Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day 9 Jalal-Abad – Osh

Distance: 110kms

A phenomenal day. Despite very little sleep on account of the annoying nocturnal Frenchman I shared a room with, and the early start. I easily navigated my way out of the city and was relieved that the bitumen continued beyond the outskirts. Today’s ride could have been anywhere: Australia, the US, Europe or Nepal. Rolling hills were dotted with industrious workers harvesting sunflower seeds, melons and other produce. I felt for the female workers having to endure 45 degree temperatures in full burkhas. A few groups invited me to rest and eat but I was keen to spend the day in Osh.

I took a break in Ozgon at the halfway point, a town that had been the scene of brutal fighting only 15 years ago. The tension between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks boiled over one night and 1000 people were killed. My next stop was by the side of the road at a watermelon stall (pictured above). I don’t like watermelons, generally, but my thirst was sufficient to coax me into devouring a full melon. The family that sold it to me were waiting for me to explode. It was the best thing I ever tasted.

Found a great little hotel in the thick of the action. Osh is Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city and its oldest, at 5000 years old. Older than Rome. The market is famed for its spices, nuts, chocolate, silks and costumes. After a few hours of strolling I turned my attention to supplies and money. Strolling through a park I ran into Sergei, a Russian American I’d met earlier in the day, and joined him for shaslik. It was interesting to chat to him about the old USSR of the 1980s. Osh made a real impression.

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