April 25, 2013
As much as I enjoyed being the lap of luxury at Hotel Uzbekistan (photos to come), I would rather be with the other backpackers, swapping stories and tips. So, I took the subway there and got a room with three other French guys. In fact, I was the only person who was not French. Times have changed, and most French speak good English, so other than feeling a loser that only speaks one language, it was fine.
Time was ticking, however. I needed to get to the Embassy of Tajikistan for another visa application before noon. It was already past 11. I grabbed a cab and got there with 20 minutes to spare. Initially, the guard tried to convince me that the consular section was closed, but I pressed harder, reminding that I am just applying for a tourist visa. He relented and went inside to speak with someone. Shortly after, he waved me in. I spoke with the consul’s assistant, who collected my application materials. He then went to the consul, and he also came back promptly to wave me to the consul’s office. Wow! This is awesome! No crowd. No scrumming. This is how visa applications should be!
Unfortunately, when he saw that I wanted to enter Tajikistan on May 5, he told me to return May 3 for the visa. I balked. As with anything else here, getting a visa is a negotiation. I told him I couldn’t wait that long since I had plans in Western Uzbekistan. He backed off and offered Tuesday, April 30. Fine. At least I can leave Tashkent for a while while it processes. I was just annoyed that I can’t get my visa the same day like everyone else. What can you do?
From there, I walked to Seattle Peace Park. It’s a small area where preteens painted tiles in 1988 and sent them to Tashkent. Surprisingly, the Soviets didn’t dispose of them and those that haven’t been stolen or broken are still there. Some are quite humorous in their non-sequitur themes. That was nice and all, but I needed to try and make this Soviet capital less boring than it is. Talking about getting food and logging on to Facebook isn’t going to keep you interested.So, I went to their museum of fine arts, which was better than expected, but I did have to wait 15 minutes for the woman selling tickets to return from who knows what. Actually, you really didn’t want to read that either. So, let me talk about some of the people I met, who really are interesting.
Most of you reading think I am nuts, but let me tell you about two French guys in their mid-20’s that are in my book. Charles and Pierre are two lanky, fit, and well-educated dudes. They were at the end of their 3 week journey. They flew into Almaty, assembled their bikes, and rode from the airport, to Kyrgyzstan, through Kyrgyzstan, over multiple mountain passes, into Uzbekistan, and eventually ended in Tashent. Total distance was about 2000km or about 1200mi. When they were tired, they just hucked their gear off the road some distance and camped. Luckily, they didn’t get snowed on, but it was cold at night. As amazing that trip was, they were in awe of another cyclist that they met who had grown a Forrest Gump like beard and was riding his bicycle from his home in Belgium to Mongolia or Nepal. I forget.
So, if you think I am crazy. I’ve got nothing on these guys!