The Kyrgyz side of the border was so easy to cross, it will be hard to describe. I knocked on the the door to notify the soldier of my arrival. He wouldn’t know if I entered on my own will. He put on his hat. It had a soviet emblem on it. Looks like they didn’t feel any need to change the uniform after the independence. He called his friend to have his photo taken on the bike. When that was over, I reminded that I was actually there to cross the border. So they asked for my passport. They looked at other visas and colorful pages and asked if I had a Kyrgyz one. I said “No” and told them that Turkish citizens didn’t need one. They didn’t know about that but didn’t bother checking the book. He stamped my passport and told me to go. I asked for a customs declaration of some sort since I was entering with the bike but they didn’t really care. I asked them how many days I was allowed and if I needed to register in Bishkek, but they didn’t care with those questions either. I asked him if he could take a photo of me with the Soviet hat, he said “Yes!”
Off I went towards the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Early in the evening, just after Tashkomur, I saw a nice lakeside yurt camp and decided to spend the rest of the day and the night in there. A family of five lives in the yurt making a small amount of money by providing water and accommodation to daily visitors coming to swim and travelers passing by.
Soon after my arrival, I was visited by a crowded group of collage students. They were studying in the Ataturk University. I was surprised to hear that there was such a school in the area. The only ones I had heard about were founded by religious Turkish entrepreneurs with radical Islamic doctrines.
I set up my tent and started eating cheap noodles watching the amazing view of the mountains reflected on the lake. A little later two young beautiful Kyrgyz girls appeared out of nowhere. They wore nice little bikinis and semi-transparent turquoise shawls longing to drift away with the mountain winds against their modest but inadequate attempts to hold it in place. They sat right in front of me, completing the view of the mountains and the sun setting behind. With a broken English, one of them asked me where I was coming from. I would answer quicker if a unicorn had asked me the same question… I didn’t want to say something wrong and scare them away but had to reply. Trying to keep a calm voice, I told them about the journey and even tried to speak some Kyrgyz Turkish in between. They found my attempt cute and giggled. To my amazement, they invited me to stay at their place for the night instead of camping there in the wilderness!
I would be lying if I said it was easy to reject this offer. Any man would! The truth is, it was easier to stay there in the mountains instead of spending the night trying to behave myself. There is wilderness, and then there is wilderness… I know which is easier to cope with!
I remember reading somewhere that Kyrgyzstan had the best and the worst of Cental Asia at the same time. Having probably seen the best of it within a few hours of entering the country, it was now time to be introduced to the worst, which in my case was a drunk man accompanied with three other friends in varying levels of blood, alcohol concentrations. He first asked for a cigarette and began a conversation. The usual questions about the cost of the bike and journey slightly shifted into more aggressive ones I could barely understand. I could only catch a few curse words in between. It wasn’t hard to sense the temperature going up when he asked for money and threatened to take my bike if I understood that correctly. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get him wrong so asked the help of others around for a good translation. Soon there were people around the two of us trying to keep him down and telling me to not be afraid. Interestingly, I wasn’t. I could’ve taken off and found another place to stay but I didn’t want to. Somehow, the issue seemed to settle down and we even smoked a few more cigarettes talking in a calmer way. I took his photograph as he tried to pose for his toughest. He broke into laughter a few times but we finally got it.
I spent most of the night drinking tea with the four year old daughter of the family. It’s really amazing how kids cannot comprehend your inability to understand the local language. She talked Kyrgyz to me all night until her mother took her to sleep. She came back in the morning as soon as she woke up and continued her monologue occasionally singing songs in between. I cooked us some oatmeal to keep her mouth full but even that did not help.
There have probably been two or three other times I wrote about topping-up my best biking route throughout this journey. Well, it happened again. The road to Bishkek from Tashkomur is absolutely the best one so far. It climbs up to the top of the mountains where you ride so close to the clouds. It usually rains if it’s not snowing. The plateus in between are full of yurts and herds of horse scattered around. Road conditions are perfect. Lakes and rivers originating from the nearby glaciers have an unbelievable illuminated turquoise color to them. You see horses courting each other and mares feeding their offspring under sublime rainbows. Water is springing from every crack on the steep mountain hills. Everything is so ridiculously beautiful, even my camera couldn’t take it and broke down.
On the top of the pass, you get into a long tunnel descending slightly through the mountain. Riding through the darkness underground for a considerable amount of time, you get slightly disoriented. At the exit, the last thing you expect to see are clouds. It feels as if you’ll start to fly out of the tunnel. I had to stop to contemplate the scenery at this point. As soon as I got of the bike, I had an irresistable urge to pee. I think this will be the most heavenly view I enjoyed while urinating.
The road curves back and forth like a serpent down the mountain through a deep dark valley and into the plain where Bishkek rests. Nathan, a British Ratbiker I met on the road had previously been to the Sakura guesthouse. I followed him through the crowded streets in the evening. We parked in the garage and went out to have some Chinese food and beer.
I’ve been here for five days now. Mostly doing some maintenance and repairs on the bike, chatting with other travellers in the Sakura Guesthouse, shopping in the DorDoi Bazaar and munching food at the city center.
DorDoi is the biggest bazaar in Central Asia. The most unique aspect of it is that it’s made of shipping containers. Hundreds of them… It looks as if a transatlantic container ship fell from the sky in the middle of Asia. There are sections divided into types of goods and origins of goods. You can find anything here as long as you can find the container it’s being sold in… It was amazing to walk through the alleyways and getting lost in the vastness of the place.
I changed the air filter, tightened a few of the engine bolts that seem to leak oil as well as a radiator hose with a coolant leak. I discovered that the skidplate bracket was broken so got that one strongly welded with a bit of reinforcement. The tires I had sent earlier from Istanbul to Bishkek were still waiting for me here so I got those mounted as well. Fuel injection is also leaking slightly, but not enough to help me diagnose properly. I’ll wait for that one to develop further. The bike feels good considering how far it got me from Los Angeles. I hope it will keep working fine throughout Kazakhstan, Mongolia and the infamous Amur highway.
I’m a little worried about the 1250 km Kazakh stretch going north to Russia via Ust-Kamanegorsk in terms of security. I hear a lot of stories about solo travellers being robbed or harassed on the road. I’ll try to be extra careful. Let’s see what’s waiting for me up there. I’m leaving tomorrow.