20th SEPTEMBER 2011
DAY 171: TAJIKI BORDER – SARY TASH (KYRGYZSTAN)
START: 8:00 – FINISH: 12:00 – DISTANCE: 47 KM – RIDE TIME: 3H 25
Waking at 4255meters it was another very cold morning. I packed everything up and started heading down the mountain. It was sunny and very crisp. Even with gloves my hands were freezing cold holding on to the metal brakes. I had to keep stopping because my hands were so numb I couldn’t hold the brakes properly. There was lots of snow everywhere. It took two hours to reach the Kyrgyzstan border post. When I did they wanted to give me a shot of vodka. I politely refused and they kindly let me on my way. After the border I came out on a big prairie of flat grazing land. I saw 3 eagles on lamp posts beside the road. Coming down from the mountains I had a bit of time to think and I was going to cycle around Kyrgyzstan for 3 weeks………………
But with the snow and the wintery conditions I have decided to leave my bike in Sary Tash and just travel around Kyrgyzstan by hitching and bus. So in Sary Tash I found a random guest house where I could leave my bike for a week. I will have a 70km cycle to China when I get back.
DAY 172&173: OSH
At 7:30 am this morning I went out to the main road with the intention of hitching a lift to Osh. It was cold and the snow had followed me down from the Tajikistan border because the snow free mountains were now covered in snow.
With nothing at all after 15 minutes the thought crossed my mind that maybe I had come out a bit too early because the border for China doesn’t open till 9 am and maybe there would not be a lot till then. Though 15 minutes later when the first truck came along, it did stop. The guy didn’t speak a word of English. But I did work out he wanted some money. I was agreeable because I really just wanted to get to Osh and didn’t want to muck around. In the end I gave him $5 for the 180 km trip.
Though next time I might take a chance and wait for a car because the truck took a painful 6 hours going at a snail’s pace over the two big snow covered passes.
Both had some snow on them. He had his special friend in the back and he wanted to make some more money. Finally just after 2 o’clock he dropped me just outside Osh. I walked the 3 km into the centre. Didn’t get far before I had to shed some of the thermal gear because it was a lot hotter here which was nice. Had a little trouble finding the guest house that was on the 3rd floor of some random apartment building. It took a few more hours than I wanted. Cleaned myself up and went straight out for a nice feed. Ordered heaps………..I had pancakes, dumpling soup, grilled chicken and a bowl of ice cream.
Wednesday morning for breakfast I headed back to the same place I had dinner. Afterwards, I then just walked the town. First by just wondering through the bazaar.
I started to see lots of destroyed and burnt out shops from last year’s ethnic fighting between the majority Kyrgyz and the minority Uzbeks in which at least 300 people died. Walking further out of town I came across rows and rows of burnt out houses. Some of them are now in the process of been repaired by the UN.
DAYS 174,175,176,177&178: BISHKET
I went to Osh by shared taxi. We left Osh at 140 km an hour and I thought at this rate the 650 m won’t take long…………..but it did because it took over 10 hours.
It was a very nice drive, the scenery was fantastic. We were winding through a lot of mountains. There were lots of lakes. When we went over the first pass there was a lot of snow around and for 40 km and the plateau on the other side was completely covered in snow as well.
The taxi kindly dumped me on the outskirts of town. It was getting dark and it was difficult to find the guest house again. I ended going miles in the wrong direction. Some locals did kindly help me and we got there in the end. When I arrived at the guest house they said a Russian girl had rang up to make sure I had made it safely because she was a little concerned for me and little worried I hadn’t yet arrived. It’s a small world as I ran into a few people I had met weeks ago in Dushanbe and Khorg.
Friday I arranged to meet up early with a local expat contact Mark who had kindly arranged to collect some important mail for me……………I have finally got my back-up debit and visa cards after the last ones recently expired. I can now finally check out my finances after I got my internet key card which will now make things a lot easier. The rest of the day I spent a bit of time trying to get a new adaptor for my computer since after a bit of trial and error I had discovered that was the problem. One shop kindly got an adaptor out of one of their computer boxes so I could at least charge my note book for a few hours.
I just left it there while I walked up to the WW2 memorial. There were a stack of wedding parties having photos in front of the eternal flame with the snow-capped mountains in the back ground. Here there are a lot of parks around the city. Behind the parliament is an old soviet style amusement park………..so I had a wonder around there as well. The city of 1 million people. Everything you want to see and do is very centralized.
I happened to be passing the big square at just the right time because they were changing the guard that protects the large Kyrgyzstan flag.
In the evening the American Air Force put on a concert in the square as part of an effort to improve relations. They have a large base here that the locals don’t like much.
I was buzzing Saturday morning with the prospect of finally being able to watch some of the Rugby World Cup. I had a two o’clock appointment at the Metro bar for the All Blacks/France game. In the morning I did something productive by going to Frunze house museum…………a thatched cottage of some 1920’s revolutionary. Rugby-wise the Metro pub was full of expats. I meet 1 kiwi guy Paul who works out at one of the mines. So I watched the rugby with him. 37-17 was a good result. Afterwards he shouted me to a steak house which was fantastic……………..I haven’t had such good meat for such a long time. Afterwards he got a company car to take me back to my modest guest house. It was a good day out.
Sunday after my big day out.
I was a bit rough……………Smoking is not banned in pubs yet and with the combination of smoke and shouting I woke up with a very sore throat so I did very little. Walking up town I passed a wedding party outside a church. Instead of throwing a bouquet they released some white doves. Up town I brought some postcards to send via the Kyrgyz post office. I had a spend up at the supermarket buying some yummy snacks. It makes such a nice change. I finished the day off visiting the cake shop for coffee and cake and more cake…………so cheap. I ended up having one of everything. I tried to go to the bath house in the evening…………….but Sunday night must be bath night for everyone because it was packed and after waiting 30mins I left.
Monday I am still a bit rough………………….did the post office. Will be interesting to see if any of the post cards make it. Back to the supermarket for some more treats. Another good meal of veal and veggies and that was it back to the hostel for a lie down.
DAY 179 OSH
It’s a rush now to get back to Sary Tash. Get on the bike and cycle to China. The border with China closes on Friday night for believe it 9 days holiday.
So I am cutting it pretty fine. I pretty much got up and left straight away this morning for the BazAar and a shared taxi.
The 650 km took a painful 13 hours. One good thing is that it is very scenic winding through massive mountains, passing lakes.
There was a bit of snow around as well. When I finally arrived in Osh I was knacked. I guess it hasn’t helped because I have been feeling even worse. So even though I didn’t feel like travelling, I have no choice because I have no spare days.
DAY 180: SARY TASH
No rest for the wicked. 8am I was out the door and heading for the highway to hitch a ride for the 184km to Sary Tash. I didn’t even have to put my thumb out and I got a ride. He was a salesman and said he often gave tourists a ride. He took me a good 80 km. As I got out a truck driver parked in the service station called me over for a ride. I jumped in for him only to pull out of the service station and then park up and said wait here while he went for lunch.
I didn’t really fancy wasting time by sticking around. I was going to wait….but after winding the window down. I realized it didn’t work……….so I quickly with a little difficulty wound it back up. I then discovered I couldn’t open the passenger door. So I did a runner after climbing out of the driver’s door and headed down the road to get another ride, hoping I wouldn’t see the truck I had just left. Lucky enough I got a ride in 5 minutes by a family who took me 40 km and within 5 minutes I had another ride in a truck. 20km down the road he stopped for lunch as well. He said he would only be 30 mins so I thought I would stick it out. After lunch we started to head up the pass and we didn’t get far before we came to a sudden stop. There was what looked like smoke coming out of the floor and massive amounts coming out the side………….I thought she was going to go up so I grabbed all my bags and leaped out the door. Turned out the smoke was steam.
It was terminal so I had to thumb another truck. It wasn’t too bad I got into Sary Tash at 2 pm.
I then went and found a new guest house. The place where I left my bike was rubbish. They weren’t very friendly and were overpriced. So I went round grabbed my bike and to their surprise left. I then sorted out the bike ready for tomorrow. I started the day in shorts and a t-shirt……….but it is a lot colder here. With lots of snow on the mountain and we are back up at 3600 metres. I have been short breathed walking round town. Early night tonight. Still feeling as though suffering from flu and I need all my energy tomorrow.
DAY 181: SARY TASH – IRKESHAM CHINA
START: 8:00 – FINISH: 17:30 – DISTANCE: 84 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H06
I started this morning at 3100 metres and spent the morning climbing towards the Chinese border. Flanked for 40km on one side by massive snow capped mountains that ran into a golden plain.
Two Swiss guys I met yesterday caught up with me but I let them go on because I was feeling bad with the altitude and the flu. It was really knocking me and I was struggling. It was a real effort to cycle. I just took it easy. Some parts I had to push the bike and stop every 20 metres to catch my breath. I caught back up with the Swiss guys at the top of the 3700 metre pass
and I rode with them for the rest of the day. We finally got to the border at 2:30 pm. There were hundreds of trucks queuing up and there were the most border guards I have ever seen on a border. Despite looking very hectic, it was a very efficient border. The border guards spoke good English. We didn’t have to fill out an arrival card………….it was all done by computer. At the last counter a computer asks you to select a button ranging from very satisfied to not very satisfied to rate the service……………..I selected very satisfied. Once out the other side we found ourselves in a very dirty and rough looking town. We were all hungry and went into a small restaurant for a plate of steaming hot spice noodles and veggies. It was very good and made a nice change from the bland rustic food of the Stans. While we ate our dinner we watched the guy chopping up the meat with an axe. After dinner we cycled less than a km down to a river and set up camp on the grazing pastures in front of an old mud village.