China refuses entry to tourists through Tibet
Thanks to China’s refusal to let anyone into Tibet from Nepal this year, we had to find an alternative way to continue our journey West. Until May when the Khunjerab pass re-opens, the only land alternative to the Tibet route is a three week police escort through Southern Pakistan staying in police stations every night, which would have missed out on a country that we have always wanted to visit: Uzbekistan, with it’s wonders of Samarkand and Bukhara, so we made the decision to take the 2 hour flight over China / Pakistan from Delhi to Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
The delights of Delhi – learning to tune out
After 17 annoying days hanging around in Delhi, organising our Iranian visas, getting ourselves Uzbekistan visas, watching TV, eating western food…….. we eventually attained a higher state of obliviousness, where the all pervasive odour of piss and cow shit vanished into the ether, the dust washed over and around us, the regurgitative sounds of spitting just blended into the constant honking of horns and the cries of ‘wan a rickshaw, sir?’.
Towards the end we were able to completely ignore everyone and everything around us, never catching anyone’s eye, not reacting to even the idiots rushing up to us saying ‘Long time no see! How are you? did you enjoy the Taj?’, or ‘I like your slim body’, or ‘Do you like McDonalds'?’. We could walk the streets of Delhi as though it was a silent path in the mountains or a cycle ride across the Mongolian plains………. for us our little area of Delhi had become an oasis of calm……..nearly!!!!
Flying from Delhi – packing our bikes
Leaving was a joyous moment but packing the bikes is never fun. We decided on an original method, we boxed in the handlebars, gears and saddle and took the bike to the wrapping machines at the airport. The guys said it was impossible, we bluffed them that we’d done it before…..and 5 minutes later it was done.
Air Uzbekistan complained a bit and then couldn’t be bothered, and with our special patented method of reducing the check in weight (lifiting the bike with our feet when it’s on the scales) we were able to reduce the check in weight of both bikes from 34kg to 20kg.
Arriving in Tashkent was wonderful, clear, dust free air, 20 degrees with low humidity, wide empty open streets, and everyone was suddenly helpful and friendly.
We’re in a nice hotel, we’ve spent today cycling around the city discovering the embassies (all closed for ‘Nowruz’ – the New Year), bookshops and cafes. The city is lovely, full of parks, trees and space.
What a contrast!