Posts Tagged ‘Kyrgyzstan’


The border wasn’t as near as I thought, and once I crossed it, the rain, which had abated briefly, really set in. With a wet tent, and no hotels in sight after Kegen, I stopped at about 13:30 for lunch, and stayed for the night.

Tenge

Tenge

This is a remote part of the world. The only road is rocky, and bumpy. I saw one shop in about 50km of cycling. I saw lots of yurts. Lots of bee-keepers. Lots of wide open spaces.

Rocky descent

Rocky descent

Shop
Road to the border

Road to the border

I also met two other travellers – a French motorcyclist and a French cyclist – both coming from Kazakhstan. They gave me tips for the road ahead. I had no idea of what this part of Kazakhstan has to offer – it was just something between Kyrgyzstan and China. Let’s see now what I can find here.


Karakol meant late nights for me, and people that speak my language (so interesting conversations). Late nights meant a late start today, and a stress-free amble towards the Kazakhstan border.

The steep climb

The steep climb

I soon realised I would not make it before 18:00 when the border closes, so I took my time, and was able choose a camp for the last time in Krygyzstan high horse and yurt country. I had my last Kyrgyz yurt invitation, where I was given fresh milk, bread and honey, and my last view out over Kyrgyzstan.

View from my campsite

View from my campsite

Day 175. 0km. Karakol

Posted: November 1, 2015 in Cycling, Kyrgyzstan
Tags: , ,

“Chu, chu, chu!” This horse-speak for ‘go’. My horse wasn’t going anywhere, and the horseman guide indicated that I should hit the horse even harder with the stick he had given me. Finally we ambled along, up the valley, walled with stunning red rock faces, all the way to the hot-springs. A relaxing day off in Karakol.

Up the valley

Up the valley

The red valley

The red valley

Up the valley

Up the valley

Trying to go fast

Trying to go fast


Summary of today? Well, I made it alive, for which I am grateful. I have a lovely soft bed to sleep in, for which I am grateful. I had a cool night out on the town, inclusive dancing and music. And I am in Karakol. I have seen the YouTube clip ‘The Road from Karakol’ so many hundred of times. And now I am here – and really am stoked.

Entrance to Karakol

Entrance to Karakol

It is a shame that I have only seen the magic stretch of Issykul shoreline in the grey rain. I can imagine that the sandy beaches would be dazzling, and clear water might look blue with a bit of sun.

Issykul

Issykul

The last 30km into Karakol was dangerous – such maniac drivers.
I cycle concentrated.
My eyes are fixed to the road. When can I give the next pedal-stroke? Can I accelerate, or bump over the next pothole or mound of bitumen?
My ears are pricked. I hear a car. From in front? Behind? How far? What speed? What is the driver’s asshole factor (volume of motor and tyre noise)? I hear a horn. This means I am to steer straight for the soft sand on the side of the road. A horn means ‘I am coming through, and running over everything in my path.’ A horn is used in one of three circumstances:
1. I am approaching you (the cyclist) from behind, and another car is overtaking me. There is not enough space for everyone, so, you should head into the sand.
2. A car is coming from the opposite direction. There is not enough space for everyone, so you should head into the sand.
3. I am a complete wanker, and, even though there is no other car within hundreds of metres, I hate cyclists in general, and so you should head into the sand.
I made it to Karakol. Several people I have cycled with have been hit in Kyrgyzstan. I can see why.

While cycling through the undulating landscape, the mind wanders, and ponders some weird things. I have a question for readers of my blog. Can you explain the following? When the road leaves the lake shore, it undulates over the plains leading from the mountains to the lake. Crossing these plains, the road passes over little streams and rivers running from the mountains to the lake. Over and over again, I find myself climbing to the top of an undulation, crossing a stream, and then descending again. Why, oh why, are the streams running along the top of the undulations, and not the bottom?
Well, there. That is what keeps my mind occupied on these long trips. ☺


I am lying in the tent, again on the Issykul lake shore. I am listening to the crashing of the waves just metres away, and the patter of rain on the tent. Today was grey with the odd drop of rain, and the standard afternoon headwind. It kept the swimmers away – and so I could bathe alone in the clear waters of the lake.

Sandy beach

Sandy beach

When the road nears the lake, there are little dirt tracks that head to the shore. Sometimes populated with a car, today they were often empty. It was too grey for some. Today, the road also left the lake, and climbed over 300m – not something you expect on the lake shore. Still, I also got some downhill speed.

Cooking at Issykul

Cooking at Issykul

Update 23:00
I didn’t expect this. The noise is incredible as the tent is being ballooned in gusts by the wind. Lying stretched out in my tent, my left arm is anchoring the front right hand corner of the tent, and my right arm is vertical, holding the central arch. The wind is howling and the rain is pounding down. I can’t turn or move, lest the tent implode in a gust, sacrificing my little spot of dry earth. I can’t hear the thunder for the rain, but see the flickering light outside the tent. Repeatedly.


My tent is set up at the end of a sandy road, metres from the water lapping the shore of Issy Kul lake. The sun has just set, and I see the silhouette of the mountains behind the opposite shore of the lake slowly fading to grey. Today is the day of the lake.

Sun bathing on Issykul

Sun bathing on Issykul

Today has been a repeat of my trip to the lake with public transport. I saw the familiar town of Balychy, and even saw my train arrive.

The train to Issykul

The train to Issykul

I went for a swim behind the old soviet sign that we also saw earlier. I ran into a group of kids that cycled around the lake last year to raise money for the poor in Kyrgyzstan. This year they were playing football.

Soviet monument

Soviet monument

The group of footballers/cyclists

The group of footballers/cyclists

It was hard to get away from the masses to camp. I investigated the whole little sandy peninsula, including the massive pile of cars and swimmers near the yurts, before deciding on (what I thought) was a remote, secluded place. Unfortunately some more campers arrived and have just started their loud music. Oh well..


After nearly 2 weeks of rest in Bishkek, and a lovely visit from a friend from Germany, today I was not motivated at all to press on. I miss my friends, and felt lonely heading off eastwards towards the vastness and heat of China with little prospect of meeting a cycling partner for a while. The kilometres ticked by on the boring busy road with only diahorrea stops and food stops to break up the cycling.

Camping spot

Camping spot

In Bishkek the touring cyclists flocked to the ‘AT House’. There was always a tent city in the garden, people coming and going, and lots of bike and cycle route discussions. My friend from Germany, Tim, came to visit, bringing lots of spare parts for the bike. With a friend, transported in from my old life in Europe, it becomes clear that I have changed. Like the others, I sit and tell cycle stories, discuss routes, visa applications and the like. The cycle community has become my pool of peers. I don’t talk about work, deadlines, colleagues, management. The emotional depth of the discussions is the same. Just the topic is different.

Today, my close friends are now over 14000km away. On the good side, my Australian friends are a few kilometres closer.

I like my cycling friends and the great hosts Angie and Nathan in Bishkek. A group of us went away with Tim to see something of Kyrgyzstan. We chose Issykul – the second biggest alpine lake in the world. We camped near a mud-bath and salt lake, next to the bigger Issykul lake. Our day was spend rolling around in the mud, and drinking kymys in a yurt.

Wallowing in mud

Wallowing in mud

We got there by a 5 hour, 150km train ride for about 1 euro.

Ready for the train ride

Ready for the train ride

Tim and me in the train on the way to Issykul

Tim and me in the train on the way to Issykul

Now my break in Bishkek is over and the vastness of China looms. The trip, and life in general, is always in motion. Happy will be followed by sad. And then by happy again. Its OK to be sad sometimes.