Just as I was thinking, that people couldn’t be any nicer than the people in Osh, I realised I was mistaken! I caught a марусжка, I have no idea if this is spelled correctly, it is the word for minibus! (Since I took two days to learn to say the word, I thought I use it here!) the border was less than ten minutes away, and I arrived nice and early. As soon as I hopped of the bus, slung my, by now ten kilo backpack ( well, may be not, but it is starting to feel heavy!) over my shoulder, looking around where to go next, I met Ali. Ali is from Kyrgyzstan, but his parents live in Uzbekistan, while he now lives and works as a taxi driver in Saint Petersburg. Ali was like Moses, the sea of people opened up and I was allowed to walk through. I felt embarrassed, but this is what people here do. Tourist are incredibly respected.
Within fifteen minutes I skipped all the border horrors, mentioned on line and in the Lonely Planet. My guide book is four years old, and it shows how much things can change and progress is made. It was stated several times, that I needed to account for all my cash money. Due to the fact that Visa card withdrawals could not be made in Iran, I had to carry cash. I took too much. The countries I have been to are dirt cheap, so I still carry a fair amount of cash! Not ideal, but such is life. It is no longer necessary to declare ones money. Neither did my bags get checked at all. Medication with codeine is not allowed to be brought into the country, nor sleeping tablets. Since I still carried medication from my bike accident, I made sure that all was used up! Needless to say I slept like a babe for the last week in Kyrgyzstan!
With the help of Angel Ali, I paid only local price for a taxi ( shared) to Fergana. The driver dropped me off near Valentina’s guest house and left me to it. Valentina was amazing. She has been running her guest house for the last seven years and she can’t do enough for her guests. She must have decided that I needed fattening up, because her breakfast was for at least three people! Needless to say that I ate it. So all the weight lost in Kyrgyzstan has found me again. Ah, well, such is life. My first adventure was walking to the local market. The biggest adventure is finding the guesthouse again! Not a given in my life! The market in Fergana was large and interesting. A lot of clothes and fresh strawberries. Big trailer loads full of them. As I wasn’t yet used to the new money, I had no idea of prices. ( this is getting worse as I am getting older!) So no buying anything on day one!
I was rather peckish, so I found a fast food restaurant. And as I can say “hot chips” in Russian, that is what I ordered. Most food is made with meat. I have had meat soup and a meat pasties. It is not that I dislike it, it is my body that protests violently. Since the times that my stomach has complained, in ways that I leave up to your imagination, I stick to potato dishes. As I was waiting for my chips, I just started drawing some people in the restaurant. Unbeknown to me people were gathering behind me, looking over my shoulder. Suddenly there were four people all wanted to be drawn! We started talking, with google translator, as no English was spoken. I managed to ask how much the strawberries were as one woman wanted 15,000 сум ( som) which sounded awfully expensive to me. Before I realised what was happening I was taking by the hand, dragged across the road, and I received about three kilos of strawberries for only seven сум! (This was ONE Australian dollar I found out afterwards!)
I had to try and find the restaurant again as I was dragged away before I could pay! Well, this is how it goes, I am now a ” friend” and the owner would not accept payment! I was soon to found out that this is the ” norm”! Also people give presents, all the time. This happened in Turkey also, but here the people are so much poorer. The kindness of people is just overwhelming! I feel so incredibly blessed, ALL THE TIME!