Friday, September 17, 2010

Turning Point

In a few hours we fly to Istanbul, hence arriving in Turkey not – as the blog title states – by bike, but courtesy of the airline that recently ‘misplaced’ them. Packed full of people, bazaars, arts, food and coffee, it’s going to be busy, bustling and exciting. But to explain our new path, let me take you back to the plains of Tajikistan.

11 am on the road to Khojand. We’ve been riding into a slight headwind all morning, and it is getting hot. The arid plains around us contain a few breezeblock settlements and a scattering of sheep before fading into crumpled-paper mountains. A sense of unease has been brewing for a while. Could it be the persistent incline or the incipient traveler’s diarrhea that follows a brush with unpasteurized milk? A sense that we have seen all this before?

Even the Uzbek customs official had tried to warn us. ‘Why do you want to go to Tajikistan? They have nothing to see!’ A discussion of the history of how theTajik-dominated cities of Samarkand and Bukhara ended up in Uzbekistan seemed unnecessary. ‘They have mountains,’ we smiled.

In retrospect, it’s hard to say what really clinched our decision to turn back as we paused for a break in the shade of a crumbling concrete bus shelter that clearly doubled as a public toilet. At the time it answered an ongoing feeling that we weren’t enjoying ourselves, just moving on to the next place because that was part of the plan. If travel fatigue is a genuine phenomenon then we probably had at least a moderate case. However, after a couple of weeks of ‘regular’ tourism, the weather has turned, along with our mood, and we are on the road to recovery. On two wheels, of course.

Turkish coffee and baklava, here we come…


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