Posted from Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan.
So you think we’ve dropped off the radar? Well we have and we haven’t. Since we left Khiva on Sunday 5th August, Kevin and I have arrived in Bukhara, but got no further, due to our clutch problem. So read on.
Sunday 5th August
We had an early breakfast and set off for Bukhara. It was a 398km ride, of which we had been warned 80kms would be on extremely poor roads. Petrol stations were conspicuous by their absence, and as we were travelling through the Kyzylkum (‘Red Sand’) Desert we were forced to fill up at a roadside petrol stop early on to ensure we had sufficient fuel. These stops are nothing more than people selling black market fuel of indeterminate quality out of plastic bottles, but needs must. And to be fair the bikes seemed to run okay on it.
Before filling up, Kevin tinkered with the clutch, and as he was doing so a group of motorcyclists, all on Yamaha XT660Zs stopped to offer help, Ian from Devon, Neil from London, and Nacho, an Argentinean now living in France. We managed to get going again, but the roads took their toll. Kevin, who was riding my bike at the time, had a crash at speed when he hit a rut, spinning him off in a cloud of dust. The only damage, apart from injured pride, was a bent crash bar and a broken spork (my food/cooking pannier bag took the brunt of the tumble). Neil also had a burst tyre from a giant pothole. The cover was split and things looked bad until a passing lorry driver patched the tyre up sufficiently well to get him to Bukhara.
Kevin’s bike also broke down twice, with a mystery ailment which has yet to return. The second time this happened it prevented us from reaching Bukhara as it was getting dark, so we were forced to camp at the side of the road with Neil and Nacho, who had kindly stayed to assist. We shared our food and slept fitfully with the lorries roaring past all night long. How they dare to travel in the dark with the roads in the state they are, is anybody’s guess.
This was probably our worst day to date, in terms of distance to be covered, with the temperature in the high 40°Cs, the road conditions and the state of the bikes.
Monday 6th August
We woke fairly early and after packing everything away rode the bikes carefully to Bukhara.
Our hotel of choice was full, but we ended up across the road in the Hotel Porso, which has actually suited us better as it has a locked garage area for our motorbikes, which has proved a godsend.
Kevin got straight online and ordered the replacement clutch parts, an oil seal and a new piston. The piston had seized slightly a couple of times en route, and clearly we had an oil delivery problem due to an oil seal that had been damaged in removing the clutch cover so many times to carry out repairs. (Note: do not leave home without a Motion Pro Trail Tool set. I have yet to see such a useful tool, and considering its size and quality, it’s a must-have for any adventure biker).
Tuesday 7th August to Sunday 12th August
Not a lot’s happened, as we’ve just been hanging around, following the progress of the parts on the internet. We’ve seen all the Madrassahs and tried the local restaurants. It’s just very hot and boring, so the days are spent in the shade, or sleeping in the air-conditioned room.
The highlights have been:-
- Tormenting the local boys, who persist in trying to get commission through introducing you to local hotels. We allow them to lead us to our hotel, whereupon they get a flea in their ear from the owner, who lets them know in no uncertain terms that we’re already staying there. The boys also press you for British coins to add to their ‘collection’, so I usually start by asking them for Uzbek coins for mine. This backfired once as a small boy dutifully tuned up at the hotel one evening, clutching a handful of Uzbek coins for me.
- Kevin ordering a plate of jiz and chips at the Saroy, a local restaurant. I am starting to get worried as he seemed rather too eager for my liking…
- Purchasing a local Bukharan camel’s wool rug for my friend back home, Alan Holland, and arranging to have it shipped. As my wife will tell you, I like oriental carpets, and it’s always a pleasure for me to sit in a carpet shop with a knowledgeable owner, examining the stock and bargaining over your final choice.
- Walking the streets with the satnav to add to the mapping of Bukhara on OpenStreetMap. This is actually quite interesting, and I hope I can add to the knowledge base of OSM when I return home.
- Repairing the La Cucaracha musical airhorns on my bike. Sadly they failed before we set off from Birmingham, and this has cast a shadow over the trip so far. It turns out it was only the relay, so we’re up and running – yaks beware!
Monday 13th August
Late afternoon the hotel owner received a call from the local Post Office to say the parts had arrived. A moment of great joy! We rushed off to the Post Office by taxi and collected the parts. Kevin spends the rest of the afternoon fitting the new clutch and piston.
We celebrated by having dinner in an Italian restaurant, the Bella Italia, down the road.
Tuesday 14th August
Sadly our joy was to be short-lived as in refitting the timing chain Kevin had got the timing marks wrong. We discovered in the morning that on turning the engine over the previous afternoon the valves had hit the piston crown, bending them irreversibly.
This meant having to order new valves, so another week’s wait is in view. The hanging around seems rather like a life sentence in Hades without parole, if you ask me. Groundhog Day springs to mind.
Wednesday 15th August
A trip into the newer part of town was called for, especially as Kevin insisted he needed to buy a pair of trousers. I’m not sure whether this was because he’d lost his old ones or had had an unfortunate accident with them following his earlier consumption of the jiz and chips.
On the street afterwards we met a gypsy woman who was fortunate enough to own a fortune telling bird, by the name of Vasiliy. Vasiliy works his magic by first touching his client (read: his owner drags his body up and down your clothing after she stands him on your head) and then selecting a rolled-up ‘prophecy’ from a cup. It is my lucky day! The hotel owner kindly translated it and next Wednesday I am to have some good news. Or marry an Uzbek girl. Not sure which as the bird doesn’t write too clearly.
Fuel consumption – Nil
Incidents with Showers – 0. This is surprising, given the number of showers taken to relieve the boredom.
Hours spent watching Aljazeera on satellite TV – 21
Online books read – 3
Bizarre meals eaten by Kevin – 1
Great Kit 2
Garmin Zumo 660 Satnav with OSM Mapping. I loaded it with my pre-planned routes and we’ve not once needed to use our maps. How good is that?
Pure Hydration Water Pack This is invaluable, and I mean invaluable. I have used their 3-litre armoured reservoir and inline filter assembly in my Kriega R25 rucksack since we set off. As soon as it got hot our requirement was up to 10 litres of drinking water a day. I have been safely drinking the water from random taps in hotels (and the Caspian sea ferry) and have not had a bad stomach once. And you can’t get a better recommendation than that. My only gripe would be that if you’re wearing a full-face helmet you need to ensure that you have the cranked mouthpiece (like on Kevin’s). Mine has the straight mouthpiece and I have struggled drinking from it with my helmet on. Stopping for a quick drink is no major inconvenience though. See their website here.
Tilley Hat Keep this in your bumbag so you can quickly pop it on at borders when you’re waiting in a queue in the baking sun.
Motion Pro Trail Tool This has been described as “Unquestionably one of the finest lightweight all purpose tools ever designed. One of these and a Leatherman will dismantle 80% of all motorbikes in minutes.” I agree. Get one and be amazed.
Victorinox Swiss Tool Spirit + Ratchet This has been a godsend. It does everything it says on the tin, feels good to own, hold and use. ‘Nuff said.
Quechua 2 Seconds I Tent A joy to fling open at the end of a hard day’s riding when you have to camp in the wild. Only £29.99? You must be joking…
Babywipes You may laugh. Don’t. They clean your hands. And face. And motorcycle parts. And your helmet visor. Oh, and your bum.