I planned to ride to Tashkent from Samarkand until I came across a border crossing on the main road. It was surprising to see one because my maps indicated a straight highway within Uzbekistan. It seems like Kazakhstan has claimed some of this land recently so I would have to exit Uzbekistan if I wanted to continue. Having a single entry Uzbek visa I decided to take the southern route to Fargana Valley. It felt a little rebellious to steer away from the capital, the control freak central authority to this fertile and disobedient valley where the infamous Andijon events took place.

It was late in the evening when I entered Angren, the last city before the mountain pass into the valley. A taxi driver helped me find the hotel. As usual, there are no signs displayed on the exterior of the building. They just expect you to know it. I was trying to find a place to park the bike when Muhabbat, a young Tajik girl asked me in perfect English if I needed any help. Apart from arranging to park inside the lobby and negotiating the price down, Muhabbat also took me around for a little sightseeing and good food. I enjoyed talking to her a lot. You don’t realize at first, but expressing your feelings is a necessity. Interestingly, her name means ‘lovely conversation’ and she used to work for a customer support call center in India for an American company. She knows how to listen and ask for the right questions.

We met again in the morning to do some shopping and Internet. Back in the hotel, she waited for me as I packed up. We had one last tea in a nearby chaikhane. I was ready to leave. It feels unfair to spend so little time with nice people and leave them for good, probably never to meet again. You exchange numbers and e-mails as if they would help, but the feeling of ending something good prevails the moment of departure. That’s probably why she asked to spend ten more minutes in the park in a spontaneous, intimate and childish way. And that’s exactly how I accepted it. We walked to the park, sat on a bench and enjoyed all of the ten minutes one by one.

I started climbing the pass and went through a few military check points. They seemed more serious compared to the ones I had seen earlier. One of them said something about terrorists in the mountains, but it felt like a quotation from a governmental propaganda text… If terror is power through fear, it’s really hard to guess who’s who in Fargana valley. This part of Uzbekistan feels very different than the rest. It’s surrounded by mountains that feed the Naryn Darya and Syrı Darya. The land is fertile with lots of fruits and vegetables. People are very friendly. On my way out of Namangan, I was invited to a home for breakfast. A young man on the side of the road said “My mother wants to meet you!” You have to do everything a mom tells you, so I accepted. After the breakfast, they insisted that I stayed for the night but I had to cross into Kyrgyzstan. Hospitality is overwhelming.

Uzbek side of the border crossing was without any problems if you don’t consider the one hour waiting time and the curious border guard wanting to see my photographs in the computer. They didn’t even bother checking my registration slips. I collected them for nothing! It’s so disappointing to obey authority when it doesn’t give a damn about you.