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48 degrees. In the shade.
The road from Mary, Turkmenistan to Bukhara, Uzbekistan has been a tough one. The Kara Kum desert is really hot and with the long days (sunrise 5 am sunset 9:00 pm) the heat is unrelenting. Forty-eight degrees in the shade in one camp. Over 55 degrees in the sun. And in a desert camp there is no escape from the sun. Even driving, the air blowing in thru the windows feels like the equivalent of shoving your head in an electric dryer. Breakfast is a 5:00 am, riders are on the road by 5:30 and by 9 am your water bottles are hot enough to make tea with the water in them. Traditionally the local people cook their bread on the sand and you could boil water by leaving it on the dashboard of your car.
Riders are drinking up to 15 liters of water in a day. The faster riders are lucky. They get to camp by 11 am or so and can sit in relative shade under our canopy and some of our camps have been near the Kara Kum canal where you can cool off, at least for bit. Some of the slower riders don’t reach camp until one or two in the afternoon when the heat is at its worst.
Every one has toughed out the heat admirably. There have been frustrating moments, exacerbated by the heat, but in general everyone has kept their composure. It’s a unique experience, cycling through these kinds of conditions. An experience not many cyclists in the world will ever have. Like many sections of our tours, it redefines what you consider difficult, or hot, or long.
The border crossing into Uzbekistan was uneventful. The process took a bit of time but went smoothly. No matter how many borders I cross it’s always a little off putting to see young soldiers with machine guns staring at you and telling you what to do. In the 3 hours I spent getting the TdA vehicle across though I had some pleasant moments with them. Commiserating about the heat, marveling over the
quality of our bicycles, and (fortunately) laughing about the vodka they found in our van.
Environmental conditions aside the ride from Mary to the border was fun. The Turkmen people are friendly and welcoming and very, very proud of their country. We camped at a couple police checkpoints along the way and the police were always accommodating, although usually a bit confused about why we were doing what we were doing. Touring the ancient ruins of Merv, just outside the newer city of Mary was a treat. The sense of history in Turkmenistan , as in Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan is palpable.
From here there are only two days left to the finish line in Samarkand. For most of the riders the end is coming too quickly. It’s amazing how fast 6 weeks goes by.
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