Bad tourist

I am not a tourist, I am a traveler -I said. And my Russian teacher responded: Я не турист, я путешественник. I keep telling people I am not a tourist. I am not motivated by the monuments, movement is my drive. Change is life.

But when I am in cities, I play tourist a bit. It can be interesting sometimes.

I finished the previous post saying that the next one would find me at Madina & Ilyos guesthouse and there I was. Madina, the Uzbek matron running the house with her husband had put a brick on the floor to reduce the height of the entrance step so that I could get the bike inside the small courtyard. The courtyard was quite small and it was already crowded with an Africa Twin with a humungous fuel tank (43 liters the owner declared later) but I managed to fit the bike in a corner.

Z in the courtyard
Z in the courtyard

Cédric, the French owner of the Africa Twin soon showed up and so did Tarik (FR) and Bruna (FR-BR), Tristan (FR) and Tina (SI). A very friendly bunch that was also checking in that same day. We lazed around in the scorching heat of the morning and around lunch Tristan, a regular patron of Bukhara and Madina’s took me and Cédric for shashlik lunch at the market and to visit Char Minar in the old town. It was so hot that we looked at Char Minar for a very long time. Not because of its beauty or its many interesting and complex features but because there was a bench in the shade in front of it conveniently situated at the entrance of a little shop selling drinks.

Char Minar
We rested in front of Char Minar during the hottest part of the day

Later in the day we visited an old mausoleum and went for dinner all together, the English bunch and the French bunch but we didn’t mingle, as if an invisible channel had been drawn on the table.

Feeling that my tourist duties were not fulfilled, I set off the next day with the intention of doing some sightseeing but as usual, I set off after 10:30. It was already more than 35 degrees in the shade and a lot more in the sun and I found out that I couldn’t even take refuge in the Ark because it’s being restored so I took refuge in the mosque just in front of it, the official mosque of the emirs of old after going around the Ark to try to find another entrance and ignoring an old man who kept shouting Zindan at me and pointing in the general direction of the old prison museum. The mosque had air conditioning and I was alright there, until I tried to approach the Koran and was shooed away by one of the locals who interrupted his own prayer to show me that I couldn’t approach the stand where the Koran was. That was my cue to leave and keep playing tourist.

Next stop was Job’s well and its small water museum where I hadn’t planned to spend much time. I hadn’t even planned to enter and when they asked me to pay for the ticket, I had to go back out and count my money. In the end, I decided to enter and it was a good thing.

I hadn’t spend long looking around the small museum and wetting my lips with the water from Job’s well that the resident English speaker, a charming young woman by the name of Nigina was talking to me:

– Where do you come from?
– I come from France. I came by motorcycle.
– You must be crazy

I had just been called crazy by my museum guide, this was a sign that I had to make the conversation last. Fortunately, she was of the same opinion and after she took care of some other visitors, we went back to the front of the museum and spent the rest of the afternoon talking about my trip, her aspirations, sharing photos and just chatting. When the museum closed, she proposed to show me the other monument I had planned to see that day, the Samani mausoleum but only if I carried her computer. I am a gentleman so I said yes and not only she showed me the mausoleum but plenty of other interesting things I had missed in Bukhara while we slowly made our way to the central pond.

Zarina and Nigina
Nigina and her sister Zarina

The last place we entered was the carpet museum where her sister works. After the introductions: “Here’s the crazy guy travelling on a motorcycle”, I was admitted into the museum. While her sister explained the carpets in Russian and I struggled to understand, Nigina translated into English for me. She was truly determined to make a good tourist out of me.

So much so that she proposed to pick me up at my hotel the next day and come with me to the Summer Palace. And so she did and we spent the whole day together, sharing stories and laughs but neither drinks nor food because it was the month of Ramadan and she was fasting. Out of respect I tried to refrain from drinking too ostentatiously in front of her but the heat was too much and I wasn’t going to dehydrate (I don’t know how she was resisting it).

Harem and pond
The harem and the pond at the summer palace

Aside from being a very bright woman, Nigina studied to be a guide and knows a lot about her city and her country; it was very instructive to spend the day in such good company. She told me stories about each place we visited and she had a small book telling the legends related to each place. Ah! My favorite kind of history is of course fake history: legends! What more could I ask? But the heat of the mid-afternoon was too much and she had to take a rest, otherwise she would faint before the maghreb hour and so she went to her sister’s museum while I went to the internet café. Internet is quite scarce in Bukhara and the only true option is the café, even in hotels the traffic is limited to emails or charged by the hour.

When the heat of the afternoon died down a bit, I went for her and we spent some more time together. She had promised to tell me about the traditional Uzbek wedding ceremonies and I introduced her to the French bunch (I call it the French bunch but it includes Tina, who is not French, not in the least).

The French bunch
Bruna, Katya, Cédric and Tina

On the way to the taxi she told me about Nasreddin, the guy sitting on a donkey next to the central pond in Bukhara. Uzbekistan’s comedic hero.

Later, I went for dinner with Bruna, Katya (she had arrived later at the guesthouse), Tarik, Cédric and Marion (she just appeared out of nowhere and asked if she could sit with us). It was the end of a very pleasant stay in a very beautiful city where I met plenty of good people.

Bishkek, Alamudun District, Kyrgyzstan

Too many highways

Sunset at the gas station
One for the road, almost in Prague

I have been speeding through Western Europe in order to reach predefined destinations at predefined dates. 150kph in France to get to Metz, 150kph in Germany to reach Dillenburg. It’s not funny, I get tired a lot faster at these speeds. Now it’s finished, today I arrived to Prague from Dillenburg and I had decided that even if it took me the entire day to get here, I would not speed through it. It was a lot more pleasant! I did get tired, after all I rode for the whole day but the road was much nicer: no turbulence in the helmet, a lot less vibration in the handlebars and if it’s not too windy I can ride the helmet visor open and smell the road… The fields, the woods, the other vehicles exhausts. Ok, that last one’s not so exciting but the other too are really worth it.

I set off from Metz quite late on Wednesday (it’s becoming a habit) still with this idea in my head that I should get an off-road helmet only to find out 20 meters later that I had broken the zipper on the right leg of my riding pants. Instant budget reallocation happened there and I no longer need an off-road helmet. All the shops were closed in Thionville because I arrived 10 minutes into the lunch break. The shopkeepers were all there in the shops but refused to open the doors. Bye bye France!

I arrived in Luxembourg too late for lunch with Boris so I wend straight to the bike shop to get new pants and the Portuguese sales guy tipped my decision to the no off-road helmet needed camp. And this is were I sped my way to Köln in order to arrive before off-the-road closed its doors and get  the last tools in my kit: tyre levers and chain breaker+rivet tool. I also tried to get a new air filter and brake pads but off-the-road doesn’t take anything but cash at the shop. Bikers beware, place your orders on the web or pay cash. Unfortunately the guy at the shop was too much in a hurry to wait for me to go to an ATM or place a web order. Thus, I decided to come back the next day. Little did I know (or remember) that Köln and Dillenburg are 125km away :(.

Sarah and Hugo were waiting for me so I sped again and there they were. More good friends, this is a great way to start an adventure. They had delayed their otherwise Germanic-scheduled 6 o’clock dinner to eat with me. They are so nice, I bet they were starving. The next morning, after breakfast with Hugo, I set off to Köln. This time more relaxed, I knew I had time and after getting my stuff from the shop I wanted to see the Cathedral. I saw it’s backside, it’s right side and I even saw it from across the river but I never got to see the façade, never managed to get there and I was cooking in my riding gear so I stopped for a brat wurst and I was on my way back to Dillenburg through the small roads. This was a good and a bad idea. Good because I enjoyed the road a lot but bad because I first had to get out of the city through what seemed like 50km of suburbs full of traffic lights and pedestrians and cars and I was still cooking like an egg in the microwave inside my jacket: about to explode!

Some nice roads later, in Dillenburg, I installed the headlight cover and the foam air filter. The bike’s first reaction was to not start. Panic! Alright, it only lasted for a few seconds until I turned the throttle a bit and kept it on until the correct air flow was re-established. But I did panic for a moment, it’s my first mod that gets so close to the engine. Then I was dragged to the neighbors’ living room to see a football match. I couldn’t say no because they said I could bring my laptop and play anti-social (anti-football actually). Yay! I had 90 minutes to put music on my phone, now my phone is full of Argentine music, ready for the road ;-), which takes me to today.

In Dillenburg
With Hugo, just before leaving Dillenburg

Alice is waiting in Prague for our 2-day trip to Budapest where she will take a bus back to Prague so I woke up a bit earlier than usual and still set off only at 11am. What’s the problem with me and early morning? :-P. Anyway, after breakfast, while I was preparing to leave, Hugo prepared me a lunch box. Thanks Hugo! I ate it at 2pm by the road, it was very nice. Actually, thanks Sarah and Hugo for the wonderful welcome you gave me.

This is the road I did almost completely without leaving the 95kph-105kph range, a very pleasant experience with a bonus. I have finally experienced the fuel autonomy that Yamaha promises in their brochure. Whilst in the city sometimes I have to fill the tank after 280km, today I could ride 420km without hitting reserve. I filled the tank only because I was getting nervous that the gauge could be malfunctioning. It wasn’t, there was still 1 or 2 liters left before the reserve.

Now I’m lying on my hammock at the camping in Prague, hesitating whether to sleep on the hammock or get into the tent. I think I’ll go for the tent, there are mosquitoes here and although they don’t usually like my blood, I don’t want to tempt them. So happy to have brought a hammock :-D.

 

Prague, Prague, Czech Republic