The road heading north from Bukhara gave way to a progressively arid environment as the Kyzylkum desert ensured that water management and shelter from the sun remained at the forefront of our thoughts. The road finally led to the outrageously culturally-rich walled city of Khiva, although for the less attractive half of the Detouring team, enjoyment levels were to be somewhat limited by a suspected spider bite that had been picked up on the way.
What began feeling as a fairly normal fatigue-induced fever soon deteriorated, and after five days with no improvement – despite throwing a combination of every medication we had at our disposal – we conceded that a consultation with the local doctor may provide some answers. In hindsight, we’d have likely had greater success back-tracking to find the guilty spider, and persuading him to suck the residual toxins out.
The doctor arrived wearing a silly hat and was accompanied by his nurse, who at 6ft 5 and with hands that would crush rocks, could easily have been mistaken for an Olympic shot putter, though the red cross fancy dress costume confirmed her place in the charade. The initial prodding and poking did not install a great deal of confidence and as we all looked at each other in puzzlement as to what those two numbers from a blood pressure reading actually mean, it was becoming apparent that this would not provide the jab-to-the-bottom panacea that had been hoped for. As recycled medical supplies from a relic of a first aid box were being prepared to take a blood sample, we quickly drew an end to the debacle before things could get any worse. Although this whole episode failed to provide any suitable solutions, it did at least allow for a moment of comic relief in an otherwise dire week.
After an agonisingly slow eight days in Khiva we were finally able to get the wheels turning and heading north once more. However, the week wasted shivering in the foetal position had scuppered our chances of making it to the border within our 30-day visa. Without wanting to risk an unnecessarily hefty fine, we rode as far north as possible before embarking on a most depressing train journey for the last few hundred kilometers through Uzbekistan. Although disappointed to have missed out on the final ride to the border, really quite delighted to be regulating body temperature once again.