Day 32 The Crucible Of Terror

25 Jun

Day 32 The Crucible Of Terror, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Still feeling horrendous but sick of Hotel Nukus, we get on the bikes and head into the desert. It’s incredibly hot, high 40’s, and harsh. Riding along thinking nothing but "please don’t break down". We manage to find enough chances for cold water and places to rest in the shade. We get hassled by a couple of the silly police checkpoints they seem to like over here, but only a short delay. Everywhere we stop, crowds gather. I buy water watched intently by half a dozen locals as if they’ve never seen a man buy water before. We’d planned a fairly short ride and hoped to be able to find a camping spot near the river shown on the map, but widowe get there it’s clearly not suitable for camping. It’s more harsh, sandy terrain, with a puddle of water a few hundred yards across the sand. So we take the only option of continuing to Bukhara, another 170 miles. There’s no sense stopping out in the open in 40 degree heat. By late afternoon i’m really struggling, feeling like death. It’s all i can do to ride in a straight line, and that not very well. I’m riding without jacket or gloves because i’m so hot, and i’m too unwell to notice the sunburn i’m inflicting on my hands. It’s nothing but endurance, with no real certainty of making it through or finding a place to stay. Passing through a small town a dog on the other side of the road pricks up it’s ears, spots me, and starts galloping towards me. At 60mph, with no protective gear on, this could be very ugly. I veer away, as i mentally extrapolate the paths of the dog, closing fast, and the car coming the other way, thinking i might get lucky. Just as dog reaches road, car reaches dog, and a split second later the aftermath is fortunately out of my sight as i continue, relieved, and not at all sorry about the loss of one more motorbike chasing dog. The desert does not abate, nor does my thirst, fatigue, cramp, discomfort. Grin and bear it. Left wing mirror has gone floppy and spins about uselessly. The road gets rougher and I whack into some big potholes at speed, that i would normally have avoided but alert is the last thing i am today. Will need to check spoke tension soon. The bike seems to labour in the heat, and i know how it feels. I ease off to give it half a chance of getting me out of this horrendous place. Eventually, scenery gets greener. I almost get wiped out when i encounter a woman washing a carpet on the road, on a bend, with a big bus coming the other way. And then, Bukhara. Hope soars. We ride around looking for a hotel, doing a full lap and exhausting every likely looking avenue without success. It’s getting late and Dave’s headlight isn’t working. Hope fades, as does the light. Returning to the junction where we started, there’s one last road to try and we head along. It looks like another no hoper, until i see a hotel sign, but no way into the hotel on the bike. Then another sign, then "Amelia Boutique Hotel – All The Comforts Of Home!". A woman greets us in the street, looks like she works here. Turns out she’s called Martha. All smiles. She puts me on the phone with an english speaker and soon we have a really nice room, with air con and a fridge, a big clean bathroom with a superb shower, and after a tricky ride through a doorway and along a corridor, our bikes are safe inside the courtyard. I feel better already. English tv news channel has someone describing somewhere as "The Crucible Of Terror", and i assume he’s talking about where we’ve just been.