Posts Tagged ‘Just before the 2nd big pass’


I come out of the tunnel at around 3200m and start my descent. I pull up at the first curve and my jaw drops. It’s incredible. Jagged, rich red mammoth mountains, rising at almost impossible angles. The road winds its way out of sight, and far, far below – almost out of eye-sight – between the two mountain precipices – it appears. That is where I’m going.

The road down to Bishkek

The road down to Bishkek

Climbing up steep passes, 4km/h is the norm. If it is steeper, it is still 4km/h. This pass was 1000m in about 10km, and so it was much quicker to climb than the other pass (which took 60km to climb its 2000+ metres). Also, it was quite satisfying, as you could see the whole climb from the beginning – winding its way up the steep wall of mountains. Sitting at the top, I could follow the curves with my eye, reliving every pedal-stroke.

The view back over yurt valley

The view back over yurt valley

The potholed, unventilated tunnel, is well known amongst cyclists. Some sneak through it (although it is not allowed). I was quite happy to take a lift through it, to emerge all ready to descend at the other end.

The road down to Bishkek

The road down to Bishkek

The road down to Bishkek

The road down to Bishkek

The descent was not too rapid as there was a gale-force wind howling up the valley, which abated when I reached the plain. And, my, the plains were hot. Any plans of pushing on to Bishkek were abandoned as I sat, looking outside at the heat, from an air-conditioned service station.


Cycling down yurt valley – wide rolling, grassy hills between two distant ridges of snowy mountains. Horses as far as the eye can see. And kymys (fermented mare milk) sales direct from the yurt. And inside the yurt I look up and see the Kyrgyzstan flag – the arches at the top adorning every roof.

Yurt roof

Yurt roof

There was nothing else to eat. In Kyrgyzstan I have grown used to shops selling Snickers. Invited into several different yurts, I got offered kymys (which I can barely drink out of politeness), bread and cream (that is good), and cubes of lamb fat (which is not bad either). I passed on the little lamb foot poking up at me from the plate. Grandma was dismembering an animal (a lamb, I think), removing different organs when I entered. Later I saw it all hanging out in the sun in a big netting (to protect it from the flies) on what looked like a clothes-line.

Meat hanging out to dry

Meat hanging out to dry

Central to every yurt is its kymys container. One was in the form of a big barrel with a long-handled ladle. Another was a big pouch made from leather. Poking out the top was a wooden stick, which was to be pumped up and down to make the kymys fizzy before serving.

Kymys holder

Kymys holder

All the people are lovely, very welcoming, and very happy. They are all here in Yurt Valley for the summer before returning to their village of Talas for the winter.

Yurt friends

Yurt friends

Yurt school

Yurt school

Kymys sales

Kymys sales

And then I reached it. A service station. With everything a service station has in the west. Cold drinks. Chocolates. Chips. A comfortable modern chair and table. I blush as I breathe a sigh of relief and sink into the seat. I binge on things I maybe shouldn’t. Sometimes it’s all just too foreign.

Service station

Service station

I’m camped behind a little ridge, not visible from the road. This place is well known for bikes being stolen. All cyclists camp near here at the base of the road that climbs 1100m in 10km. I hope my spot is hidden enough.