August 18: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
8:35 Today we will drive 307 km from Tashkent to Samarkand, Uzbekistan. An air-conditioned Chevy Cobalt would come in handy today but instead we will make the drive on Zara, our trusty Mercedes truck.
9:47 A cop dashes into the centre of the road and waves an orange baton at us. Duncan pulls over immediately and waits for the cop to approach.
9:48 The cop claims we were going 73 in a posted 80 zone. Apparently everyone knows that trucks must stay 10 clicks under the limit. Duncan accompanies the cop to his cruiser to view the radar.
9:51 Duncan returns to the truck and retrieves three bottles of gin from the booze locker.
9:55 We’re on our way. I don’t want to make trouble so all I’m going to say is that the truck has a good selection of rum and gin that was purchased in Myanmar for $1 and $1.50 per bottle. As of now we are officially out of the $1 gin. Nothing but the good stuff from here on (barring further run-ins with the law.)
13:10 I don’t know how I could ever explain the food offerings at a Petro Canada service station to an Uzbek traveler. Here’s what we had for lunch today at a roadside restaurant / gas station. It cost about $3.00 per person, including fresh bread that was devoured long before the rice and lamb dish arrived.
14:24 Samarkand is on the horizon. What emerges is a large and fairly modern looking city. There are few buildings taller than about 3 storeys but everything is neat and tidy. The streets are wide and well maintained with beautifully landscaped boulevards. The sidewalks on the main road are at least five times as wide as your average sidewalk in downtown Toronto. The pedestrians are clean and smartly dressed. Everyone appears to be healthy and happy.
14:35 It doesn’t take me long to find another unusual display of the Apple logo. ‘Papa Jobs’ is probably an authorized reseller as there are no actual Apple stores in Uzbekistan.