Travel fatigue?

Posted on 2019-07-02

After leaving our friendly hosts in Kitob, we cycled a long, flat stretch to Guzar, where we couldn't find a guesthouse or hotel, but ended up sleeping in an empty room of a restaurant. The food was good and affordable (on the menu), and when we asked the staff for the cost of the empty room for a night, he gestured (as far as we understood) that it would be very cheap or free for us. But the next morning, when we asked to pay for our food and stay, he added up a long string of numbers in his calculator that came up to about 60€! When we complained and and pointed at the menu, he recalculated the numbers, still including several random numbers that finally added up to about 20€ instead. Already tired from a hot and sleepless night, we grudgingly accepted, but we left cycling up the mountains towards Boysun in a bad mood.

We soon realised that people south of Samarkand seemed more similar to Iranians in their interactions with us: more intrusive, more noisy, and more needy for attention compared to the people we encountered earlier in Uzbekistan. All too often, we would have some car passing on our left honking at us, some people near the road shouting at us, all while we had to focus on navigating around the ubiquitous potholes on the road. The sheer number of honks alone were driving us crazy: we counted about one honking vehicle per minute. Being on the road for about 5-7h/day, that's about 300-400 vehicles honking at us in a day. Some honk once, but many honk multiple times, or lean on their horns for several seconds, blasting into our ears as they pass. The selfies also started again, Iranian-style, where people would stop their cars in front of us or wave us down from the side of the road, shouting at us to stop so that they can take a photo with us. The bad roads only made things worse. Twice, Heiko didn't see a bump or pothole while going downhill and fell, once with the heavy bicycle doing a forward somersault, throwing Heiko over the handlebar, who miraculously landed on his feet and only received some scratches from the bicycle flying after him. It must have looked really bad, but the truck driver behind us, who must have witnessed the accident, only did what we should have expected - sound his extremely loud horn while overtaking us.

On the road, Heiko had numerous nervous near-breakdowns from all the noise and stimulation. Hannah, on the other hand, coped by retreating into her bubble and ignoring everyone around her. A few times, Heiko was quite sure he managed to convey with gestures (and sometimes expletives) his discontent with slowly passing drivers who honked excessively next to him, only to watch them proceed to Hannah further front and honk there, too. We don't know why people often spoke so loudly despite standing next to us, why people insisted on shouting questions to us from afar and waving us over, apparently expecting us to shout our replies at the top of our lungs or go far from the road to meet them, or why they seemed to be so unbelievably obnoxious. Despite the beautiful landscape, we often really didn't enjoy being on the road, and as we tried to avoid people as much as possible, we wondered if we had just become entirely tired of travelling.

It wasn't all bad though. The scenery after Guzar was really quite impressive, as we crossed the westernmost spur of the Gissar mountain range, with its many canyons and interesting rock formations. On our way up to Boysun, we found a really nice place to camp, shaded from the scorching sun by a cliff and next to a small stream, where, for the first time, we could wash ourselves properly before sleeping in the tent.

One of our nicest campsites to date, sheltered by the mountains and next to a small stream, on our way up the Gissar mountain range from Guzar to Boysun

One of our nicest campsites to date, sheltered by the mountains and next to a small stream, on our way up the Gissar mountain range from Guzar to Boysun

Okravot village nestled in between the impressive mountains, on our way up the Gissar mountain range from Guzar to Boysun

Okravot village nestled in between the impressive mountains, on our way up the Gissar mountain range from Guzar to Boysun

The Machay river passing through the village of Derbent, in the Gissar mountain range on the way to Boysun. In the background the tops of the cliff edges of the Machay canyon can be seen, named after the river that passes through it.

The Machay river passing through the village of Derbent, in the Gissar mountain range on the way to Boysun. In the background the tops of the cliff edges of the Machay canyon can be seen, named after the river that passes through it.

Arriving in Boysun late after a long day up the mountains, we headed out after dark to find dinner, only to have a few strange and intrusive encounters with (probably drunk) people that did not help in improving our opinion of the locals. The people we met the next day, however, actually turned out to be quite friendly, as we explored the large bazaar and visited the Boysun Crafts Centre, which has a museum showing the regional styles of carpets and fabrics. After the demise of the ancient Silk Road, Boysun and the surrounding region became relatively isolated, favouring the preservation of unique folk cultures and traditions that have even been recognised by UNESCO for its intangible cultural heritage.

Boysun bazaar

Boysun bazaar

Traditional carpets and embroidered cloths on display in the museum at the Boysun Crafts Centre

Traditional carpets and embroidered cloths on display in the museum at the Boysun Crafts Centre

From Boysun, we were looking forward to a long 40km downhill, but we could unfortunately not enjoy the ride because of the bad roads and strong headwinds (and of course, honking cars). When we had almost reached the end of our descent, we suddenly felt a gust of hot air, as if someone had opened an oven door in front of us. It had already been hot up in the mountains, but the lower plains around Denov were, as expected, even hotter. The road to Denov across the plains was so unexpectedly undulating that we arrived quite late, completely exhausted, and decided to stay for another rest day. Denov didn't offer many interesting sights, so we mostly worked on this blog, shopped for food, and accidentally met a local Couchsurfer, with whom we talked for a while.

Kyzyl (red) canyon just outside Boysun on the road to Denov

Kyzyl (red) canyon just outside Boysun on the road to Denov

Road sign on our way down from Boysun to Denov, in the Gissar mountain range

Road sign on our way down from Boysun to Denov, in the Gissar mountain range

Vegetable market in front of the Said Atalyk Madrasah in Denov, from the 16th century

Vegetable market in front of the Said Atalyk Madrasah in Denov, from the 16th century

We still couldn't fully understand why we were so annoyed with the local people, and why we were so constantly pushed over the limits of our tolerance, resulting in such violent thoughts that shocked even ourselves. We were both eager and anxious about our next country, Tajikistan, where we had read some reports that the drivers honk a lot less. Could it be true?