We started off the day making it to a towns cafe where we stopped for five hours, the waitress even charged us a couple of hundred tenge (about one pound) each for electricity usage. The thermometer inside read 28C, and it honestly felt like we were sitting in a fridge compared to outside.
We didn’t make it far that day, and the next day was the same, as two minibuses full of Uzbeks pulled over to share food, water and talk. Intimidating at first (the minibuses were full way beyond their capacity limits), but every one of them was lovely.
The next town we came across was another nightmare. As we approached a couple of cars stopped, one a policeman, each giving us directions to a shop and wishing us luck, nice people. In the first shop however, the cashier attempted to overcharge us (dramatically), and so we left without buying anything, in the second shop though the staff we friendly, very quickly a large mob formed outside around our stuff, with kids grabbing what they could, and adults, who we assumed would stop them, doing the same, even going as far as to snatch the sunglasses off of Arjuns face. It took a few minutes to gather back our things off of people and get moving again, and as we left a group of kids on pushbikes followed us, riding their bikes violently into the front of the cart to stop us, giving the others a chance to grab things. It got so bad that they began kicking Arjun, angering him to the point where he actually pulled out his knife to intimidate them away. A very strange experience, made all the stranger by the kids trying to teach us about Allah in between trying to rob us and kicking Arjun…
We walked until nightfall, getting as far away from the town as possible, as all through the evening we could see people on motorbikes messing about on the track behind us, but always within sight. We got a few blisters from the awful road and fast paced walking, but found good, sheltered and completely hidden camping, where the next day we took a days rest to let the blisters heal.
In complete contrast to people in the towns, people on the road were pleasant, and a few stopped to give us water without us asking, one car even gave us cartons of juice. The sandy gravel turned to broken tarmac, and there was a couple of days cloud cover, even a bit of rain.
We weren’t too pleased to see the next town, and even planned to walk around it. In a turn of fortune however, we met nice people, starting off with a Russian couple hitchhiking to Kyrgyzstan, a lovely group of ladies in a cafe who even opened the shop next door for us, and on the way out a group of businessmen who took us into a hotel and bought us a meal, chocolate, bananas, and offered us beer and a nights stay. We thanked them for the offer but declined, and that night made it to a completely out of place spot of woodland, the best camping in months.
The next day Kieran took to modifying his boots by removing offending parts, in this case the back of the heels which had worn away to plastic and were cutting the back of his ankles. The woodland continued and we had another night of good camping.