Kyrgyzstan | Bishkek - Toktogul - Karakol - Ozgen - Osh | 6th to 13th October 2015 | 14,735km
Luke got yanked away into a security hut by a short serious man for taking a picture of big Kyrgyzs mural in an apparent 'no photo zone', emerging a few minutes later, photograph intact, having once again ticked off all the Manchester Utd strikers. We rode into the least spell-able country of the tour and shortly arrived into it's capital, Bishkek. At At House we squeezed our tent into the last available space and immediately felt comfortable in the cycle tourist friendly surroundings; Rolhoff hub manuals strewn across the workshop, faint whiffs of peanut butter and questions like ‘do you soak your lentils throughout the day?’ were bounced around. Rob and Beccy, and Nick had come from the Pamirs, so we asked that reports of temperature readings be kept positive and passed on our China experience to those embroiled in the Visa application process. Didier and Kayla were boxing up bikes to take advantage of a direct flight from Bishkek to Delhi, nice!
Day 327 - 93km (distance) 5h11 (riding time) 17.9kph (av. speed)
Tore ourselves away from At House and went in search of Bishkek’s Lenin Statue, one of the last still standing in Central Asia. Lingered around a Peroskie stand long enough to be given chai (tea) from the head deep fryer. Busy, bumpy 60km West out of the city until hanging a left onto the M41, our road for the foreseeable. Left the bikes in a ditch and scurried over a wooden bridge to camp by the river at the base of the first climb.
Day 328 - 62km 5h43 10.8kph
Passed a young Belgian cyclist, Tom, early on who didn’t sugar coat what we had ahead of us, ’shit loads of climbing’. Wound up into the mountains passing trucks and vans pulled over at regular intervals with flat tyres, smoking engines or oily puddles beneath them. Climbed for just under five hours until we eventually arrived at the tunnel which marked the top of Too Ashuu pass, 3180m up! Told we couldn’t cycle through ‘without proper masks’, so bundled into a truck carrying cardboard to a place in Tajikistan neither driver could locate on our map. Screamed down the other side in full winter gear past stalls selling bucket loads of hard cheese balls. Camped at 2300m just off the side of the road.
Day 329 - 94km 5h21 17.5kph
Straight windy road through quintessential plateau scenery, grasslands stretching out to snow caps on our left. Clearly signs of yurts being there recently, large round brown patches of earth with stone lined paths leading up to them. Only rickety old wagons were left behind as livestock and families move to lower ground for winter. Easier climb back up to the 3175m Ala-Bel pass and a dreamy decent into leafy autumnal valley. Sheep and horses being herded right up the middle of the road, honey for sale in any container available, campfire by the river.
Day 330 - 111km 5h38 19.6kph
Frost on the bikes in the morning. Reward for all the climbing was 40km of downhill into the lakeside town of Toktogul to stock up on oats, eggs, apples and Snickers (omnipresent central Asian chocolate bar) and entertain a group of sharply dressed school kids, one of which, rather sweetly, bequeathed Luke a pink dolphin for his bar bag. Undulating road doglegging around the lake, pitching the tent with just enough sunlight for a quick dip/shower. From a knowledge base compiled mainly from Snoop Dog videos, we think there was a lot of marijuana growing around the lake, but it was probably just Kyrgyz parsley.
Day 331 - 95km 5h47 16.4kph
It’s was either wedding/prom/election day as we were passed by several entourages of black Mercedes with young suit clad types waving from the windows. Took chai with a couple of blokes on a ping pong table and camped in a field behind a family home, who invited us and another cyclist in for grub!
Day 332 - 116km 6h05 19.1kph
Around 11am pulled up at a tea house for second breakfast and were accosted by a four chaps for chai (we now have a no chai refusal policy). The slightest, and friendliest of the four turned out to be non other than Kanybek Osmonaliyev - 1980 Moscow Olympics 54kg weight lifting gold medallist - we thought we recognised him! 10 minutes, 2 boiled eggs, half a bread and 4 vodka shots each later, we had a signature, a new felt hat and Luke walked into a pole. We lost the hat in the preceding half hour and slowed down considerably in the afternoon, skirting the Uzbek border.
Day 333 - 65km 4h24 14.7kph
Intentions of bashing all the way to Osh were tempered by a rainy morning, hills, and more bum bruising busy road. Called off the attempt in the afternoon and veered onto a smaller road in search of peace and quiet. Sauntered though some sleepy villages with similar donkey to person population ratios. An Uzbek guy, Abdul, invited us to sleep at his brother in law's father's uncle's sister's place, where we wiled away the afternoon with bread, jam, butter, honey and copious amounts of chai. Three cups of chai should be poured back into the put before drinking, Uzbek tradition dictates. The younger boys were interested in us and our stuff, but the youngest, very cute, daughter was having non of it and cried each time we made eye contact.
Day 334 - 58km 3h12 18.2kph
Cruised into Osh and made our way to a guest house we’d heard about for our first shower in a week. Short rest and final prep before the embarking on our attempt at the Pamir Highway, a high altitude road built by the Soviets. It’s known as the roof of the world, and tops out with the 4,655m Akbaital pass. We need to buy more Snickers.