Pedalling Prescotts crossing through Central Asia
By Agha Iqrar Haroon
When I came back to my hotel Caravan Serail in Samarkand, I saw two professional bi-cycles parked at the left side of big wooden door. I had a look of them and instantly understood that at least two cyclists were on their journey through Central Asia or only through Uzbekistan.
I entered the main hall and asked administrator of Hotel Ziyayev Rustam who was present at the reception about cyclists and he told me that two foreigners were crossing Uzbekistan while touring to Central Asia. I requested him to line me up with them as I wished to get their interview. He told me I could find them in hall during breakfast time.
Next morning I came down to breakfast hall and found a couple sitting on sofas near reception after finishing their breakfast. I introduced myself to them and time for interview was fixed for next morning. I came to know that they were not only crossing Uzbekistan or on the tour of Central Asia rather they started their journey from United Kingdom in August 2014 and their destination is New Zealand— Wow I got a perfect couple for an interview.
I found Steven Prescott and his wife Catherine Prescott as two souls who are not only pedalling rather feeing, understanding and enjoying different cultures. Steven Prescott is a computer engineer and business analyst while Catherine (she writes herself as Katie) is an Accountant by profession. They are moving from UK to New Zealand to start their new life as Steven originally is a New Zealander. They started their journey on August 4, 2014 from United States and their schedule to reach New Zealand is this Christmas. They will spend around 16 months on wheels.
They reached Samarkand Uzbekistan where I had their interview via Karakalpakstan region of Uzbekistan while entering from Kazakhstan. Their route of journey is little unusual because they wished to travel to Safest possible areas without taking any risk to cross any unfriendly or turbulent country. Therefore they avoided Ukraine to reach Central Asia while Iran did not give them visa without having an expensive full time Guide (this is usually a guard instead of Guide provided by the government to people from United Kingdom and United States). They had to change their route at last minute although they wished to see Iran. They also avoided Azerbaijan-Armenia border crossing therefore their route became more unusual while reaching to Uzbekistan.
Their precise route was: Holland –Germany–Austria—Slovakia—Hungary—Serbia—Bulgaria—Turkey—Georgia—Azerbaijan—Kazakhstan–—Uzbekistan
Now they are planning to continue their journey to reach Tashkent from where they will reenter Kazakhstan (for avoiding Tajikistan) —-Kirgizstan—-China—Leh—Vietnam—Cambodia—Thailand—Malaysia—Singapore—then flight to Perth–Australia—
The thing I like in the couple was their respect, acceptability and understanding to regions and cultures they were travelling through.
They valued hospitality of the East (called as Vostik in Eastern Europe and Central Asia) and said they found people very helpful i=the moment they entered into eastern Europe. They remembered some days they lived with a Serbian family and said that Eastern Europe and Central Asia is altogether different then these regions are being portrayed in western media as general.
They lived around 60 days in Turkey and consider this country a wonderful destination.
“Turkish people amazing helpful and they offered us wonderful hospitality and their lands to tent us. They are always helpful”, said Steven.
They are travelling almost 110 Km everyday to reach their destination and found desert crossing in Uzbekistan “amazing and unforgettable”. Before reaching Samarkand they covered 900 km in 7 day (4 nights in nukas) via Khiva and Bokhara.
Steven accepted that desert crossing was very much demanding physically and mentally for them but they enjoyed every kilometer of this journey. They found travelling in Uzbekistan just wonderful in winter and like colours and beauty of Uzbek winter with Uzbek hot plov.
I have met thousands of western travelers during the last 33 years as tourist guide, journalist and travel writer and I strongly believe that tourism is the biggest tool for interfaith harmony, understanding other cultures and shun stereotype thinking about other countries. My resolve and believe on my viewpoint was enforced and testified by this young couple by the end I finished my interview with them.