It wasn’t quite the way I’d planned it. I’d found a really nice restaurant the night before I left Bukhara and had enjoyed a great setting, exemplary service and a simple meal of Plov, as well as a couple of local draught beers.
By the time I’d finished breakfast, which I cut back to half of what I normally eat, I was aware that all was not well. A bit of a knot was forming in my stomach. I went for a walk in the searing heat just to have a look at the great Medressas for the last time, and returned to shower and pack before checking out. Things were clearly not right, and the knot was quite uncomfortable. I knew the railway station would be clean, quiet and with immaculate toilets, so I decided to wait the four hours there rather than anywhere else. In a sudden rare piece of wisdom, I decided to go for the taxi rather than the bus. I’d only been in the taxi for five minutes when I had to tell the driver to stop, and I got out as quickly as possible and threw up under a tree. As I finished retching the taxi driver got a bottle of water out of the car and poured it over my head and neck. It was such a relief. We got to the train station without further incident.
Once in the train station, there were several dashes to the toilets for explosions from both ends. I think the lady stoically sat behind an 800cym (£0.75) sign for entry took pity on me as had she had chosen to charge I would have been bankrupt. But the worst was yet to come. I was craving something sweet and bought a bottle of juice in the shop and had a good mouthful. As I sat down, I knew I had to sprint so rushed to the toilets as the vomit filled my throat. I headed for the sink, but a policeman was washing his face. I really didn’t want to spoil his immaculate uniform so pushed him to one side as the outpouring of juice and bottled water shot from my mouth. As I stood there retching, hanging onto the sink for dear life, I suddenly realised what I’d done. I wasn’t sure what the consequences would be, but as the spasms stopped, he filled a jug with water and gently poured it over my head and neck, patted me on the shoulder and left. I never did see him again to say thanks.
The train boarded at 15:30 and I was very impressed by the quality of the Afrosiob express. It is state of the art railway technology and incredibly plush – as good as an airliner. I had a seat with some Chinese lads who were watching Chinese films on their iPads, so they missed the scenery as we sped across Uzbekistan. Mind, so did I as a slept for some of it. I do remember huge oil or petroleum plants, vast agricultural centres with miles of poly tunnels, and rather unimpressive barrack-style buildings lining the tracks.
Samarkand station was as impressive as every other railway station in Uzbekistan; clean, modern and bright with marbled walls and plazas. Thanks to the directions from the guest house, I went out into the heat and looked for bus no 3. There were trolley buses which I was hoping to ride on, but I managed to find the bus stop for the marshrutka. Eventually No. 3 arrived and I later wished it hadn’t. It seemed to wait incessantly at every stop, and either the clutch or gearbox was at the end of it’s useful life as starting was an interminable disaster of grinding, crunching and jerking. At this point I was in real pain, hanging on to everything, sweating in the heat and only wanting to crawl away into a hole and hide. It took an hour to cover 4kms and I got out into the Registan, looked briefly at the architecture and headed down the back streets to the guesthouse. The owner was sympathetic, there was hot, sweet black tea and the room was up in the breeze and shaded by vines.
The air-con is quiet, and I’m sat with the doors and windows open enjoying the breeze blowing through the room. Plans are changing; recuperate here for a few days, and then go to the mountains for a day and then head back to Tashkent. And of course, take time to see the fabled sights of Samarkand. That’s what all this was about; never forget it’s an adventure, not a holiday.