Translated by: Gréta Kojsza
After we’ve left Samarkand behind us, we were approaching the Fergana Valley. We read that we would have to register ourselves and military checks are quite common. In spite of the sensitivity of the Uzbek-Kirghiz-Tadzhik borderline, nothing could sour us.
During our journey, we found accommodation in families’ gardens and farms as usual, so we had the opportunity to get an insight of rural lifestyle. Differences between cities, villages and farms are huge. While tap water, electricity and waste disposal systems are basic elements of the everyday life of a city, in the countryside the above-mentioned counts as luxury. Rural habitants get water from wells, use ‘earth closets’ patched in gardens and instead of the 3-layered, super soft and mushy, camomile scented toilet paper, they’ve got the sheets of an exercise book.
Then we’ve arrived to Avangard.
We spent the night at a daymen’s restroom as we’ve got acquainted with the crew boss, who almost gave us a royal welcome. They prepared dinner, served melons and we came across with the Russian vodka of a better type too. We almost fell asleep during the stories of Mr. Boss, who simply kept talking and talking with flashed cheeks, constantly refilling the cups of the others. After finishing the second bottle of vodka, stepping across the boundaries of communication, Mr. Boss embosomed Balázs, then he sat in the car and drove away with the others.
The new generation knows the ‘soviet times’ only by the stories and telling of their parents and grandparents. We can see cities of those times on contemporary records… Or at least, that’s what I thought until we arrived to the spectacular Olmaliq.
Because of the registration, we didn’t have any other option left, but to search for a hotel, as we spent the last few nights in the tent or under the stars.
We made a huge mistake by checking in to the first ‘hotel-looked like’ building. It seemed a bit abandoned, though it was actually working. We’ve even asked two by-passers just to make sure that we were in the right place. It must have been a lovely worker’s hostel in the 1960’s and 1970’s, let alone, that the front door of the hotel was a real stargate of several time-zones. The biggish Russian receptionist lady welcomed us detachedly, told the room prices at the first floor, then rapidly added that fixed prices are used, so no need for bargaining. She also informed us that the breakfast is not included and we have to check out until noon. We took the bikes upstairs with us, they’re going to be in a safe place at least! Asking for the Wifi password was such a naive idea! The lady didn’t really know what we were talking about, so we soon realized that we won’t use the Internet here. By this time we were way too exhausted to look for another accommodation, we just wanted to take a shower and fall into bed. Another lady arrived, who escorted us to room 107. We walked through the corridor in creepy half-light on its even creepier cracking floor. The room doors reminded me of entrances of interrogator chambers... With full astonishment on our faces, the lady finally handled over the key. We arrived to the room and were at a loss for words. The vermiculated floor, which must have been parquet once was full of with 2-3 inches of holes. The bathroom didn’t have a single square-centimeter that wouldn’t have been shattered by the last 30 or 40 years. Above the gross corrosion of the taps, fresh dirt was rotting. The lavatory was dripping and stinking in all colors of the rainbow. The sheets on top of our run-down beds were stained with God knows what…We couldn’t decide if the pictures or paintings whether were stolen or the management of the hotel prefers minimalism. Anyway, the room didn’t have any decoration, but the big blood-marks and dried mosquitos stuck on the wall. It might have been better in this way. We wanted to get rid of the musty smell and open the windows, but after we’ve managed to get through the blankets (serving the purpose of draperies) glued to the window frame, we found out that all of them are pinned down. Waking up from the initial shock, we tried to make the best out of the place, we had a shower and tried to sleep.
I’m not going to tell a secret by letting you know that we didn’t have to fill out a guest satisfaction document in the other morning. However, we’ve got a precise, handwritten registration scrap of paper beside the passports.
Escaping via the stargate, both of us filled with the experiences of our accommodation in Olmaliq, we left the city and cycled in the destination of the Fergana Valley
Yep, we had really thigh-tiring days before we reached the Kamchik Pass. We stood totally texhausted in front of the 2267 meters high col and weren’t lazy to flag down a truck. We clang to the straps, fastening the truck’s canvas and that’s how we got over the last 4 kilometers. It was a real action-packed day, with a T-shirt tearing fall, followed by a cry of fatigue and with contiguous military checks. Due to its geographic location, the Fergana Valley is an important strategic area, so the presence of the army is intense. We’ve also been checked by masqued, armed soldiers. While they were overseeing our passports, we had to open up our bags and to show them our pictures. It wasn’t an easy ride at all, but we’ve finally managed to get through the col. Amazing, green mountains, breathtaking view and a slope of 12 degrees were waiting for us.
After the well-deserved, one and a half day of rolling, we checked in to a boarding house at 2 PM in Kokand. Balázs managed to bargain the half of the price after we checked the place. We’ve got an air-conditioned room, a super tidy bathroom and breakfast. So luxurious! The next morning I was literally scratching my head because of the bugs in the bed. From top the toe, I was full of with blood-sucked marks, but no reason to panic: I’ve got a tube of the local anti-scratching serum in the first pharmacy.
Events speeded up after Kokand, we were in a rush to Uchkurgon and were getting ready to step the borderline across. We were stressing about the accommodation registration process. Is it obligatory to register ourselves each day or is it just an urban legend? Well we’ve only got answers at the border.
The border patrol in Uchkurgon walked out of his watch-box in slippers, being a bit dowdy to open the gate. He invited us in with a smile on his face. His colleagues arrived soon and after a fast belt and hat fix they cheerfully settled down to their tables. We had the feeling that we were the first passers that day after a long time. It was 6:30 PM. Two of the border patrols spoke English and happened to be confusingly nice. They checked everything, but they didn’t say a single word in connection with the accommodation registration duties. They softly asked, if we stayed in a hotel in Andijon. We obviously said yes. They didn’t pry into anything else.
After the almost pleasant talk with the Uzbek border patrols, we rolled further to the Kirgiz watch-box with full of excitement.