopped for everyone who called me, I would still be a few days back. It is the ‘off season’ now and tourists become more nominal than usual in these parts.
I made it over the snowcapped mountains to the sprawling capital of Tashkent. I bunked in shared dormitories with snoring men at a dumpy train station hotel. One keeping me up all night asking me questions through a voice translator on his phone. I guess the ear plugs and my grunts after days of cycling was not a hint. Onto non-descript towns with names like Gulinstan, that appeared to have no purpose, no centre and no work for anyone, other than shuttling people about in vans or attending the local ‘circus’. Tank convoys passing nonchalantly on the main road. When finally after days of riding on broken knees with no breaks I made it to the glorious Samarkand. Only halfway complete the trip through Uzbekistan. To the bustling market bazaars I gawked and ate delicious Shwarma’s among old buildings with dill garlic sauce running down my hands. I ate in the cool afternoons and explored to my hearts content.
From here it is on to another ancient city of Bukhara, then Southeast to Afghanistan. The trip I am on after my brief return to Canada has brought me in contact to even greater kindness and rejuvenated my batteries. Seeing my beautiful girlfriend, visiting with family and rediscovering Canada with close friends was a truly amazing experience. It makes me appreciate the journey I am on that much more. To have the love and support of everyone all over feels in a word, amazing!
Now I wake each day again not knowing. I go out into clear mornings with an open heart and wondering mind. I know not where I will sleep that night or who I will meet that day. Problems come and evaporate with new horizons. It is the closest thing I can get to the caravans of the Old Silk Road. That feeling of truly not knowing, in a land so ancient and full of pride. Under the sun and trampled earth we crawl.
“No human, nor any living, survives long under the eternal sky. The most beautiful women, the most learned men, even Mohammed, who heard Allah’s own voice, all did wither and die. All is temporary. The sky outlives everything. Even suffering. ~ Bowa Johar, Balti Poet
Nothing more true can be said. All is temporary. We are only here for a moment, so make the best of it. If your looking for a new book check out Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, on his amazing feats and discovery in the northern mountain range of Pakistan’s Baltistan area. A fanastic tale of determination and compassion.
***Updates on the school in China are in! Full details of successes with the new school and plans for fundraising for a new school in India to come very soon. To onwards travel, the ancient road and hope.
To donate to the next project: ‘CLICK HERE’
Posted on November 17, 2014, in Adventure, Around the World, Charity, Cycling, Motivation, Thoughts, Travel, Uzbekistan and tagged Adventure, Around the World, Bazaar, Charity, Cycling, Excitement, Free the Children, James Elroy Flecker, Markets, Mosques, motivation, Mountains, Police, Samarkand, Silk Road, Tanks, The Road, Touring, Travel, Travel Pics, Uzbekistan. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.