Friday, September 3, 2010

…and FOUND!

Yesterday, soon after Ali had penned the previous ‘LOST’ blog piece, Igor (our couchsurfing host) got a call from Tashkent airport. The Surlys were in the country. This was also soon after we called Air Baltic who confirmed that our bikes had not left Milan yet. Don’t get too used to our patronage, Air Baltic.

When we reached the airport we were greeted with the same faces of several nights ago. This time, though, warm hand-shakes, laughs and smiles replaced the worn, distressed, weary looks they got at 130am on the 31st. Then we saw them, draped in the same green plastic wrap. They looked tired and eager to get onto some Uzbek asphalt. So with Igor leading the way we rode through the traffic back to his apartment.

Today we raced the inaugural Tashkent stage of the Tour de Central Asia. The field was thin, but impressive. Racing for team ‘Into the Wild’ was former Uzbekistan Cycling Team member, Igor. Team Surly formed the bulk of the peloton for much of the route. It was a grueling 30km circuit through the streets of Tashkent. Igor had a clear advantage, being a) at national cycling standard b) racing in his home town and c) dictating the actual route. We played by Uzbek rules, which seems to imply no stopping for red lights or police barricades.

We saw the sights of Tashkent, which like Almaty, enforce an image of grandeur. Some of highlights included the street the president uses to commute, which was thus lined with police every 250m. The munificent forum building on Independence square which holds world records for speed of construction. The donkey-drawn cart in traffic, which was being honked at rigorously, not because it was being powered by a mule, but because the driver was SMSing on his mobile and not looking at the oncoming cars. And riding down the middle of a 4 lane, bi-directional road. The latter is not to be repeated.

We ended our day back our hotel, getting our mandatory night of visa registration. We were relaxing by the pool, when out of nowhere comes a mob of middle aged ladies jumping ungracefully into the water. This was soon followed by the gritty, grinding unmistakable Queenslander accent. Ahh, feels like home.


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