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Week Four Chapter: 24 May ~ 30 May - Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

National Flag of Azerbaijan National Flag of Turkmenistan

"Nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kind of people." - Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Starting location for this week: Mary, Turkmenistan
Ending location for this week: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Planned mileage for this week: 790 miles (1,264 kilometers)

Salaam aleikhem ("hello" in some areas of Uzbekistan)!

The planning for a GlobeRiders moto-adventure begins years in advance of the inaugural tour.  The initial "pre-run" for the Silk Road was done by Helge's friend and fellow adventure tourer, Frank Campbell, back in 2001. In 2003, I had the good fortune to ride a good part of Turkey with this year's excellent guide "Kaz", along with Silk Road rider Bud Robinson. In 2004, Helge did a second reversed-course pre-run of the Silk Road to log waypoints and verify route planning, accommodations, border conditions and nightly security for our clients' motorcycles.

As the embarkation date approaches, a 40-foot container with over a quarter-million dollars worth of specially-outfitted motorcycles is put on the water. The anticipation reaches the breaking point, the desire to get underway is huge, riders want nothing more than to get on their bikes and hit the road-less-traveled.

When Bud and I road from Munich into Turkey in 2001, we entered a few weeks after the "coalition forces" entered Iraq. This year, our riders head into an area of the world where political unrest has made international headlines in recent months, and almost daily news in recent weeks. No one could have predicted this, it is the reality now, and our riders are already on the road. They do not travel blindly. They are accompanied by local guides and drivers, and have the amazing resources of our travel partner, MIR Corporation, to clear the way for them.

Several days ago, I received email from Susie Poland, sister of GlobeRider Chris Poland. Susie works in Mozambique, supporting the efforts of USAID in that country (the United States Agency for International Development).  She emailed me with information regarding the inner-city ban on motorcycles that had recently been announced by the government in Uzbekistan. Douglas Grimes and his team at MIR already had contigency planning in effect.  Our riders were registered with the embassy, and permits had been secured allowing them to take their bikes directly to the their inner-city hotels during their stay in Uzbekistan, in spite of the ban. Once again, they may be riding with a police escort, but hey - it's all part of a real adventure.

Welcome to Week Four 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

MAY 2005 - Ban on Motorcycles in Uzbekistan

Due to the political unrest in Uzbekistan, the government has banned motorcycles from certain parts of the cities.  Since this directly affects our riders, below you will find several links to news sites with more information on the matter:

Note: These links are provided as an informational service.  They may become inactive at anytime. If they do, please email us and explain the problem. - just click here to open a new email message.

(Photo courtesy of Ben Hodgson)

21MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

(Editor's Note: Recall that our good friend Hans was denied a visa to enter Turkmenistan for some unfathomable reason, thus, he flew ahead to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to await the group’s arrival. Our travel partner arranged the loan of a motorcycle for his use in Tashkent.)

From: Hans Muellers

Sent: Saturday, May 21, 2005 11:59 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: RE: Tashkent, Uzbekistan

The center of each city in Uzbekistan has a ban for MC (MotorCycles). I had to travel to the outskirts first to ride the bike. NO bikes are allowed inside a certain perimeter. The story goes that the president here had a warning that someone on a motorcycle is going to kill him. Easy solution: Ban all motorcycles !

I do not know how it will be for the group since the logistics of storing the bikes away from the hotels is mind-boggling. But something will be done, I am sure.

We will all overcome.

Yes, one can ride a bike in the outskirts and on the roads between cities but that is it. Yesterday, Kirill and the driver took me for a picnic out in the mountains. It took about 2 hours to get to the location of the picnic and of course, 2 hours back. In all this time I only saw ONE bike and that was not even registered. Bikes are not popular here.

MIR is trying to get a special permit for our group, even if it means riding in a convoy. We see and hear nothing of all the reports you see on CNN about the unrest. Local newspapers do not say much either. It is far away from where we are going and in a very isolated province. Not to worry, we are ok.


23 MAY 2005 - The Caspian Sea

From: Sterling Noren

Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 7:22 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: journal update


We went down to the ferry terminal in Baku at 9am. After a long hot day of sitting on the shores of a polluted lagoon next to the ferry parking lot we were all aboard by 9pm. The ferry didn’t leave until 1 in the morning but there was a bar on board which nobody expected and that made things easier.

The following day was a "sea day" and we could see the rocky shores of Turkmenistan just as the sun was going down. Our approach was slow and silent, the large ferry gliding in towards this new country. Heading into the ferry terminal everyone was standing up on the deck, looking into a setting sun, behind the jagged peaks of Turkmenbashi. We were tired and apprehensive about the check-in procedure and customs upon arrival.

Customs took awhile and we didn’t get to leave until 3am. Fortunately it was a short ride to our accommodations and the next day we were on our way, riding across the desert to Ashgabat.

The crossing of the Caspian Sea marks a real turning point in our Silk Road adventure. Geographically we are leaving behind one region and traveling into another. The forests and green mountains of Georgia are long gone and the vast Karakum Desert lies before us.

Culturally we are also in a different place. Our fading ties to the "western world" were left back in Baku; we are now completely being absorbed in a different world. It’s a world of camels and sand, of roadside tea houses and wandering shepherds. There is the heat, a vast desert to the north and the Kopak Dag range to the south.

This is Central Asia and we are heading into the heart of it.


A happy Sterling Noren, all set to ride Hans Muellers bike through Turkmenistan (Hans was denied a visa). Here Sterling sets out for the ferry terminal in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Bud Robinson checks out the bikes on board the ferry.

GlobeRiders up in the bridge on board the ferry. John is no doubt showing off his new-found GPS skills to the navigator.

Steaming across the Caspian Sea.

24 MAY 2005 - Seattle, WA USA - Update from MIR

(Editor's Note: GlobeRiders is fortunate to have MIR Corporation as our travel partner. Many pundits have proclaimed the internet will be the demise of the independant travel agency - will your online travel site be able to offer this kind of support? Douglas Grimes is the Founder of MIR Corporation. "MIR" means "friendship" in Russian.)

From: Douglas Grimes

Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 4:27 PM

To: Mike M. Paull; Helge Pedersen


Subject: Uzbekistan update

Hello Mike and Helge:

Well, we have tried about one hundred different approaches to tackle this recent law which doesn't allow motorcycles into the city center and the only solution has been secured and put into place. We have secured a letter from the Internal Ministry to allow you into the center, to the hotels in each city, and onward to the next. They have required a police escort however, which we could not avoid. So you will be getting an extra escort thru Uzbekistan by one or even two police vehicles.

Helge, I do understand your wishes not to have things be restrictive while traveling along the route, but we do have to arrange it this way to insure the groups’ ability to get to the hotels. According to the authorities, without this, all motorcycle riders would simply have to get off their bikes at the city border area, park them and use local transport to go into town. This is just not acceptable, so this is what we could arrange. I do not know how it will feel on the ground there until it starts to unfold, but we shall see.

Dima from our office in Tashkent will be at the border upon your arrival along with Kirill and Hans and they will inform you of the details and how it will work.

I will try to call you in Bukhara to check in how things are going.

All the best,



MIR Corporation

Journeys to legendary destinations at the crossroads of Europe & Asia.

Specializing in Siberia, the Silk Route, St. Petersburg & Beyond since 1986.

Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Baltics, Central Asia, Iran,

the Caucasus, Mongolia, China, Tibet & Central/East Europe.

85 South Washington Street, Suite 210, Seattle, WA USA 98104

206-624-7289 fax 206-624-7360


26 AMY 2005 - Seattle, WA USA - Update from MIR

(Editor’s Notes: “Kirill”, mentioned below, is the immensely resourceful MIR local guide out of Moscow, who is with the group all the way to the Chinese border. “Autumn” is the remarkable woman at MIR, here in Seattle, who is the in-house specialist and go-to person for GlobeRiders tours. “Yava” is the correct Romanization for the motorcycle brand known as “Jawa” here in the Western World.)

From: Autumn Cutter

Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2005 1:10 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal


Subject: [GlobeRiders] News from the Silk Road?


I did receive email from Kirill this morning and all is well. The group continued through Turkmenistan and into Uzbekistan smoothly. No problems at the border were reported.

As we predicted, they do have a police escort, which is unfortunate yet unavoidable at this time. I think you should expect an update from them soon, perhaps tomorrow once they have time to sit down and get access to the internet. Kirill said there has been lots of shopping going on and everyone seems to be in good spirits.

Hans did ride the Yava motorcycle about half way between Khiva and Bukhara until it broke. We heard it was a good adventure overall for him and he was happy to meet the group at the border.

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions.




MIR Corporation

Journeys to legendary destinations at the crossroads of Europe & Asia.

Specializing in Siberia, the Silk Route, St. Petersburg & Beyond since 1986.

Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Baltics, Central Asia, Iran, the Caucasus, Mongolia, China, Tibet & Central/East Europe.

85 South Washington Street, Suite 210, Seattle, WA USA 98104

206-624-7289 fax 206-624-7360


GlobeRider Laura Seaver (standing), MIR local guide Kirill Takhtamyshev (sitting)

David Allen makes good use of a bike cover while waiting for the ferry to begin loading in Azerbaijan.

Different folks, different strokes - Jay Yanick takes a more "sunful" approach to waiting.

Gateway into Ashkabad, Turkmenistan.

"The overwhelming impression of Ashgabat is impressive, ornate, white, monumental buildings." Here, Jim Russell rides past one.

"... And very few people!" The Arch of Neutrality.

Chris Poland, Rick Wetzel, another white monument, many bikes, no people.

Morning market.

26 MAY 2005 - Bukhara, Uzbekistan

From: Laura Seaver

Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2005 10:28 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Turkmenistan

Now that we are in Uzbekistan, internet connections are better and paranoia is down, so I can tell you a bit about Turkmenistan. Bottom line, I liked it, but, man, is it weird!!!!

First a bit about our arrival: We took a ferry across the Caspian from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan. The ferry does not have a regular schedule, so we knew we would have to be patient and flexible. We arrived at the port before 10 a.m. and stayed around. Then we were told that we could leave but had to be back by 2 pm. I went to a close-by cafe for some lunch. Then around 3 we were told to be back by 7 pm. The bikes had already been processed at some level, so we couldn't take them. I offered to spend my last Manats on beers at the cafe, and, not surprisingly, found a few takers and others willing to do the same. The cafe courtyard was shady and pleasant. Back to the bikes. We moved them across the parking lot. Then started a pool to see when the last bike would be on the boat. Perry won with the winning time of 8:45 pm. Okay, we are on the boat!!!

Well, it didn't leave until just after 1 am. I sure slept well! We docked in Turkmenbashi about 7:30 the following evening (23 hours after loading the bikes). And then Turkmenistan entry -- we finally got out of there around 2 a.m. A few hours sleep, then up at 6 to get an early start for Ashgabat. I lost count of how many forms and stamps and signatures I collected.

Turkmenistan has no police anymore, just soldiers. Lots of checkpoints staffed by bored young men. Sometimes, they just want to check out the bikes and the tourists, a somewhat rare breed in that country. Sometimes, they want to see papers and write down info. Thankfully, our local guides prepped the official checkpoints with our info ahead, so mostly they were efficient.

The road was weird in that it didn't go to the villages along the way. Rather, it was kind of like a best-fit line -- it went near them, but the villages were all a km or so off the road. Definitely not the original road, apparently built during the Soviet times. The road wasn't bad, and as we neared Ashgabat, it actually turned into a divided highway.

Ashgabat is a very strange place. Building has gone crazy since independence was forced on the country in 1991. Much of the building is monuments to the president. His picture is everywhere. The Arch of Neutrality (a three legged tower) is crowned by a golden statue that turns so it is always facing the sun. (Or maybe the sun follows the statue??) Wide boulevards are lined with ornate, white marble buildings. Taking pictures of government buildings is forbidden, and unless you see the soldiers standing there, it's hard to tell, so I felt very constrained with my camera and kept it in my pocket much of the time. Everything is landscaped beautifully, and there are fountains everywhere. This is the desert!

Sidewalks are bricked with attractive patterns, and large plazas surrounded by gardens are all over. However, nothing is built to a human scale. The plazas are nearly empty. The wide boulevards are sparsely trafficked by old Ladas and other not-so-shiny cars. Where are all the people? Besides soldiers, that is.

After taking the elevator up the Arch of Neutrality to get a view of things, I wandered around some more, convinced that somewhere that had to be a shop where I could buy some snacks. And then I found a place for people! It was a market area where people were shopping for bread, meats, produce, etc. I picked up some toothpaste and a great snack -- bread baked with a filling of meat and onions. This experience helped me reset my impression of the city.

The overwhelming impression of Ashgabat is impressive, ornate, white, monumental buildings. And very few people!

The best experience I had in Ashgabat was going to the Tolchuka market Sunday. We went as a group but quickly split up according to interest. We started at the livestock market, where there were lots of goats, sheep, fowl, and camels for sale. Amazingly enough, nobody in the group bought anything there. Then into the main market!! Anything and everything! I got overwhelmed in the carpet/hat/souvenir section, so wandered to the food section and then the hardware section. My big market purchases were a few hose clamps and some tubes of silicone!

The Turkmens were wonderful to meet. Friendly, helpful, and curious. I didn't even try to have any conversations about their completely bizarre political reality, since I figured that would squelch conversation. The expectation seems to be that all communications are bugged and you are being watched all the time.

After Ashgabat, we spent a night in Mary, where we visited the nearby ancient city of Merv. This was another cool chance to tromp around on ancient sites. (We also visited another one, Nisa, while in Ashgabat.) It seems everything in Central Asia is either ruins or post-dates Genghis Khan. The Mongols destroyed almost everything in their path through this region.

One of the coolest things about riding across Turkmenistan is seeing camels by the side of the road. Lots of them. Sometimes in the middle of the road. People are excited to see us so I am getting lots of exercise waving.

I don't understand agriculture here. We saw lots of new farm equipment by Case and John Deere -- the first mechanized agriculture since all the tractors in Turkey. But we also saw lots of people by the side of the road appearing to be weeding. I dunno! Also, the president decreed that 51 million trees be planted around Ashgabat. That, and other projects, demands A LOT of water that comes from a long canal from the Amu Darya River. Apparently, the canal loses close to 70 percent of its water to evaporation! And the Amu Darya used to provide water into the Aral Sea, which has become an ecological disaster. It's all very strange.

Sorry for the rambling nature of this email. We are leaving for Samarkand in 1/2 hour, so I'm a bit rushed, but I wanted to get down my impressions of Turkmenistan. I hope to tell you about Uzbekistan in a few days.



26 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

From: David Ow

Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2005 9:56 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Greetings from Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Greetings Family & Friends,

Just a short note since we leave for Samarkand in an hour. The entry into Uzbekistan was very fast and easy as compared to Turkmenistan. People here are very friendly, lots of tourist shops and ancient sites.

Have not seen or heard of any political trouble. We did get a police escort from the border to the hotel.

It was 60 miles of fast highway and traffic was stopped at the traffic circles.

I am doing fine after one day of being sick from something I ate. Took a strong medicine and was fine the next day. Weather is in the mid 90's and drinking lots of bottled water.

Motorcycling On,


27 MAY - Colombia - Email from "GlobeReader" Luis Gabriel

From: Luis Gabriel Mojica

Sent: Friday, May 27, 2005 8:15 AM


Subject: Re: GlobeRiders Silk Road Adventure Live!Journal #08 - Week Four


I appreciate the great effort you people are making to keep in touch with all the bike fans around the globe.

Up to now as we see & read, bikes & pilots are doing very good on the road.

When ever you want to organize a similar trip through South America. I can help on it. I have been four times in bike in this southern continent.

Best Regards,

Luis Gabriel Mojica

- Colombia, South America -

PS - I'm sending you a picture of myself reading Helge's book.

27 MAY 2005 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

From: David Ow

Sent: Friday, May 27, 2005 9:37 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Silk Road Children

Greetings Family & Friends

Traveling has been great. Seeing so many historical sites, museums and cultural events has been overwhelming. Standing in the same places that Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan ruled is an experience that I never imagined I would have. But, what truly has amazed me is the children that I have crossed paths with.

From the rural farms with children in soiled clothes to the cities where they wear neat uniforms; some are helping their parents by working in the fields and may not go to school.

They have beautiful faces and smiles. We try to talk with each other using sign language and pointing to our maps. Some practice their English with us and speak very well. These interactions usually bring out laughter and giggling. One time I watched Jay talk with children for 30 minutes while the rest were touring a palace. Jay would take their digital pictures and show them. This would make them very happy. I take their pictures to bring home and show my children and grandchildren that we are not so different and much more alike.

I look at the children and wonder what kind of future they will have. These countries are having hard times economically. The average person makes 50 US dollars a month. There is high unemployment. How will these children fare. How can I make my family understand how fortunate we are and that we have to work even harder to keep what we have. All these questions boggle my mind but I know with all of the support and love from my family we will continue on, come what may. I wish with all my heart that these children will have a healthy, happy and prosperous life.

Grandpa David

(All images courtesy of David Ow, including the last one of  King Chris Kahn (aka Chris Poland) )


Week Four - Images from the Silk Road

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