A new country

Trip Start Aug 07, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Uzbekistan  ,
Saturday, October 3, 2009

I leave Dushanbe early and decide to head straight for Uzbekistan. I realise that I am over halfway in my journey and this will be the last country. I have only 10 days left before my Uzbekistan visa expires.
It's a sunny murky day so I can see little beyong what I pass through but I'm definitely in the cotton belt and harvesting is going full pelt. I get to the border and have this Tajikistan customs official screaming at me. Consternation. I seem to have personally upset him. I manage to understand that I pulled in to a filling station and signalled late, according to him. IN TAJIKSTAN!!! I'm the only one I've seen indicating. Still apologies are proffered and by the end of our exchange we are the best of friends even though I've not left a "tip". The next hurdle is the dreaded OVIR registration.
"Where is your registration document?" asks the young army official.
"I don't need to register." I smile sweetly.
"Big problem."
"No problem at all." I respond.
He hurries off to consult and returns with the captain. We have the same conversation. I tell him I have tried in Murgab and Khorog and been told registration is not necessary. Passport details are entered in the book and I am sent on my way.
Tajikstan formalities completed I go to the Uzbekistan barrier and there is a jolly crowd of us waiting. I assume lunch hour. As usual a big mob gathers around the bike and there is the usual run of conversation. All the pedestrians are allowed through the barrier but the two of us in vehicles have to wait another 5 minutes. By the time I get to the Uzbekistan passport post there is a large queue. I join at the back. I am then urged to skip to the front. All agree and not being one to spurn hospitality I do.
Then there is the second barrier of the bike and customs. I fill in the duplicate forms, fortunately in English but with a familiarity from my Russian experience. No problem with that. They are particularly interested in what money I am bringing in. I fill in the amounts of cash in my wallet. I then go through the most extensive search of myself and the bike I have ever experienced. In one pannier another wallet is found and seized upon. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that they can be very funny about money and see a night in the cells beckoning as I desperately try to think if that's the one with the roubles and Ukrainian notes. Fortunately there are only a few coins so I'm not guilty of a capital offence. After every pannier and bag is unloaded and repacked I am given the all clear and offered a piece of pomegranite and I'm on my way into my last country.
I'm still in the cotton belt all the way to Termiz on the Afghan border. Hundreds of people working in the fields handpicking it and tractors with huge cages trundling along the road to the depots. I stop at the outskirts of Termiz to get my bearings and another crowd join me. I enquire about a hotel and a taxi driver takes me in hand! We tries one place but no joy then we head to what turns out to be an amazing sports complex and I'm booked in or am I? I have to bear in mind that each night in Uzbekistan the hotel has to register you.
After a lot of anxiety and failing to communicate with my smiling caretaker in this enormous building with only the two of us rattiling around in it the administrator arrives and sorts everything out includung getting me a taxi to take me to a restaurant where I have a fantastic shashlyk, nan and tea. It turns out that the place gets a mention in the LP as being under renovation. I'm afraid the plans never go beyond the drawing board. When I return the place seems to be occupied by a number of young athletes. It is called the Tennis Court hotel.
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