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Week Three Chapter: 17 May ~ 23 May - Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan

National Flag of Azerbaijan National Flag of Turkmenistan

"Between the great things we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing." - Adolph Monod (1852-1852)

Starting location for this week: Baku, Azerbaijan
Ending location for this week: Mary, Turkmenistan
Planned mileage for this week: 746 miles (1,193 kilometers)

Salam aleykum ("Hello" in Turkmen)!

Our riders have left Turkey far behind them. They rode through Georgia when George W. was visiting. They ride now into the lands and forests of Azerbaijan. Say it. "Azerbaijan." Even the name sounds full of mystery and magic. The pace of life slows, the lands become increasingly rural, and the distances stretch. Internet cafes and dial-up connections, the arteries of the Live!Journal, are few and far between. They came by plane, they travel over land, ahead of them is a journey across the Caspian Sea - welcome to Week Three of the Silk Road!

Mike, Your Webmeister

Unless otherwise noted, all photographic images on this page were taken by Helge Pedersen.

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To find out what time it is there (or anywhere!), visit The World Clock.

To see where they are now, visit the Navigation Technology Chapter.

For more information about the countries in this week's leg of the Silk Road, please visit the resources listed below:

- The World Factbook, maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States

- The Consular Information Sheets, provided by the Department of State of the United States

- The web-based, free-content encyclopedia entries at Wikipedia, maintained by "GlobeWriters" everywhere

Turkish & Georgian Dance

(NOTE from your Webmeister: - I received the two short videos below from Laura. I didn't get a story or any explanation with them, but I don't think any is needed.  They're about dance, and we're not talking Swan Lake, we're not talking River Dance, but something both wildly different, yet in between.  Enjoy!)

Turkish dance to the left, Georgian dance to the right. Click on the PLAY button (arrowhead) to start or re-start either. You'll need the free QuickTime Player to view these.  There is no audio.

14 MAY 2005 - Tbilisi, Georgia

From: Hans Muellers

Sent: Saturday, May 14, 2005 2:52 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Tblisi, Georgia

Gamarjoba (“Hi” in Georgian) -

It is fun to learn all the languages on the road. Even when in town for just a few days, I like to at least say “Hi” and “Thanks” in the native tongue. Some sounds I can not even make. In Georgia they have a sound that sounds like a German “ch”, but not really.

How is Georgia? Area is wonderful, very rugged country with lots of rivers, woods and waterfalls. Food is so rich and varied that I can not eat it all. We had dinners where the food just keeps on coming over and over without stop. I can eat, but it had me groaning and I literally had to open some buttons.

Riding on the highway is easy. In town, watch out for potholes and missing manhole covers.

We had a relay police escort yesterday, just because the police commander thought it would be a nice gesture for us to have an escort. With sirens and blaring horns and at top speed we rode for some time thru towns and highways. Helge reached a speed of 80 miles per hour. It was amazing how friendly the people are. Economic conditions are on the upswing but remember, they are starting from the basement floor. They have a long way to go before they reach a comfortable level.

Everybody in the group is having a wonderful experience. The mood is excellent and even the weather has been on our side. Georgians are so happy that Mr. Bush came and visited. Everybody is literally smiling that Georgia was recognized by the mighty U.S. Now that the writing style changes we have a difficult time reading signs. The style of writing is so different that one needs to stop and read slowly. Lucky for us some signs are in English, too.

All motorcycles have held up so far, albeit some screws rattled loose. Some fenders fell off but that is to be expected.

Tomorrow we will lay in a maintenance day and look over each bike before going on to Azerbaijan.


14 MAY 2005 - Tbilisi, Georgia

From: Laura Seaver

Sent: Saturday, May 14, 2005 3:56 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Moments from Turkey

Sorry about the errors in my last email. Thanks to Chris for editing the funky "i"s. Unfortunately, I can't promise that things won't get even weirder as the languages and character sets get more and more unlike English. I've tried to verify that this one is better, but I'm not even sure about that.

Before I tell you about Georgia, I want to describe some scenes and moments from Turkey.

One of the first striking aspects of Turkey is the wealth of antiquities. And they are just sitting out in the world, unrestricted by gates or fences. Three examples: We spent several hours wandering around Hattusas, the remains of the capital city of the Hittites. The ruins are about 5,000 years old, and we tromped down the old streets, through the city gates, and even saw the customs offices outside the city wall. On another day, we took a slight detour on a great road in order to pass through the town of Vile, where Julius Caesar made his famous "Veni, vidi, vici" statement. On our first riding day out of Istanbul, we had lunch in a little cafe in Iznik, across from the ruins of an ancient church. In the old days, Iznik was called Nicea, so this is where people got together to decide what Christianity would become.

Rural Turkey is quite picturesque, although the related fact is that life is quite hard there. We would see lots of livestock -- cows, sheep, and goats-- being herded along. Frequently along the roadside are watering stations -- constantly running water into troughs. In fact, one day, we were riding a dirt road up and over a mountain, and on the way down, we came across a man who had just finished watering his sheep.

As we passed, he was struggling to get the last sheep into the back seat of his car!

People in Turkey were very friendly and curious about us. One day, we stopped briefly in a mountain town, and as school had just let out, we were surrounded by curious kids. Many of them spoke good English. I was talking to a group of boys about 14 or 15 years old. When they found out I am a math teacher, we got into a conversation about what they we studying. They didn't understand the words I used to describe topics so I pulled out a piece of paper and showed them different problems. First, I got the "Oh, that's easy" reaction, then the "We did that last year" response, until we settled on what they were studying. (Precalculus, in case you are curious.) My riding buddies got a chuckle out of that. They all know I'm a bit of a geek, but here it was in action!

We stopped at a bakery for a break. It wasn't set up as a cafe, but they provided tea and seats for us, as well as a tour of the operation. I pulled out my phrasebook to have a conversation with one guy by each of us pointing to sentences in the book. That worked pretty well, as my Turkish, other that food words, is pretty much limited to “Yes”, “No”, “Please”, “Thank you” and “Unleaded Gasoline”.

One last example of being made to feel welcome in Turkey. We were riding along a major road, and I was in the right hand lane. A van was very slowly passing me on the left. I was getting a little impatient because I don't like to sit right next to a vehicle on the road. However, as the van came even with me, I looked over to the see the woman in the passenger seat. She was a Moslem woman wearing a full head scarf, and she was waving furiously at me with a big smile on her face. And then she blew me a kiss as the van slowly pulled by.

News from Georgia in my next email....


(NOTE: All photographs in this story taken by Laura Seaver)

14 MAY 2005 - Tbilisi, Georgia

From: Laura Seaver

Sent: Saturday, May 14, 2005 4:55 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Tbilisi, Georgia

We are passing through Georgia quickly, but there is still time to form impressions. As always on crossing a border, it's the differences that are noticed most immediately. One of the most appreciated first differences is the price of fuel. Turkey has the most expensive gasoline I have ever seen -- about $8.00 per gallon. Georgian gasoline is about $2.50 per gallon. We are all looking forward to Turkmenistan, where it is apparently 50 cents a tank.

The first city we saw in Georgia is Batumi, a seaside town on the Black Sea. Then we traveled to the capital, Tbilisi, where we are spending three nights.

Georgia continues to face lots of challenges. The streets and sidewalks are in terrible disrepair. Many of the buildings have an almost bombed-out look to them. Many vehicles are old and belching black smoke (although I have also seen more Mercedes in three days than I do in three months in Seattle) and people, especially in the countryside, are obviously poor. But it is a beautiful country, and my arm got tired yesterday waving back at all the people waving at us as we rode from Batumi to Tbilisi. People also seem to have a lot of hope for the direction Georgia is heading.

Our ride yesterday was quite interesting. First we headed up the Black Sea coast. We passed several seaside resorts that looked as though they might have been quite luxurious during the Soviet era but now look decrepit and abandoned. We had very good GPS information for our ride yesterday, so we were well aware of the upcoming right turn to head inland. In fact, we all had our turn signals on. Even so, a police car in the intersection blocked our way so that we had no choice but to turn, and he herded us around the corner until we were on our way. That was how it worked -- we didn't even need the GPS yesterday.

There were four of us riding together yesterday, and we got a police escort out of Batumi. Then this cop marking the turn. A few hours later, we pulled into another city, Kutaisa. A police car comes up behind us, siren, horn, and lights blaring. We of course pull over, but then the police wave us on. It was our escort through the city, and quite welcome from our perspective. Traffic is a bit crazy, so it was great having it cleared in front of us. We also didn't have to worry about making the correct turns. All we had to do was concentrate on staying out of the deeper potholes!

We stopped in the town of Gori for a while to tour a museum. Gori is the birthplace of Stalin, and there is a museum there solely focused on celebrating him. It was weird to see him lauded this way.

The first thing that happened to me after I crossed into Georgia from Turkey, after I parked my bike where our group was collecting, was that I was interviewed for TV. I have no idea when and where it was broadcast, but it was interesting and made me think fast. I have been out of contact with news (not reading or speaking Turkish) so I was unaware that George W. Bush had just been in Georgia. Thankfully, the Georgians see it as a successful visit. It is a bit odd, however, to see his picture on huge posters everywhere, and lots of American flags, including a garden with flowers planted to show both the Georgian flag and the American flag.

Today has been a sightseeing day, and tomorrow is a day completely off, so I am looking forward to sleeping late, checking over my motorcycle, and wandering more around Tbilisi. And then it's off to Azerbaijan!

Thanks for all your notes. It's great to hear from you.



14 MAY 2005 - Tbilisi, Georgia

From: David Ow

Sent: Saturday, May 14, 2005 6:07 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Greetings from Tbilisi, Turkey

Greetings Family and Friends,

Riding in Georgia is extremely dangerous. The locals drive like mad men and racing thru traffic like they don't care about living. They pass on blind corners, pass with oncoming traffic making the other cars move on to the shoulder of the road and come up along side of motorcycles missing by only inches. Heavy traffic as we approached Tbilisi and had to stay alert. Had to watch for potholes and stay away from aggressive drivers.

Went sightseeing today to see historic sites and museums. The gold pieces are amazing in detail and were made 500 BC. Sunday will work on my BMW to check over nuts and bolts, oil chain, etc.

Most people are friendly and after finding out we are from the USA, give us a big handshake. Must have something to do with President Bush's visit. Bill boards around town have his picture and USA and Georgian flags.

Lunch at a small bakery was great. A small pizza and a Coke was $1 US and a piece of chocolate cake was 75 cents. Gas is about $3 a gallon.

Motorcycling On,


15 MAY 2005 - Tbilisi, Georgia

From: Helge Pedersen

Sent: Sunday, May 15, 2005 10:26 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Farewell to Turkey

Hello Again -

I have had the pleasure of visiting Turkey several times and like previous rides through the countryside I once again had a fantastic time.

The difference this time was that I shared the Ride with 17 other bikers.

For most of the people in the group this was their first ride in Turkey. Talking with my fellow bikers and listening to their daily stories, it was wonderful to hear their enthusiasm and their joy of a ride that in many instances was categorized as the Ride of Their Life. Stories about friendly and helpful people and breathtaking scenery were shared over dinner every day.

The 10 days we had in Turkey could by no means make justice to what this country has to offer. If you really want to see it all I highly recommend that you join Kazoom Moto Adventures for their month-long Full Turkey Tour. This tour is also organized guided by Kazim Uzunoglu, our local guide and owner/operator of Kazoom Moto Adventures. Or you can contact Kazim for a private journey with rental bikes. To contact “Kaz”, just click here.

I know that several of our group members already are planning to return to Turkey for an extended bike Ride. But we still have a long way to go to China.

Georgia next!

Greetings from Helge P

15 MAY 2005 - Tbilisi, Georgia

From: Helge Pedersen

Sent: Sunday, May 15, 2005 11:07 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: A Race with the Cops!

Three bikes and a police car are parked next to the main road. Hans, Roger and I get pulled over to join the others.

Speeding? Yes, we might have been, or was it the rolling stop before crossing the railroad that they were going to book us for?

Neither! El commandant had ordered the officers to escort us bikers, I was told. So there we were, waiting for the rest of the group to gather to start a convoy through the beautiful countryside of Georgia. Great, just what we needed to ruin our day. We argue forth and back and finally our small convoy of 6 bikes starts the long ride towards Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia.

Painfully slow, following the speed limit of 40 km/hour, I could feel my frustration was building. Several cars passed us despite the police car’s flashing lights ahead of the convoy. OK, I had enough time to think of the consequences of a breakaway. Obviously the intention was to protect us and show us a good welcome to Georgia. I could imagine that El commandant must have instructed his officers to take good care of us. For this reason I did not feel too bad when I sped by the police car leading our little caravan, following the Silk Road.

David followed suit and so did Perry and the other guys. Not long after I heard the sirens from the wanted-to-be-in-the-lead police car. I kept my speed up but pulled over to the side a little and waived him by. Gesticulating arms and upset faces exchanged looks as they passed, but this time at a higher and much more pleasant speed that they kept up for a little while. That was until we came to a police checkpoint where, to my surprise, another police car waited for us and I realized that we now were a part of a relay.

The difference with this fellow? Our new escort a lone officer in his new Volkswagen police car, and he liked to show us some speed. I followed close while I saw the rest of the group fall behind. With speeds exceeding 80 miles/hour, and blasting sirens and blinking lights, I could see chickens and pigs run for cover while old ladies dove into the trenches in the villages we flew through. I had never seen anything like this before and it didn't end here. We still had 4 or 5 more relays to go!

All of the drivers had their own entertainment value to us, the polite group that dared to hang on for the ride. One of the officers, who was a passenger in the front seat, manned the microphone in the police car. As he was screaming and yelling at the traffic ahead, he was literally hanging out the side window waving and telling everyone in our path to get out of the way and make way for the bikers. I laughed so hard in my helmet at times that I almost drove into a manhole that was missing a lid as we ran another red light.

This was one of the wildest things that I have ever done on two wheels. At times humorous, scary, and also in some ways a little sad. As a biker we work hard at respecting the new places we visit. We try to blend in and go with the flow of traffic and show respect for the local people that we meet. Having the police escort us was most certainly well intended, next time though, I hope we can do the ride alone.

Gasoline is cheaper, pot holes are bigger and the ride goes on.


Helge Pedersen

17 MAY 2005 - Baku, Azerbaijan

From: Hans Muellers

Sent: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 5:06 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Baku, Azerbaijan

Hi -

I will send this again, wording might be different. The computer has not really arrived here in Baku.

All is well, everybody is in good spirits and we had a blast so far. The Group is a fine Group and everybody a competent rider. Yesterday we had to ride in the rain and because it was such a heavy rain some rivers spilled over the side and we needed to cross the river sideways. For about a mile or more we rode thru water. Not too deep but water riding anyway.

Today we had heavy fog with top speed of 20 miles per hour. First gear going up the mountain and no visibility. It was a blast. All made it just fine.

Azerbaijan is a wonderful green country in the hills and mountains and has very friendly folks. Last night we overnighted in a Caravanseray that was in almost original condition. No hot water, but it was part of the authenticity. Just the camels were missing. Great food and good company.

Our modern camels, the metal kind with the rubber tires, are holding up and hauling us all over.

All is well and it could not be better.


17 MAY 2005 - Thinking about Georgia

From: Sterling Noren

Sent: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 11:36 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Letter from Sterling Noren


Our four day passage through the country of Georgia is over and it feels like it has been a good introduction to a small part of the world I might have overlooked had it not been for this tour. The country is a small but beautiful place that lies to the south of the Caucasus Mountains.

Our first evening was spent in the town of Batumi. Initial impressions were formed rapidly. The many grim, concrete apartment buildings surrounding our hotel immediately brought back memories of other soviet cities I have traveled through; ¬ colorless, cold and void of any sentimentality to my eyes, the building seem to languish in a landscape somewhere between better times and forgotten dreams. Laundry hanging from balconies and wires overhead gave the only impressions of color in an otherwise dreary looking scene. What the scene lacked however, was more than made up for by the color of the inhabitants ¬ jovial, talkative and ready to celebrate, at least in the hotel bar downstairs.

Batumi was an important city during the Georgian Rose Revolution in November 2003, one of the peaceful “velvet revolutions” that have happened in several post soviet societies in the region, including the Ukraine and most recently Kyrgyzstan. On our way out of town we crossed a bridge that was under construction and learned that it was being rebuilt because it was blown up during the revolution. Apparently the officials were trying to prevent citizens from Tbilisi, the capital, from going into Batumi to take part in the demonstrations.

Our arrival in Tbilisi the following day brought both shock and awe when I saw the cover of several local newspapers. Apparently Americas own G.W. was just here, on his way back from Moscow. His visit to Georgia seemed to be a positive thing and most of the Georgians I spoke with were impressed by his promise to help their small country and, surprisingly, his ability to dance (during a performance of Georgian music). The main event was a speech he gave in the city’s Freedom Square which was right outside of the Marriott Hotel that we were staying in.

One of the surprising things that happened while we were in Tbilisi occurred Sunday morning. As I was walking out of the hotel I saw several police vehicles approaching with sirens wailing. This wasn't really unexpected since I had previously witnessed the same thing two or three times the previous day. It seems that the president of the country likes to make a big impression when he moves about town and he often does ¬ it with an entourage of police and security vehicles in tow. This time, however, it was really crazy. In a short time there seemed to be well over a hundred police vehicles outside of the hotel, and funny looking white vans with green crosses on them, and more were arriving by the minute. Strangely enough, there was no panic and I was allowed to film everything as it happened without knowing what all the fuss was really about. It turns out that the white vans were new ambulances given to the country by neighboring Russia and they were making a public presentation of the gift. After several hours of jockeying for position in the main square, they were all parked in unison around the fountain and sometime around noon all of the sirens were turned on and they rode out of town.

Sterling Noren

17 MAY 2005 - Thinking About Azerbaijan

From: Sterling Noren

Sent: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 11:38 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Letter 2 from Sterling Noren


Heading east we are geographically and culturally traveling further and further away from our homes. While Turkey seemed exotic and foreign at first, it now seems like the good old USA compared to Azerbaijan. Typical scenes from the road to Sheki include shepherds tending to their flocks and magical "fairyland forests" where you half expect Little Red Riding Hood to pop out of the bush at any minute. Tea is an important beverage here and steaming pots are set roadside to lure passersby into stopping, not that there are many. Things seem to move at a nice and slow, rural pace here, and our arrival always draws a crowd as I am sure it will for the remainder of the journey, barring some of the larger cities which are a little easier to escape into.

Melding into the scene, trying to be inconspicuous, that's how I seem to operate. As a person who takes pictures it seems to work for me. Still photography is easy, just a quick click and it's done ¬ the photo is made.

With video things are different. I have to set up a tripod and record a scene for several seconds. Often something will happen to spoil it. Somebody will bump the tripod, or a truck will park in front of me. By then my cover is blown. Everybody sees me and knows what I'm doing.

Sometimes the opposite approach works. I just walk right up to the person I am interested in and smile openly. I point to camera and ask them if I can take their picture. Usually they nod and allow me to do so.

I'm amazed at how easily I can be picked out as a tourist. It happened the other day. Just when I thought I was looking relatively ordinary, walking down the street, a young street urchin came up begging for change. She grabbed my clothes and wouldn't let go. I didn't want react too strongly but her grip was really tight. Finally a woman came up and scolded her and she left me alone. I realized then that it must have been my fanny pack, the hip bag that gave me away. Not that I really look like a local but there are certain accoutrements that are dead giveaways.

Our first night in Azerbaijan was spent in another Silk Road caravansary ¬ one of the old, stone buildings that served as early "motels" for the many camel caravans that used to frequent the region. I bought a hat from a local hatter, a black sheep's wool kind of thing, which was handmade, fit very snugly, and kept my head very warm in the cold mountain air of Sheki. I jokingly remarked that I had the perfect disguise, now nobody would be able to tell me apart from the locals.

After a great dinner outdoors we were invited to partake in some apple tobacco from a hookah, and then the invitation was extended to include drinks at a local bar. Soon we were driven into town by some of the locals and found ourselves in an unknown location in a roomful of young Azerbaijan men. This time, I definitely wasn't inconspicuous and my hat only seemed to emphasize the fact. All eyes were on John, Chris, Rick, Kirill and I as we settled in for whatever was in store for us. We ordered some beer and a bullet shaped bottle of vodka. I fired off a few quick shots from my camera since I had brought it along, but almost wished I hadn't, feeling a strange sense of uneasiness in the room. I'm not sure what it was but there was a lot of laughing and finger pointing and I couldn't tell whether it was "with us" or "at us". Nobody else said anything so I thought maybe I was being a little paranoid.

At one point a man that appeared to be about 20 years old invited me out back to show me something. He pointed to my camera as if he wanted me to bring it along. He led the way and I followed out into the darkened courtyard behind the bar, relieved that nobody else was following us. He brought me to a large plywood box that was lighted from within. Through a wire covered mesh I could see a flock of dozens of birds inside, pigeons perhaps. He wanted to show me his birds! That's why I had to bring the camera. I took a few shots and thanked him for showing me the birds and then went back into the bar and had another kind of shot. A short while later we were all driven back to the caravansary where I had a restless dream filled night.

Sterling Noren

18 MAY 2005 - Georgia. . . .

From: John LaChapelle
Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 1:26 AM
To: Silk Road Live!Journal
Subject: Update


With Turkey behind us we find ourselves rolling through Georgia, and wow what a stark contrast. Missing manhole covers, roads that rattle the dead to living, miles of abandoned colossal apartment buildings/resorts, and perhaps some of the craziest fashion sense I’ve seen since looking though my high school year book. Love the place!

The riding has been incredible. Not easy by any means, but not necessarily troublesome either, you simply need absolute focus at all times. No daydreaming. Yer riding along at 60 mph and notice a manhole cover is missing… tends to keep you awake, adrenaline and all.

The days are beginning to get blurred as I don’t remember which hotel was in which city or what day was when… and sometimes I carry my books to school.

Since entering Georgia we’ve been quite the news item, Georgian television was at the border interviewing us and filming our every move and when we hit Tbilisi on Friday there were TV people and newspaper journalists… a few of the Globerider crew even managed to make the front page of the paper, big photo and large article. Weird. In fact, as we’ve rolled our way through this amazing country, we’ve had police escorts though each and every town.

Bush was here a few days ago, somebody I guess through a dud hand grenade at him? And now there’s been some turmoil in Uzbekistan, borders shut etc… we shall see.

It’s been a pretty amazing adventure so far… and we’re only a little at two weeks into the ride.

And yes, the beer is cold.


18 MAY 2005 - Baku, Azerbaijan

From: David Ow

Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 11:01 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Greetings from Baku, Azerbaijan

Greetings Family & Friends,

Stayed two nights at the Hyatt Regency in Baku. It is very nice and I feel spoiled to be in such luxury.

Went sightseeing today in the old city of Baku, and outside of town to see the petroglyphs that date back 40,000 years. Saw the oil fields on the outskirts of town. This is the major oil region of the country.

Tomorrow we cross the Caspian Sea on a freighter. Not sure what to expect since it is not set up as a ferry. We will have to supply our own food and drink for the 18 hour crossing.

Had a day of rain coming from Georgia to Azerbaijan. It wasn't too heavy and we were able to arrive safely. The caravan hotel was very basic. No heat or hot water on a rainy day. Oh well, the ancient travelers did it so I should not complain.

Motorcycling On,


18 MAY 2005 - Georgia. . . .

From: John LaChapelle

Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 7:28 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: update


Two days with rain spanking all of us, yet no mishaps. Treacherous fog over the mountains in Azerbaijan, 20 feet visibility at best. Thank god the Azeri’s don’t believe in using their headlights – perhaps the bulbs are precious and should be saved. An audible “Holy Sh$#!” fills my helmet when two burned-out Ladas (Russian vehicles) appear magically from the fog twenty feet in front of me, two abreast. Now it’s my chore to find a scant two feet on the right side of the road to slide by, mentally taxing to say the least. Oh yeah, forgot about the cows and sheep littering the road.

Somehow all of this provides for a great day. Just 20 clicks shy of Baku, pull off the road for a great meal in a tiny truck stop café – outdoor table, lamb soup. Best damn food I’ve eaten… it just might be that I feel happy to be eating it and not the road!

Cool town Baku. Cool people.

It’s boat time…wondering about Uzbekistan.

John - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

20 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

(EDITOR'S NOTE:  Although three attempts were made, for some unexplained reason, the Uzbek consulate denied a visa for Hans even though he carries a US passport. Imagine (if you read his Bio), the one rider who is an expert in silk was denied passage on the Silk Road! As the rest of the group made their way across the Caspian by ship, Hans flew into Tashkent, arriving there almost 10 days ahead of the other riders, a sort of "back to the future" on his own. A very happy Sterling Noren is driving Hans' motorcycle.)

From: Hans Muellers

Sent: Friday, May 20, 2005 4:17 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Tashkent, Uzbekistan

I could not get a visa for Turkmenistan so I flew to Uzbekistan yesterday. I tried to the very end to get a visa, even went to the boat that took the others across the Caspian Sea, still I was not allowed into Turkmenistan.

A 3-hour flight and just a little hassle about some stuff I had in my riding suit but all is well.

Was very much surprised on how clean Tashkent is. Compared to what I saw over the last few weeks, it is an oasis. Sure, it's former Russia, but nicer. Must be because no trucks are allowed inside a town (only with special permission) and no motorcycles. I have no idea how the group will get to their hotels since riding to the hotel is out. They must get special permission which I understand is NOT easy to get. Well we will see. MIR, the tour group, worked a special program out for me and today I had a personal tour of Tashkent and even saw the motorcycle they provided so I can ride a little in Uzbekistan while everybody is in Turkmenistan.

Sure I will miss Ashkhabad and the famous Bazaar, but then I will see things the group will not see. Trade-off for not getting my visa. I left the group in good condition and hope to find them near the border in the same way. 7 days from now I will know more. Until then I will explore Uzbekistan on my own and so far all is well.

Give me a little time and I will find every back-road and will learn some more of a culture that is so different and so rich. What an experience! The tour today was of a library with one of the oldest Korans in the world. Written in the 6th Century on elk skin and well preserved. A local king received it as a gift from the Emir of Baghdad. Too bad this Emir is no longer around, I could use a treasure like that, too! The book is very revered and precious. Hidden in an unassuming Mosque right here in good old Tashkent.


Carpets for sale and the prices are good. Shipping is a bit of a hassle but I will try to get a good deal on a carpet anyhow. Wish me luck.


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