Entering Uzbekistan seemed way easier than exiting Turkmenistan, even though I made it across just barely before the border closed. And just after the border crossing, in the warm light of the sunset I saw the first time a street sign with Bishkek written on it. After more than 5000 kilometers into the journey seeing a sign with the destination was indeed something, even if it was 1246 kilometers away and even if the distance would be more than double with the Pamir detour. But time flies quickly and I need to find a camping spot, and after riding through the twilight I find a good spot, between the road and a nearby channel which takes water from the Amu Darya River, the same river which once filled the Aral Sea but which is now diverted to the cotton crops of Uzbekistan.
The following morning I finally have a short day ahead, only 80 kilometers until Bukhara, the first Timur jewel along the Silk road. And after riding 160 kilometers yesterday trying to reach the border before the border closed the short day ahead is more than welcome. Even though it was the second border crossing in just 5 days I can’t say the difference difference seems way smaller than when I left Iran. The people of Uzbekistan are a mixture of Uzbek, Tadjik and Kyrgyz people with the more recent addition of some Russians. The problem is that if you take appart the hats to the untrained eye uzbek people and kyrgyz people look a lot like turmen people so the change you can’t really see the change on the people faces.
One visible change is that the roads seem to be considerably worse than in Turkmenistan and that there seem to be way more villages along the way. Centuries of irrigation have transformed what was once a desert in green cultivated land. You also see signs using the Latin alphabet, a welcome change after Turkmenistan where it’s hard to find any signs at all.
After 5 days in the desert I’m in dire need of a shower so I search for a cheap hotel around one of the main square, and after a bit of searching and asking I find a pretty decent room for 20 dollars a night. Next it’s time to stroll through the city. And what a city Bukhara is. I have to say that after also visiting Samarkand and Shahrizabz is still consider that Bukhara is something different. It’s less like a sanitized museum and more like a an actual city which still lives and which has continued living since the since the times of Timur. Even though it is a bit touristic and it will become even more so if you wander through the 700 year old bazars and medresses you can get a feel of how this place looked like in the past. Regarding Timur even though the guy historically can be seen like an Adolf Hitler of the middle ages and while his conquests led to the death of millions of people he had at least good taste, bringing back besides the usual spoils of war also countless artisans which helped build Bukhara and Samarkand.
The sunset catches me on the old fortress, looking over the skyline of the city while the sun briefly shines between a break in the clouds after a summer rain. A single white pigeon lands on the fortress walls and I have someone to share the moment with in an otherwise empty place. The streets are still wet from the afternoon rain the the air is cool and it smells once again of spring, a season which I met so many time across my trip through Central Asia.