The Uzbeks are extremely fond of their bridges. Enforcing a strict no photos rule, extending to the water over which they stretch. However, they seemed to be rather concerned about this particular bridge, with a man stationed every hundred feet. Not that he would do much, as most crouched down – deep in thought staring at the floor; leaping into a half hearted attention as we neared.
To our disappointment, we were not greeted on the otherside, with a grand palace or spectacular building, just a long desert road. A road that made the mornings route look like child’s play.
For 15 km, sand banks towered over each side of the pass. The wind blissfully slicing the the top off of each peak and dusting the route below. It was a mixture of gravel and deep sand, in a beautiful ripple effect as far as you could see. Only, the ripple was not piles of sand and gravel that had settled from the wind, but immovable impressions from lorry tyres.
Each one thicker, harder and higher than they appeared. Sending shock waves through my bike and bones. Everything rattled, everything shook, including my once firm chest. With a swift turn of the wheel, I headed for the oasis of flat golden sand, to the right of the mountainous peaks of gravel. Only to be met with a similar fate. The back wheel kicked out, and like the titanic, I sank.
After what seemed like hours, my tyres grip the hot tarmac of a highway and with a firm push, I am freed from the hellish grip of the sand pit. Only a few Km along the road and several Tea houses emerge from the suns haze. A welcomed sight! Its nearing 1pm and time for the scheduled escape from the sun, for the next few hours.
Our swift departure from the first – owing to a lack of food and drinks; was made with even more haste, when the eight year old boy working there, gave chase. Up hill, he began screaming, making the ever saddening gesture, sliding his thumb up and down, across his closed fingers. The gesture for money. Accompanied with this, he began to sign 3,000 Som.
We had no clue why this previously calm and shy boy had switched so rapidly, but his high pitched shouting and aggressive swiping at Amund’s bike, suggested that we should keep moving.
Out of sight and reach, the next four stops are literally on top of each other. Using my expertise of this region and the fine delicacies of the Uzbek culture, I narrow our choice down, to the one with the most people outside.
With a warm greeting, we summit the steps, only to be blinded by the smile of the proprietor. You can stop where you are, if you think this going to continue to describe a beautiful young lady behind a wonderful smile. ( I would be so lucky)
Behind the soft flesh of this strangers gums, sat a row – top and bottom; of gold teeth. Not the cheap grill kind either. No, these were a string of golden nuggets. They looked out of place both in a persons mouth, and in the mouth of a person who had no oversized chain hanging from his neck, nor rings on his fingers and a rap career behind him. Picture the wealthier, Asain cousin of Jaws (Spy who loved me).
But this was not the first or last time that I would meet someone, who had put their money where their mouth was. In Bukhara I would meet a street beggar – pushing a disabled child; who had more gold in her mouth than I had money in my pocket.
No one – locals included; had any idea why people fill their gobs with the metallic yellow rocks. The stunned silence was broken when he demanded we enter the cafe. Stepping inside, there was no familiar cooking smell, that frequented these establishments.
There was also no need for the “Point It” book, which was away faster than it was opened. Cradled in both his hands, as he stood with sand below his feet, was a fish out of water. Gasping and writhing, in the hot desert air, its silver scales glistening in the sun. No bread, no noodles, no veg. All they had, he repeated, was “FEESHH”.
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