10 June 2012

Uzbekistan: Tashkent 18-30 May, 2012

We stayed in Tashkent for 12 days.  Tashkent is a fairly modern city and relatively safe.  To be honest, it is quite a strange place.  There is a mixture of old Soviet architecture, gaudy neo-classical government buildings that meet on large boulevards and traditional Uzbekistan architecture (Old City/Madrassa).  
Towering high rises of the soviet era with a fountain

Tashkent always had a comfortable feeling to it.  It is a pretty cosmopolitan city for being the capital of a police state.  The 12 days we stayed were completely filled with things to do which makes it challenging to write a succinct post.  However, our stay here can be categorized in a few points: Gulnara friends, waiting for parts, and visas, new friends and random meets.
Bodomzor Metro Station - the metro is a definite highlight
Gulnara friends:
From the first moment we arrived we were happy to meet the other travelers that were at the Gulnara.  Upon our arrival, there were different groups cyclists from New Zealand (Sergei/Adrienn, Jeremy), Australia (Alex/Marty), France (Eric), Germany (Sven), Switzerland (Frederic).  
Kiwis and Aussies at the Gulnara
Marty doing his best dinosaur impression
Sven telling Marty, Jeremy and Alex he would see them around
They were a cool bunch and made the stay in Tashkent a good one.  From going out to seeing the Champs League final to going to a Russian theatre (Ilkhom) to going to dinner at the same place every night, the crew felt like a family.  As everyone left, the swissman (Frederic) was the only cyclist left.  Our crew became smaller, but we still managed to go out in the city with other friends and make the most of it.  We had a lot of fun going out with Fred. 
The last of the Gulnara crew - Chris, HJ, Scott, Fred - good times
Waiting for parts:
HJ had ordered parts in Bukhara from HK Suspension to arrive to Tashkent.  The original estimated time was 5 days, however after speaking with people, they said it would be more like 10.  In fact, it was about 9 days for us.  When the parts did arrive, we drove over to the BMW dealership and scheduled a time to come back and do the repair with them.  
HJ at the BMW Tashkent Dealership
Although they have minimal knowledge about motorcycles, they were willing to help and offer their workspace.  HJ returned the following day and began to disassemble the front fork.  There was a stripped thread in the drain plug so a new one was needed.  Luckily, there was a machinist who was more than happy to rethread, machine a new bolt and washer.  After a few hours the fork was reassembled and HJ was back on the road with a fixed fork.
This is the Uzbek Soms, what you see here is about $2. 
Since we had to wait for the parts, we felt it a good opportunity to use the time to apply for visas.  We did both Kyrgyzstan (1 day, $112.50) and Kazakhstan (5 days, $30) in Tashkent.  The process was painless but did require a bit of waiting.  We had also inquired with the Tajikistan embassy about prolonging our current visa but they said it would not be possible.  We decided then to skip Tajikistan directly and head straight to Kyrgyzstan, then up to Kazkhstan. 
This border actually works quite efficiently if one needs to get into Kazakhstan
Speaking with the manager of the Gulnara, he informed Scott that his Uzbek visa was about to expire.  Scott would need to use his second entry to renew it.  After a failed attempt at the local Tashkent crossing, Scott had to go west to the much smaller Yamalla crossing - 60km away but very few people.  The border agents were very friendly allowing for the motorcycle to stay on the Uzbek side (not having to export and reimport) as well as helping move through the line quickly and filling out the custom’s declaration.  After 4 hours Scott was almost done.  The first police checkpoint after leaving the border Scott was stopped, had to pay $5 (for a “Californian gift”) but in return received 2 cups of tea – not the best deal but at least it was something.

New Friends and random meets:

Wandering the Tashkent streets
There is something about Tashket that one runs into people recently met much more than in other cities.  We ran into Marty and Alex one day on their bikes while they were cycling to pick up their visas, we ran into Jeremy while he was on his way to pick up his visa, we ran into the French friends with the Citroen 2CV while walking on the streets and they were in a taxi.
Our encounter with Guillaume and Peggy led us to the National House for dinner
We ran into Tony/Nhung  and Ido while cruising through the main park.  The latter meet introduced us to 2 new people who would turn into 5 new people: Olga (from Tashkent) and Prashant (traveler from Singapore) then Denis (Olga’s boyfriend), Gulziyba (friend of Prashant, student living in Tashkent) and Max (colleague of Gulziyba at university).  With these 5 new friends we went to the Chimgan mountains and Chervak lake.  It was a full-day’s excursion and was completely awesome.  We met in the morning to catch a train to Kazalkent then a minibus to the mountain.
The Sunday crew at the mountain (Muxid, Prashant, Gulziyba, Denis, Scott, HJ, Olga)
Another Ido sighting - he gets around
When we arrived, it was about to start raining, in fact, it proceeded to rain for the next hour/hour and a half.  After it let up, we took the chair lift to the top to check out the cloudy view then headed back.  Just as we were about to leave, we ran into Ido again.  He was cycling with the guy he was staying with.  We jumped back in the van and headed down to the lake then to the train stop where we had another mini picnic and saw old carvings on the mountain walls. 
At Olga and Denis' place with Prashant
There were 2 other sets of friends we met and continuously saw, 2 dutch couples.  1 was cycling from Rotterdam to China, the other was driving a Toyota Corolla the entire route of the E40 highway (Calais to Kazakhstan).  The E40 couple we saw 2 days in a row and every time we ate.  It was strange.  In the end we finally introduced ourselves – very cool people.

The Dutch couple on their way to Japan
Do Svidenya Tashkent...


  1. Cool! very much enjoyed reading your blog, keep up the good job! You did like bodomzor too! :D

    PS. I really doubt that the amount of money in the photo is 2usd! it maybe 20USD though

  2. Data, I am noticing something. New glasses, haircut, maybe peeled eyebrows...... I'm not sure..

  3. uzbekistan tashkent