4 Wheels Good in Kyrgyzstan
Tajikistan had been a hard ride mainly due to the altitude, the bad food (and lack of it) and the tough roads. It had also taken much longer than expected and the word from other travellers was that Kyrgyzstan was not much better. I was also feeling quite exhausted and generally in need of a break by the time I arrived in Kyrgyzstan. Andreas was feeling the same way and so it was at this point we decided to trade our 2 wheels in for 4 🙂 (and with an engine!).
Osh is the first big city after the Pamirs and was again another sanctuary of decent food, warm showers and supermarkets which we enjoyed for a couple of days whilst sorting our further travel plans. From Osh we took a short and scenic 40 minute fight to Bishkek where we had arranged to pick up a car. We were met at the airport and presented with a huge petrol guzzling 4wd Toyota which was to be our home for the next week. It was a real beast with a roaring V8 engine and actually due to its weight and size fairly unsuitable for the very rough and technical roads to come.
To be sat in air conditioned luxury and cruising over the passes out of Bishkek was a real luxury. We loaded up with food and ate like we hadn’t been fed for years. We returned to Osh and collected our bags and bikes and then took the road through Kazarman which heads directly east through the center of the country. This road is really scenic and hilly and would have taken many days on the bikes rather than the one day we had to drive through. At Ak-Tal we found a perfect camping spot off the road, cooked some good food and admired the scenic tranquility. Unfortunately in the morning we realised that our car battery was dead so we were stuck here slightly longer than expected. We quickly found however a passing Lada who happily went out of his way to drive down to our campsite and help us. As we had no jump leads, we swapped the batteries to get ourselves going. It was quite amusing having our big high tech Japanese beast rescued by this old soviet lada 🙂
Kyrgyzstan has few attractions as such and the main pull here is the nature and outdoor activities. It really is a beautiful country and the scenery ranges from glacier covered mountains to alpine meadows where nomads live with their yurts and animals. One of the tourist pulls is the old 15th century stone built caravanserei of Tash Rabat which now has a couple of yurt camps nearby to accomodate the visitors. It is situated at over 3000m and due to an impending storm we also headed to the yurt camp where we caught up with Chris again. Chris has riden his motorbike from Northern England and we had last met in Dushanbe. He was meeting a self organised group of motorbikers who had clubbed together for a guide to take them through China and on to the Karakorum Highway to pakistan.
The decision to stay in a yurt proved to be a good one. In the evening the fire was lit and the yurt became like an oven. It was too hot to sleep and we opened the door only to be waken a few hours later to an icy wind and freezing cold temperatures. The roof of the yurt blew in the gale and even one of the supporting struts became dislodged. Although it was still August, it showed what a harsh environment it is where these people live all year.
The next stop from the caravanserei was the lake of Song Kul. The road up there from Naryn is spectacular and reminded me of the road up the Alpe D’huez except the many hairpins were cut into a narrow gorge which opened up towards the top. Song Kul is a lake surrounded by mountains and despite several yurt camps, there didn’t seem to be much food on offer so we cooked our own fine meal of rice and beans at the lake front. We had sheep, goats, donkeys and horses all begging for leftovers.