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Week Five Chapter: 31 May ~ 06 June - Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, China

National Flag of Azerbaijan National Flag of Azerbaijan National Flag of Azerbaijan National Flag of Turkmenistan

"Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless." - Yoda, fictional character in George Lucas' Star Wars universe (First Galactic Empire - ???)

"A house means a family house, a place specially meant for putting children and men in so as to restrict their waywardness and distract them from the longing for adventure and escape they've had since time began." - Marguerite Duras (1914 - 1996)

Starting location for this week: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Ending location for this week: Jinghe, China
Planned mileage for this week: 1,074 miles (1,718 kilometers)


Asalamu Alaykim,

Salamatsyz ba,

Khayrly kün,


(All of the above are forms of "Hello" in different parts of Kazakhstan!)

As I begin this new chapter of the Live!Journal, my thoughts turn to time. What is the ultimate definition of this word we bandy about so loosely?  Do you know?  I didn't.  Here is Wikipedia's entry for an SI Second, the precise unit measurement of human time:

"The unit of time is the duration of exactly 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom at a temperature of 0 K (13th CGPM (1967-1968) Resolution 1, CR 103)."


If it makes in any less confusing, a second used to be considered 1/86,400th of a mean solar day. A mean solar day begs the question - is there such a thing as a nice solar day? As opposed to, say, a bad hair day?

Several weeks ago, my wife, Aillene, was in Manila, Philippines. I was here in Seattle, Washington USA, the Silk Road riders were in Urgup, Turkey. As the group began their contour balloon ride in dawn stillness of Cappadocia, my wife was enjoying lunch with her family, and I was authoring late into the night on this website.  To an independent and universal observer, all of these events were happening at the same time, yet for me, it was 9:00PM in Seattle, 7:00AM tomorrow morning in Cappadocia, and 1:00PM the following afternoon in Manila. All these different times! To solve the problem, we created UTC, or Universal Time Coordinated (not the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga <g>), but then we destroy the simplicity by creating twenty-three different "UTC offsets" to compensate for "local time". Compounding this new confusion, there are both "+" offsets and "-" offsets to "universal coordinated" time.

According to the Roman calender, the week begins on Sunday. However, most people consider Monday the real start.  For our riders, the first week of their adventure began on Tuesday - the day they arrived in Istanbul.  Since this journal is about them, I have arbitrarily created chapters based on their week, which begins Tuesday and ends Monday.

Time is a very fluid notion in the Live!Journal. The entries do not flow in strict linear time, even if reverted to UTC. I follow a simple protocol in creating the journal pages - all entries come to me by email, I order them in the same sequence that they arrived in my Inbox. However, the order in which they are sent is based on the availability of an internet connection, and when the rider had time. Because they can only send email on an irregular basis, the riders store time in their heads, replay the events through a keyboard, and in a few seconds, send a story which coves several days of "time". The retelling may not necessarily be in the same order as the actual events themselves. Sometime later, you read about how they've spent their time.

Don't even get me started on Daylight Savings Time.

It's definitely time to move on . . . .

From a "border post stamp-bagging" standpoint, this week is the most ambitious of the entire tour; the riders will breakfast in Uzbekistan, travel both Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, then make their beds in China before their week is over.  Including US Dollars, they'll bargain in five different currencies in as many days. They've traveled over water, through inhospitable deserts, and will enter The Middle Kingdom, where hundreds of Terra Cotta warriors have patiently awaited their arrival over billions and billions of hyperfine level transition states of cesium-133 atoms everywhere.

Welcome to Week Five of the Silk Road!

Mike, Your Webmeister

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

* * * * * * * * * *

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"

29 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

From: Hans Muellers

Sent: Sunday, May 29, 2005 6:59 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Toshkent (again)


We are almost thru Uzbekistan. Today we entered Toshkent but only to the outskirts. Our bikes are NOT allowed inside the city. MIR arranged to have all of us driven to our Hotel. We had escorts thru all of Uzbekistan every time we rode our bikes. From the beginning when we entered Uzbekistan until today. Even the bus was escorted to the hotel.

It is a little frustrating to ride behind a Police car because the leading car determines the speed of the whole group. Today for example the first 20 minutes we had a lead car that would not go faster than 50km per hour. For us that means 1st or 2nd gear only.

Well we survived and during one leg of the escort the police car even ran out of gas. The officer had to flag down a regular car to take him to a gas station to get a few litters of gas in a plastic jug.

After he came back his police car still did not want to start. Jim Harding helped start the car with some gas from Chris Poland's bike. He just poured it into the carburetor of the car and that did it, the police car could lead us again.

Getting gasoline with 17 motorcycles standing on the one pump is a fiasco, too. One needs to pay before getting gas and the gasoline flows until the man inside the building turns off the electric pump to stop the flow to the spigot. Sure enough most had gasoline spill over but all in all it went well.

We were glad to get gasoline, and some inconveniences are what make us have Adventures. So here we are today, in the City of Toshkent, the last stop in Uzbekistan. We just arrived and let's see what the town has to offer. Temperature today was 104 F.

That is temp in the shade.

All the best,


29 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

From: Sterling Noren

Sent: Sunday, May 29, 2005 9:16 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: journal update


Just a quick note to say that I made it through my first ‘Stan’ – Turkmenistan. I’m not sure what anybody else has written yet so I’ll be brief.

Our first night on land after the ferry crossing was in the port city of Turkmenbashi. We didn’t really have any time to explore further than the hotel since the following morning was an early departure followed by a long ride. It didn’t take long before the city faded away and we found ourselves riding in a real desert with camels just off the shoulder of the road.

I’ve learned to stop and shoot some pictures the first time I see something important because I’ve found out that a lot of times the chance never presents itself again quite the same way or at all. And so it was with the camels – no sooner had I set up the tripod than Rick and Helge rode in and proceeded to herd camels with their motorbikes. In the distance another rider sat perched upon a hill, checking us out. He was the camel’s true owner and probable thought we were trying to steal his herd. We never met him but I’m sure he wondered who in the heck we were after we left. The long day’s ride through the desert brought us face to face with many more camels and an afternoon stop for tea at a roadside café, where we sat for an hour with the owner and his family generally joking around and having a good time. He even offered to kill a goat for us but we declined the offer and made haste on our way to the capital.

Asgabat is the real story but its a few different stories at once and I’m not sure how to tell it properly. The capital of Turkmenistan reminded me of Las Vegas in that it was situated out in the desert and full of all kinds of glittering surfaces that spoke of opulence and greed. In a way it was very beautiful – the golden statues and monuments, overflowing fountains, and marble columns and staircases; certainly unexpected despite what I had read about the place. Architecturally it really seemed to present a unified vision of something at once futuristic and yet timeless in essence. But it also seemed to be some kind of a front or a prop, not really real or too much at once, especially in contrast with the surrounding desert. And the thought of all the money that must have been spent to make all of the monuments and fountains made me a little sad for the rest of the people who live in the country’s stark, poor desert areas. I can only imagine how much of an impression the city must make to someone who has lived in the desert his whole life and never been anywhere else.

Basically the country is run by one man, Saparmyrat Turkmenbashi, and he really, really likes himself. That’s why his face is everywhere – on buildings, billboards and all of the currency. That’s why his book about Turkmen values and culture was itself made into a monument that ‘opens up’ and reveals the pages of text within. That’s why he changed his name into something which basically means ‘father of all turkmen’. I guess he seems a little ego-maniacal to me but he certainly has a taste for elegant buildings and seems to at least have a vision for his country that includes nice architecture. If you’re a citizen of his country you better agree with him or else you might end up out in one of the prisons in the middle of the Karakum Desert.

More colorful in an earthy way was the Tolkuchka Bazaar, one of Central Asia’s most vibrant. Helge and I went down there at sunrise to get an early start. We watched thousands of locals arrive by car, bus, truck and animal and proceed to haul their goods into the bazaar and set up for the day. We soon found ourselves sipping tea with a fellow who looked like he was straight out of the Taliban. After that we went to the camel market where the animals are sold to villagers from the outlying areas. The market was a real highlight and a colorful contrast to all of the polished glitz in the city.

One evening in Asgabat we had the privilege of seeing a local folk performance and fashion show. The music was awesome – some kind of stringed instrument and a drum, and the fashion show was superb. For about a half hour we were treated to a bevy of local beauties displaying everything from traditional Turk clothing to more modern apparel. I’m sure it will be a real highlight of the movie when it’s finished.

Before leaving the country we spent a day touring some of the ancient ruins in Merv and more riding across the hot sands on the way to Uzbekistan. Everywhere in the outlying areas there are people working in the fields. Usually they are wearing the colorful traditional dresses of their country and they look and wave when we pass by. Just before the border to Uzbekistan we had to cross one of Central Asia’s most important rivers – the Amu Daria (?). We all got hopelessly lost in the large city before the border and I spent an hour by myself riding through the back alleys of Turkmenbat trying to figure out my bearings. I felt pretty good later when I learned that the same thing happened to everyone else. I’m currently in Tashkent and will try to fill in some of the news as I get time. Filming everything is keeping me very busy but it’s going well and I’m feeling pretty good despite the fact that I am back in the van and not on a bike anymore.


Chris Poland seems to have a penchant for hats. Of course, with gasoline at ten cents to the gallon, he can indulge in all the hats he wants.

Local guide Sasha from MIR Corporation finds "liquid gold" for the riders.

What is it with these guys and the fur hats, especially if it's 104F out? At least Jim Russell has the sense to have a tall cool one in his hand!

29 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Date: Sun, 29 May 2005 09:49:48 -0700 (PDT)

From: Chris Poland

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Greetings from the land of carpets


I really am alive and lurking in Uzbekistan. The trip has been fantastic so far.

We had a slight "gas crisis" trying to leave Turkmenistan. Gas costs about 2 cents a liter in Turkmenistan, and much more in neighboring Uzbekistan. So it seems that the lure of the black market is too much to resist. All the gasoline near the border is being smuggled into Uzbekistan. We could not find any petrol stations in Mary to buy gasoline.

After checking about 4 stations and not finding any gasoline we regrouped at the hotel. Our local guide was able to find a person that would sell us petrol from his "garage". So we rode as a group to a residence in the city and filled our bikes from 20 liter cans that had been filled from 50 gallon barrels in his garage. Ahhh capitalism at its best.

And yes we did pay more than 2 cents a liter.

Ciao for now,


Email from Dan Zegibe - Somewhere

[EDITOR’s NOTE: Found the following in my email stack. It’s out of time sequence, but I’ve already made allowances for this in the opening paragraphs of this page <g>.]

From: Dan Zegibe

Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 5:22 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Georgia on My Mind

Thanks for the great updates - again a great way to excite future riders.

Regarding the sign in Georgian - I think it's a movie billboard ad for the President's latest kung fu movie, "Iron Palm of the Desert". In the picture he's demonstrating his Iron Palm of the Desert style kung fu as he's attacked by terrorist opponents.

You might want to verify my translation because I'm not very good at the older Turkic languages. I do speak a little Arabic.

Keep the updates coming!

Dan Zegibe

29 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

From: Rick Wetzel

Sent: Sunday, May 29, 2005 10:08 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Rick's latest update 5-29-05

Hi All:

It's ironic that some of you should mentioned the heat back home. Because it was over 100 degrees today, and has been in that neighborhood for the last several days as well. We even cut the city tour of Tashkent, Uzbekistan short today because we were melting in the sun... My nose is of course fairly sunburned as usual for me when I do these motorcycle trips. Sometimes I think I need a welding hood because my sunglasses aren't dark enough! I was only half joking this afternoon when I mentioned that I thought my hat was on fire.

The light makes the many mosques and minaret towers positively glow though, with the evening sun. I still try and get up early for the sunrise, because most everything is made out of handmade brick and cut stone, and especially with the right lighting, it is just beautiful. Plus it’s much more quiet, with people hand sweeping the city streets, and setting up their shops and vending booths. It’s about the only time of day that you don't feel attacked by the almost incessant "buy buy buy...” Plus it’s a heck of a lot cooler, as well, but still plenty warm.

I'm in Tashkent now, as some of you are probably aware of. It is extremely hot, just over 100 degrees. We had an interesting city tour today for half the day, but we cut it short due to us all flagging... We were falling asleep on the bus and also melting in the heat outside.

By the way, we just missed out today on seeing THE "Original Koran". It’s said to be the oldest Koran known, at 1,400 years old. I am hoping that we may get another chance to see it tomorrow morning.

We have been escorted literally every single mile from the Azerbaijani border several days ago. In fact today, they would not even allow us to ride into the city center even WITH a full police escort, but rather had to park outside of the city and bus in. Even with our bus, they escorted us... It’s all fairly ridiculous, but what are you gonna' do?

The riding itself reminds me of what it would be like to ride in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, because absolutely everyone on the sidewalks, along the roadside, and in traffic stops what they are doing to get a look at what we are doing and who we are. We wave to them and beep our horns, almost nonstop! My arm fairly aches at the elbow from waving! I'm starting to get lazy and just beep more now. But now I think I may wear out my horn! That’s OK, though, it’s worth it! My jaw hurts from smiling so much myself. The police block off almost every side road, stop the traffic in roundabouts, and if someone does accidentally get into the middle of our parade they are almost immediately waved over to the side of the road. We don't have to worry about speeding tickets, or any other kind of traffic offense from what I've seen.

On Friday I forgot a bag at a restaurant, and was able to ride back to fetch it, and then turn around to catch up with the group. It was quite the experience to be able to speed, and pass the police cars, even on solid lines, and have them not even bat an eye.

The whole thing reminds of us all of the bumper sticker that says "As a matter of fact I DO own the road..." The smiles, waves and shouts we get in return for the frustration of not being able to have our total freedom though, are priceless.

The cops stop almost entirely all traffic in front of us and with another little squad car following us as well. Almost exactly like in China 3 years ago. It’s really fun for a little while but soon gets old, then the next day its the same thing, fun in the morning then gets real old...

The bummer is not feeling like you can really stop for anything. We do, a little, but we aren't supposed to. Helge is super cool about it, and does not want us to compromise our experience here because of it. It will be nice to cross the border in a couple of days and move on, so as to regain our freedom. Still, as tightly monitored as we are there are funny moments, and of course the cheering and waving too.

Earlier today, I had a cop try and get me to wheelie! The cops are a JOKE! Most of them don't seem to have radios or guns. And thankfully so, I think. Riding a motorcycle in a country where motorcycles are illegal in the cities and who knows where else, is kind of fun, but also definitely also frustrating as well, to say the least. Of course there is an element of humor in the whole thing, which we try to keep in mind as much as possible.

One thing that happened today was, our lead cop actually ran out of gasoline! Another cop went to go buy some and poor Laura was kind enough to donate some gas from her bike to get the carb primed and the engine started...after we almost died of sunstroke on the side of the road!

We only saw two camels today, which was kinda' sad. I do like those camels, and hope we see more before we reach China.

Things are going really well, except for the heat. I think everyone is in the pool now... where I should now be, I think. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to write though, since I haven’t been too good at that. It’s fairly cool in here anyhow.

That’s it for now, just wanted to say I was alive and kicking! (Actually of course, I'm having more than tons of fun,)

Talk to you all later, Thanks for all the emails and please keep on writing when you can...


30 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

From: Laura Seaver

Sent: Monday, May 30, 2005 6:47 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: 24 hours in Tashkent

24 hours in Tashkent.

First, a little recap. We've been in Uzbekistan for a few days; we spent two nights each in Bukhara and Samarkand. There we toured many majestic historical buildings -- some that I have seen pictures of for years. It was great to be there, and I hope others in the group will write about their experiences.

We've been restricted somewhat in our travels in Uzbekistan. Although I can't say it has been welcome, it's hard to complain too much, as just a few weeks ago, we weren't sure we would be able to enter the country at all. So, we've had to travel in convoy with a police escort. As we leave the city in the morning, traffic is stopped for us, and I feel a bit like a celebrity. However, the fun factor wears off quickly. Everyone's riding experience is somewhat compromised -- the fast guys can't ride as fast as they want, the photo takers don't feel they can stop for photos, those who like to stop for snacks or to meet people feel similarly restricted. But it's beyond our control, and everyone in the group seems to be maintaining their sense of humor.

So, yesterday, en route to Tashkent, we had our police escort. It helped a bit, but provided some comic relief as well. It was quite hot, but we got to ride through a piece of Kazakhstan, which shortened our ride some. Apparently, the land is Kazakh but the road is Uzbek. However, to counter the shortened route, we all got to stand around in the blazing sun for a while because the police car ran out of fuel!! And then, we were unable to get around the restriction on motorcycles in Tashkent, so we parked our bikes outside the city limits and took a bus to our hotel.

And now the story of 24 hours in Tashkent-- it feels like three days!

I was hot and tired upon arrival, so I opted against the afternoon city tour. Reports say that it was very good but very hot. Instead, I lounged by the pool at our fancy hotel, sipping on a cold beer in the sun, then diving into a perfect pool to cool off. Yes, it could have been anywhere, but the break was very welcome. Our hotel is right across the street from the opera house, and Gerissa came by to ask John and I if we were interested in attending the opera later in the afternoon. Sure, why not? I could always use some culture!

The opera house is quite beautiful. It's not a huge theater, but very ornate and quite comfortable. The opera was Rigoletto and curtain was at 5 pm. The audience wasn't very big, but at least 8 GlobeRiders were there. I'm not familiar with Rigoletto, nor am I an opera buff, but I was impressed with the performance anyway. There was a full orchestra, elaborate set and costumes, and quite a large cast.

The music was wonderful. We were seated in 7th row center. All for 1,300 soms, which is slightly less than $1.25!! Unfortunately, the heat, the riding, the sun, and the beer by the pool all took their toll, and I dozed off. Since the music was too loud for a proper nap, I left at intermission. Hopefully, I absorbed just a bit of culture!

We were on our own for dinner, so a group of us headed out, looking for something happening. Just a few blocks from our hotel is a street known as Broadway. It is a pedestrian-only street and reminded me of a beach boardwalk. Games to win the stuffed animals, cotton candy, glow sticks for sale, lots of families out, ice cream stands everywhere. It was lined with little cafes blaring pop music which were competing with the karaoke stands that seemed popular with the teenage girls. It was quite the place to see and be seen. Our group split up, with half going into a restaurant (reports were of a very good meal) and the rest of us in search of the cheeseburger, fries, and Coke we had heard rumors of. We ended up at a food court that looked much like the food court at many a mall. The cheeseburger fries, and Coke that I had were just fine, not great, and very cheap. The place was full of people coming and going, so it was fun to sit near the door and just watch the world go by.

After I ate, I made a quick stop at an internet cafe in an attempt to catch up on email (thanks for all the notes!). The connection was fast enough to pull up the GlobeRiders website, so I used that to explain our trip to the older woman running the place. This is always a funny moment. I can tell the point that I have explained the trip, because a look of disbelief crossed her face and then some confusion. She must have misunderstood -- after all, I just told her I was riding a motorcycle to China!!! Apparently, she was charmed enough by the story to offer Chris some chocolate as he worked away after I left.

Broadway was still going strong, and Sterling and I made another loop, checking out all the action. Then we met up with the earlier group who was just finishing their dinner. Some of us went back to the hotel; others stayed out for more.

This morning, I was planning to participate in the half-day group tour, but Perry made me a better offer at breakfast. He has a connection here in Tashkent, and through that connection, he had met a young lady, Yevgeniya, who is a first year university student who also spent a year as an exchange student in Missouri. Perry and David Allen had had dinner with her last night and were planning a day with her. I was happy to join them.

Our first stop was the university. Because of the short notice, we weren't actually allowed to go to her class, but she called her friends with her ever present cell phone, and a group came out to meet us. Interestingly enough, it was only the girls that were brave enough. At first they were shy and nervous about their English, but they all spoke very well.

David gave a short overview of our trip and then they started asking questions. There were about 12 or 15 students talking with us, asking all kinds of questions and answering ours. It was quite fun for me (and I think for David and Perry, too). We had an interesting conversation about safety and the news media after which they asked if we were scared to be there.

They had heard of Americans canceling something at the university because of fear due to the events in Andijan a few weeks ago. "Aren't you scared? No? Why not?" But when we asked them if we should be, they said no. Not to downplay in any way the events, but TV news always makes things look much worse. After all, they must show dramatic images on that magic screen.

After the students had to get back to class, we headed off on our next adventure. Perry had requested to visit an orphanage, so Yevgeniya had contacted one and asked what they needed. So first we went to a pharmacy to procure some medicines. Dr. David decided what on the request list seemed reasonable for us and picked out a pile. After we got the price, Perry went with Yevgeniya to change money to buy the medicines and vitamins. David and I waited at the pharmacy, getting odd looks from people entering and usually smiles from those same people as they left.

During a quiet spell, the pharmacists made us each a cup of coffee, very sweet of course. Then we explained our trip, always a challenge without many words in common. Again, I could tell we had explained it when that look of disbelief crossed their faces! It was probably an hour that Perry and Yevgeniya were gone. Changing money can be a challenge here. Apparently, there aren't quite enough soms to go around, so sometimes it can be very hard to actually get physical money. The largest note is 1,000 som, but sometimes the exchange office only has 200 som notes. $50 in 20 cent notes makes quite a pile!

Then we were off to find the orphanage. We had directions, so we got close, but it took a little doing to actually find the entrance. This place serves children up to the age of three, many with birth defects. I think we were all quite impressed with the place. It was very clean and not too crowded. We hadn't given them very much notice of our visit, so even if they straightened up things a bit to show off for us, they didn't have enough time to really clean up, so we were all convinced that we saw it in its normal state. We weren't really able to visit with the children, as we arrived just after lunch and it was time for them to nap. We did visit one room with children about 2. They had just finished lunch so before nap it was potty time. There were a dozen little kids sitting on their potties in a circle having a grand old time. They smiled and waved at us, happy to have their picture taken. I'm hoping to get a copy of the picture to Mike so you can see the scene on the web site. It was nice to be able to visit such a place, and to make a small contribution of vitamins and medicines (and balloons).

And then, it was off for lunch. We went to the best plov restaurant in town. Plov is the most popular dish in Uzbekistan. It's a rice pilaf, made often with carrots, raisins, chick peas, and meats. This was the first time I had seen it cooked. Huge (4 feet across!) hemispherical pots over wood fires. Different versions -- different spices, different meats -- being cooked in each pot. Perry, David, and I split a plate of plov and shared a shashlyk (shish kebab). Yevgeniya was concerned we weren't getting enough lunch but in the heat, it was perfect. With some nan (bread), of course.

To continue our tour of Tashkent, we next went for a ride on the Metro. Tashkent has three lines, and we rode all three in our quest for the next site. We were headed to old Tashkent to see one of the six original Korans, written in the 7th century. We got a great tour around the library, seeing other special books as well, including many Korans over 800 years old, along with the Osmun Koran. We tried to avoid the requisite handicrafts shop after, but David ended up finding some more treasures there.

Then it was back to the hotel, after a very full day!! We visited a bit more with Yevgeniya, then said our goodbyes. As Perry and I headed to the internet cafe where I am typing this, we bumped into Yevgeniya as she was heading back to our hotel to give us each a small gift. It really was great to spend the day with her, meeting her friends and seeing another side of this city. Perhaps I missed some of the major sites, but I am quite happy to have spent the past 24 hours as I have.

Now it's time to head back for dinner. Tomorrow, on to Kyrgyzstan!



(All photographs courtesy of Laura Seaver and Perry Murray)

Helge, reading roadmaps on the back of his eyelids, waiting for the ferry to board.

Baku, Azaerbaijan ferry terminal holding area.

Roger Waterman finds the best thing to do on a long ferry ride, buy another round!

(All photographs courtesy of John LaChapelle)
30 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

From: John LaChapelle

Sent: Monday, May 30, 2005 9:30 AM

To: Mike M. Paull

Subject: update

(I know this is from a while ago. I'm not much for sitting in internet cafes and unless I can hook up with my laptop, well...I guess these will be sporadic at best.)

Baku, Azerbaijan –

Crazy town. Port city. Old City.

Leave hotel at 9:30 am for ferry. Arrive 10am. Sit. Park bikes near trash heap and abandoned dock. Hand over passports and all necessary paper work Tick…tock…tick…tock. 12:00 pm. We are told ferry will leave at 3:00pm. Tick…tock….tick…tock. 3:00 pm. We are told there is a delay; cargo train that they will load onto the ferry is AWOL. Unsure of its location. How does one lose a train? We are told of a 7:00pm departure. Tick…tock….tick….tock. 7:00pm rings. No departure.

7:15pm! Quick! Move bikes into position. Departure looming!

We open the pool as to when then the last bike will get on board. Roger takes 8:00pm (what an optimist), Emily takes midnight (playing it safe). I grab hold of 9:15. Buck to get in.

Tick…tock…tick….tock. 8:15 pm. Roger is out of the pool. Nothing. 8:16! Quick, sign papers in customs office, all 20 of us. 8:45 last bike rolls on board. Perry is victorious and pockets 10 bucks.

We’ve bribed the boat guys to let us park the bikes with the trains, if not we would be in the hold below. Reason being is on the other end of this water adventure we would have to wait until the trains off load before getting our bikes, which translates to several hours.

Strap down bikes, dumps bags in room (room is an overstatement), and roll down to the bar – pink 80’s Russian motif, TV playing static in the corner and beer. Boat is still.

Tick…tock…tick…tock. By midnight most of the crew heads for bed. By 1:00 am the rest of us have quite the buzz on. Boat is still…well, still.

Tick…tock…tick…tock. 1:30am the Yugoslavian vessel beneath us shudders and grumbles to life, we are on the move.

We are told the water is calm and therefore only one engine will be used. Tick…tock…tick…tock.

3:00 am bar shuts down and we wander to the pilot house.

Bikes hit ground at 8:30pm in Turkmenistan. 24 hours after getting on board, 36 hours since our arrival at the dock. We are tired.


Start the customs process. Holy Scheiße, what a load of paperwork.


3:00am rolls around and we are just about ready to roll out of customs. Shoot, one last stamp.

We hit the hotel by 3:30 am, 42 hours have passed since first arriving at the dock in Baku.

I ask one of the riders, “How the hell are ya', Perry?”

With a grin and bleary eyes he replies, “Hell of a fine day John.”

Thing is, he means it…


Sunday, May 22, 2005

30 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

From: Emily McGay (forwarded by Helge Pedersen)

Sent: Monday, May 30, 2005 9:52 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: update

Hello trip followers--friends and family!

Emily is three days into the trip and we are just now gathering our wits enough to send a couple of photos and some news. From Tbilisi, Georgia to Sheki, Azerbaijan, it rained all day--we managed to stay reasonably dry and saw some amazing countryside. The border crossing was a test of patience, however we understand from Helge it was an easy one. Everything is old--and that is true of border crossing systems--carbon paper to make handwritten documents, one at a time!!

The sheep picture was taken on the way from Sheki to Baku, where we are now ensconced in a Hyatt Regency Hotel, very different from the "Caravansary" where we stayed the first night out of Tbilisi (Roger took a picture which we will share later). It was a challenging day yesterday between the rain and fog and potholes, and of course the cows and sheep. Roger says he used to be 6'3", but now he's 6'2" from all the bouncing around. Emily is just sore! The forested and green landscape gave way to barren, brown hills as we came into Baku, the port city from which we sail tomorrow on a ferry--as the itinerary says, "the cabins are to be rustic" and we are bringing our own food and water. . . And beer, for the 18-hour trip.

We hope all of you are well and happy. So far the bike is in better shape than our bodies; hopefully we will catch up with the bike with a few more days riding. Roger has discovered that his throttle hand must be connected to the right side of his neck--or it could be from his spill on the mountainside going up to the monastery.

Our next message, hopefully, will be from Tashkent--IF the technology works.

Take care . . .

Roger and Emily

(All photographs courtesy of Emily McGay and Roger Waterman)

(All photographs courtesy of Emily McGay and Roger Waterman)

30 MAY 2005 - Bukhara, Uzbekistan

From: Roger Waterman (forwarded by Helge Pedersen)

Sent: Monday, May 30, 2005 9:52 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: update

Hello family and friends!

So much has happened since we last wrote from Baku. We left the hotel the morning of the 19th and waited by the ferry (no waiting room mind you—just on the dirt with a few blocks of stone to sit on, for the entire day). Luckily, there was a little café up the street with a shaded courtyard where most of us spent most of the day, eating, drinking and reading to pass the time.

I used the time to check out the bike. We’d been two-up over some rough roads for two days…the bike should reveal a few oversights by now. Sure enough, with Helge’s and Hans’ sharp eyes, what looked like a loose rear shock bolt turned out to be a broken bolt. Now all I needed was a bolt at a ferry stop. Helge’s well stocked kit didn’t have it, but a guy came from a “shop” across the street and dumped out a full bag of assorted, very rusty, bolts, nuts and washers. Presto! The right match was found. We didn’t even have to use any “loc-tite”…the rust would hold it. Emily wouldn’t be sitting on top of the rear tire anytime soon.

We boarded the ferry at about 8:30 pm—the women were allowed on first—then the guys with the bikes. Roger had found a little store nearby and bought me a “Happy Birthday” balloon (made in China, written in English), and some libations for the crossing so we could celebrate my turning 58! We had dinner out of boxes that had been pre-prepared. The cabins were rudimentary but clean with private baths—but no hot water. I slept most of the next day as there was not much else to do. Turned out to be a good thing. We docked in Turkmenbashi at about 8:30 pm and began a 7-hour passport check, stamping, and filling out paperwork—those with bikes had to clear the bike through customs, which took about 20 minutes each! They let the women go ahead to the hotel, except Laura who was stuck with a bike, and we got there at about midnight. Roger did not arrive until 3:30 in the morning.

Not much to say about seven hours of paper. 12 forms, some of which they didn’t even know how to fill out, but it worked out and we managed to sleep 4 hours and have breakfast in what is reputed to be the finest resort hotel in Turkmenistan.

As we went out to get started, Frank Baughman offered to let Roger and I ride his new GS1200 (brand new!). He had had a bike like Roger’s (R100GSPD) and I think he wanted to give us a chance at a more comfortable ride after two hard days in the rain. It was a very comfortable ride for me! It was a long ride to Ashkhabad—353 miles! About 4 pm we started to approach Ashkhabad and the road widened considerably to four split lanes (unmarked, which is typical here). We had been stopped many times during the ride by young soldiers—sometimes they wanted to see our passports, but most of the time they were just curious about the bikes. There were two soldiers standing in the median of this widened road, and they waved Roger over. He had picked up speed because of the road conditions, so had to brake and pull to the left to respond to their request. As he did so, Frank, who was behind us, tried to brake but could not in time. He hit the right hand bag of his own bike! It popped off, but he went down! It was pretty terrifying to see Roger’s bike skidding down the road and Frank rolling after it!

I got the 1200 stopped! Emily was already off. Ran back to check Frank, but he was already up and coming to us. We checked him over and everything important seemed to be intact (Shirlee, you have a magnificent man, including his titanium knees!). EMILY’S ANGELS HAD SAVED US ONCE AGAIN! We went to get my bike out of the middle of the highway. Picked it up and rolled it to the inside median where we paused to collect ourselves. Short story short, we were fine, Frank’s rear bag was strapped on, my windshield was busted and the left turn signal was off, but all-in-all an exciting conclusion to the day and a great ride on a new bike. Frank and I spent the next “free day” putting the bikes back together. Anatoly (the follow vehicle driver) and his father-in-law helped a great deal by loaning us their “shop” in the suburbs of Ashgabat. I had a half-dozen kids helping me with the final touches and exchanged a short ride for each for their aid.

Ashkhabad was an amazing city of marble buildings and fountains everywhere! Like Vegas, but with no people. Turkmenistan is the only county left that is communist, AND EVERYWHERE there are signs of this. They warned us that our hotel rooms were bugged and of course there were all the police checkpoints. The market in Ashgabat made it all worth it. You will see how they load camels into trucks when they are bought, from the attached photo. The border crossing from Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan was much shorter and easier—then, because of the political situation here, we had a police escort to our hotel (motorcycles are forbidden inside cities). . .

We are now in Uzbekistan—in the ancient city of Bukhara, which is fascinating and beautiful. We have taken many pictures and hopefully will be able to share some of them when we get home. Today we are leaving for Samarkand, another trading city of the old Silk Road. What a trip—we are loving it!

We will not have internet connection until Tashkent, when we will send this with photographs.

Hope you are all well and happy.


Roger and Emily

03 JUN 2005 - Almaty, Kazakhstan

From: Sterling Noren

Sent: Friday, June 03, 2005 8:46 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: live journal update


What a great time we are having out here in world...exploring, touring, riding, it what you will. We are almost through the two "K" countries - Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and about ready to begin the final chapter of our journey in China.

I spent the day riding. Two different bikes actually. Kind of like a test pilot. I prefer the 1200GS to the 1150 Adventure. Its faster and lighter and more within my comfort. On the 1150 I feel like I always have to throw my weight around and muscle the beast into doing what I want, especially at very slow parking lot speeds. The 1200 reminded me of my 650, but with a lot more horsepower - a lot more.

We have crossed too many borders to count lately and we have actually entered Kazakhstan on 3 separate occasions. In reality it is the country where we will spend the least amount of time on this tour and the country we will probably get to know the least. And, in terms of land area, it is the biggest Stan of them all.

Contradictions and paradoxes abound out here.

Just the other day we were in Bishkek. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. There was a fountain with children playing in the water. Everything was wonderful.

Later that night I was watching the BBC and learned that that Bishkek was the scene of a near riot that very afternoon. There was a disturbance at the Supreme Court building and several protesters threw petrol bombs and rocks. The report made it look like an out of control riot. Strange how my personal experience of the city was completely at odds with the one in the news. I get the sense that this kind of thing happens a lot over here. We only hear about the bad things. People should worry less and travel more. Be cautious of course, but not fearful.

I see no fear in the eyes of strangers I meet. Curiosity, wonder, excitement. Everyone is always interested in who we are and what we are doing. When I say "American" they smile broadly and offer their hand. It’s hard to tell what motivates and inspires people over here. Politics and religion seem to be far less important than I previously imagined.

Time, like our webmaster noted, is a very fluid thing. We’ve been on the road for more than a month now. Out here we have no use for days of the week. A rider fell over and we asked him what day it was, to see if he was thinking clearly. Stupid question - I couldn’t even answer myself. Ha! Ha! Days are merely more opportunities to ride and accumulate experiences - see places, meet people, drink in life. Try to put things into perspective but it never works because more stimuli are constantly added.

A real rhythm has been established for the group: wake up, eat, ride, send email, phone home, go on a tour, shop, drink beer, go to bed, sleep and repeat


For days.

In a nutshell that’s a little part of this adventure as I see it from here. Thanks for checking in...stay tuned!


Jeff Roeberg navigates his R1150GS through a stream in the mountains surrounding Almaty, Kazahkstan.

04 JUN 2005 - Almaty, Kazakhstan

From: Hans Muellers

Sent: Saturday, June 04, 2005 2:48 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Almaty ( Alma Ata ) or any other old name this city had


I believe we’ve made it halfway on the Silk Route .

Almaty looks prosperous and modern. Sure, some old-style Soviet houses are around but compared to some cities I have seen so far, it's well off. Oil money, I suppose.

The group is holding up great. Today David Ow received his new shocks. He has been riding for the last week or so on a Pogo Stick. He will be a happy customer. He also joined our  "fell of the bike" club. I was initiated the day before when I hit a rock with my crash-bar. We were going up a mountain to see nomadic Horsemen and the terrain was tough. Coming thru a small creek I misjudged and hit a rock on the side of the road. Nothing happened besides a dent in the crash bar and me getting off the bike. So now I am part of the " fell off" club.

David Ow joined yesterday when he hit a gate in a dust cloud. Frank's ABS locked up going over some rough spots and that put him to the ground. We are having a ball. Everybody is well and we are laughing at ourselves for being members of the club. Nobody got hurt and that is important. David lost a veneer to his front tooth but that is being fixed to day here in Almaty.

Michael (Benziger, who flew in to Almaty from the States) came in as expected with lots of goodies for everybody. Emily and Gerissa are leaving the group and are missed already. Gerissa by all the shop owners for sure. God bless her heart, she can buy well!

We are regrouping and tomorrow we are off to the last stop before entering China . What an experience we are having, impossible to put all this to words, especially when one needs to find a computer on the side of the road and is pressed for time.

Thanks, Mike, for supporting our website, you are doing a superb job.


04 JUN 2005 - Almaty, Kazakhstan

From: Laura Seaver

Sent: Saturday, June 04, 2005 3:52 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: The Mountains

Everyone told us that the mountains just north of our route through Azerbaijan were spectacular. But we never saw them, as it rained for those two days. I never saw any mountains there. In fact, over one pass, the clouds were so low, I could barely see Chris riding in front of me!!

Not so lately. We've got MOUNTAINS!!!! And it's been wonderful.

We left Uzbekistan under police escort and got hung up a bit at the border. That was a concern, as we had a long day -- 350+ miles and another border crossing -- ahead of us. We woke up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and went to sleep in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, but we spent most of the day riding in Kazakhstan. It was a wonderful day, once we made it away from the border.

First of all, we could ride at our own pace. And then there was the scenery. This was grasslands; rolling seas of green, green, green. And in the background were jagged, snow-capped peaks. Just magnificent. Rick and I were soon pulling up the rear, after many photo breaks, gas (and conversation with locals) breaks, stopping for groceries (and conversation, again!), and of course, a picnic, sitting in the grass, watching the mountains.

We rolled into Bishkek just around sundown. It was fun coming into town. There, and the towns we'd passed through, everyone was out in the evening. Families walking, people pushing baby carriages, visiting with neighbors, just being out and about in a beautiful evening. We arrived at the hotel, and did a quick turnaround to hop on the bus with the group to head to a local restaurant for dinner. There, we had some wonderful entertainment. There were four musicians, playing traditional music on traditional instruments. They were very skilled -- the woman playing the mouth harp while her hands danced as well was particularly notable. My camera wasn't quite up to the task, but I know others got some great photos.

During some of the songs, there was a woman dancing as well. And the finally was a man reciting a section of the Kyrgyz folktale, the Manas. He told us of an epic battle fought in ancient times. None of us understood a word he was saying, but it was spellbinding nonetheless.

The next day, we headed up into the mountains to Lake Issyk Kul, the second largest alpine lake in the world. Apparently, it is a popular vacation spot, and our hotel was vintage Soviet, always a little interesting (i.e. weird). The lake stretches east to west, and there are huge mountain ranges to both the north and south. Just magnificent! Almaty (where I am writing this) is only 70 km from our hotel at Lake Issyk Kul, but we rode about 400 km yesterday to get here, because there is no way through the mountains, at least not by road.

We stayed up at Lake Issyk Kul for two nights, and our day there is perhaps my favorite day of the trip so far. We saddled up our motorcycles and headed east along the lake a ways, and then turned north, into the mountains. We headed up a dirt road, through a small canyon. Then the canyon opened into a broad, green valley. With the snow capped peaks behind, it was just beautiful. We kept heading up this valley, turning on to a smaller dirt road, a two-track really, and on up we went. Through a few streams and a bit of a mud bog. The road kept getting smaller until the end, where we were basically just riding over grass. We parked our bikes in a pasture high up at the end of a valley. I took a zillion pictures, trying to capture the majesty of the scenery, but I don't see how a photo could do it justice.

We were there to see some traditional horse games. The Kyrgyz are great horse people. We saw young children completely at home on horseback. In fact, at one point, a baby was crying and couldn't be soothed, so the father finally handed the baby to someone on a horse, and the baby stopped crying.

We saw several different games, all on horseback. In one, a man chased a woman. If he couldn't catch her for a kiss, she got to chase him, belting him with a whip. Then there was a straight-up race. And a competition where the riders had to pick up pieces of cloth from the ground as they rode by. Then wrestling on horseback. And then the finale -- the big game.

(Unfortunately, I don't remember the names of any of these games.) The final game was a team game, where two teams of four horsemen competed to see which team could score goals by passing the "ball" through the opposing team's goal. The "ball" was the headless and footless carcass of a goat! This was serious competition and well-fought -- very exciting to watch.

Then we had a wonderful lunch in a yurt, with some traditional music played for our benefit. It was a wonderful day!! Besides learning about Kyrgyz mountain culture, I got to spend the day outside, in a beautiful setting. It was very rejuvenating. As fascinating as this trip has been, almost all of my "on foot" time has been in cities, and I really needed outside time. Plus the ride up there was great -- the perfect kind of dual-sport riding. To go higher in the mountains, I would want my smaller dirt-bike, but this was great. I would be happy to ride 8,000 miles on that! (Of course, it would take longer than 53 days.)

I wanted the ride back to the hotel to last much longer, but we had to return quickly for a mid-point oil change. Now, we all have happy motorcycles!

Yesterday, we took the eastern route to Almaty. We had lots of great scenery, but one section of the road is up there on the list of Worst Roads. It was a section that was once paved, and now was really bad. Lots of potholes, some bathtub-sized and deep. On the motorcycle, it wasn't bad, as I could almost always find a good line, but I'm glad I wasn't in a car, or even worse, a bus! And now we are in Almaty, which sits at the foot of the mountains, so they are there for a look any time. We are heading up in the mountains for dinner tonight.

In two days, we enter China, and the next phase of the adventure.

Thanks for reading,


04 JUN 2005 - Almaty, Kazakhstan

From: David Ow

Sent: Saturday, June 04, 2005 10:13 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Greetings from Almaty, Kazakhstan - Bouncing along the Silk Road

Greetings Family & Friends,

Well my rear shock gave out about a week ago. I have ridden it for about 1,000 miles with no damping, just springing up and down. This is not so bad on smooth asphalt roads, but they are rare. I have had to try and avoid the rough sections and pot holes. When I hit these rough areas, my bike bounces up and down for a while. I get some strange looks from people as I go by or pass a car. I have another F650 at home and was able to have Judy, Chris and Gabe get it dismounted and sent to Mike Benziger who will bring it to Almaty.

On June 3rd traveling from Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan to Almaty Kazakhstan I did a big bounce. We were on a dirt road about 90 miles out and it was heavy dust. I had just passed Perry after he waved me to pass and was looking ahead thru the dust and could see about 20 feet ahead. The next thing I remembered was standing up and feeling disoriented. When I came to my senses I found that I had crashed in front of a double gate. The left side was open and the right closed. Guess what side I was on?

I went down hard and broke a front tooth and damaged my helmet. I don't remember seeing the gate or crashing at all. Perry came to the scene and said I was grabbing him to get off the ground. He tried to calm me and check for any broken bones but I did not cooperate. My bike and I had slid to a stop right in front of the gate. Most all who saw the gate said I was lucky to have survived! The chase van came and I was put in to ride into Almaty. I didn't feel too badly but probably was out for a few minutes. Helge rode my bike the rest of the way and parts of the road had the roughest and biggest potholes so far on the trip. Sterling rode Helge's bike.

This morning Mike Benziger gave me the new shock. Helge, Jay and I started to replace it after breakfast. The dismantling went fine. The broken shock fell out in pieces. All the internal pieces and shaft dropped out when the bottom bolt was taken out. Helge said if he knew how bad it was he would not have ridden it! I left them to finish the job and to put new brake shoes on and the rear wheel.

I was off to see a dentist. Bud and Judy have a friend living here in Almaty and he came to pick Frank Baughman (who is a dentist!) and I up to bring me to a local dentist to repair my broken front tooth. He was able to get me in to a very busy and modern dental office. The dentist took an x-ray and was able to make a temporary crown to fill-in the big gap. It looks great and got Frank's approval. I felt so secure to have Frank looking over the procedure. I paid the bill - about $25 US. What a bargain!

So my bike is fixed and I have a new tooth. All is well and I am ready to continue on the ride. Thanks to everyone that helped me and for their concern.

Motorcycling On,


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