Friday, 11 July 2014

on yer sofa

Osh.  A traffic jam on the way into the city.  So many cars.  So many new cars.  Six years ago all we saw were old Audis and Mercedes and the farmer's choice, the Lada.  Now it's all shiny new Lexus, 4-wheel drives, little Matiz.  It's hot in the sun - over 35 degrees.  We are intimidated by the heat.  Robert has recommended the Biy Ordo Guesthouse to us all and we know why.  The established backpacker options in Kyrgyzstan are "quirky", whereas this place has all mod cons: air-con, wi-fi, satellite TV (don't forget there's a World Cup going on), garden courtyard.  Over a couple of days the Magnificent Ten are reunited in some sort of tropical torpor and apathy. Worn out, emaciated, emotionally exhausted.  We slowly start the recovery process: eating plenty of fresh food, sorting photos, writing up blogs, relaxing in the lounge, ice-cream, enjoying fresh bread after a week or two of stale bread.

An Austrian woman comments on how most of the cyclists she meets just sit around and do nothing.  This gets the old hackles up but essentially she's right. Have we been to Osh's downtown? No we haven't.  What are we missing?  A nice park, some nice shops???  She tells us that she thinks the best way to travel is on horseback.  Yeah, right.  Somehow I can't imagine her saddling up and riding to Dushanbe through the Pamirs.

We catch up with Gabor before he departs for Bishkek.  He has been here for five days having made it across the Tajik border just before his visa ran out.  We enjoy a lagman (freshly made hand-pulled noodles) and a beer with him and Pascale, another cyclist he met on the way from Sary Tash.  Maybe we will meet up again somewhere?

Central Asia is undoubtedly a top destination for diaorrhea.  Inevitably there is much talk about bowel movements.  How was it for you?  Asford & Simpson! Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Grand Clearance - Everything Must Go! The real punishment though is the toilet paper.  You can remove the dead skin on your heel with it, it's that rough.

Central Asian torture implement

By 10am the sun is unbearable.  Mid-afternoon it's mad dogs.  Five o'clock and the sun is still frying.  Late evening there might be a whisper of a breeze.  We remain in confinement in our air-conditioned rooms like quarantined passengers on a ship.  Some of us emerge at night to catch football matches in the wee small hours.  Gradually over the course of a week our cycling friends recover and continue the journey around Kyrgyzstan.

Gayle has been cleaning the bikes, and still clearly lacks some basic bike knowledge: "There's enough dirt in the back thing to grow plants." The back thing?

Day Five of the Tour de France (Day Seven of the Osh Interlude) and Chris Froome retires after his third crash.  We watch in awe as the cyclists race over muddy cobbles.  We are agog, glued to the sofa.  Osh has a UNESCO World Heritage site: Solomon's Throne, a muslim pilgrimmage site.  Not half as tempting as another evening on the sofa watching Le Tour.  Surely it's time to move on?

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