Into the Kyrgyz Mountains

Roberto_Schafe-e1353552545858

By bicycle through Kyrgyzstan

Country: Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan
From Tashkent to 38 km before Ala-Bel Pass
Days on the bike: 5
Kilometers cycled: 253.5
Average Kilometers per day: 50.7
Total Kilometers cycled till Nearly Ala-Bel Pass: 7668.46
Total days travelled till Nearly Ala-Bel Pass: 393
Lesson learned: Three days are never enough
Laughed about: Polite laughing about the border patrol’s jokes that we did not understand
Most wonderful miracle: The beauty of the Naryn River
Food we ate: Shashlik
Greatest obstacle: Keeping the driver awake

Tashkent is the most expensive town since Greece. Hostels are double the price from Bukhara and Samarkand and easily four to six times more expensive than in Iran. Even on the markets and in street stands food is more expensive than in the rest of the country. We decided only to stay as long as absolutely necessary – some three days as we assumed. Instead we stayed for a week.

The Amir Timur Place in the very center of Tashkent

The Amir Timur Place in the very center of Tashkent

Busy in the capital

There were a lot of topics on our to-do list, the Chinese Embassy (which was about to close for a week), printing and sending pictures from our friends on the way and finding the shortest way into an open Kyrgyzstan border. I spent another three days in offices and a ministry because I had the magnificent idea to buy a giant tea set and send it home.

Leaving Tashkent. Thanks Eric and Antoinette

Leaving Tashkent. Thanks Eric and Antoinette for the picture!

After a week we were running out of visa time. So instead of cycling all the way to the border we were forced to make the way with public transport. It hurt the cyclist’s proud. But overstaying an Uzbek visa would have hurt the wallet far more. Oyber from Mirzo Guesthouse (Sagban 95, turkturizm@mail.ru. +998 977206668) explained us the way to the minibus-bus station and we finally made our way.

Bicycle part shopping in the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent

Bicycle part shopping in the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent

Sleeping beauty

We found a ride towards Namangan, close to a border that was said to be open to foreigners even though I had not read from anybody crossing there. Our driver was nice and calm. The six-hour’s drive took more than 10 hours and in the end we were all tired. Our seat neighbor’s head fell down on his chest, I tried to keep mine on Roberto’s cuddly shoulder and the driver went slower and slower right in the middle of the street. The driver was asleep as well? Roberto was the first to recognize. Within a second we were all awake, talking to the driver, offering him apples and coke and opening all the windows.

There is always a space for a little bicycle or two

There is always a space for a little bicycle or two

Last minute hospitality

We arrived in the middle of the night and stayed with friends of the driver’s friend. I had gotten a little ill in Tashkent and was still not feeling perfectly well. When a man offered us to give us a ride for the last 30 kilometers to the border I happily accepted. We squeezed both bikes and most baggage into his trunk and made our way. In the following village we stopped to meet his daughter Matluba, who taught English and wanted to keep studying her master degree. She translated for us and let us know that her mother invited us over to spend the night at theirs. How I wish we could have accepted! But we had to hurry towards the border. There was only one day of Uzbek visa left and if there were no foreigners allowed to pass we would have a long way to go to the next border.

Matluba, her father and his colleague gave us a ride to the border

Matluba, her father and his colleague gave us a ride to the border

Lonesome border

Luck was on our side – the border was open to foreigners. Usually there is a long line of queuing trucks on each border but here we were the only ones to cross.

We feel so small

We feel so small

The soldiers took their time for us, we chatted, they helped us to fill out the forms and within no time we were standing on the other side of the checkpoints with our Kyrgyz entry stamps in the passport. Nobody even asked us for registration papers. Well that was easy.

Along the Naryn

Along the Naryn

We cycled on right towards the hills that would later become mountains. The road was by far the best that I had seen in Central Asia. I told myself not to get used to it because it would probably get worse soon, but I was mistaken. The asphalt would stay in best condition until some 60 kilometers before the capital Bishkek.

The clear and fresh water of Naryn River in Kyrgyztsan

The clear and fresh water

Following the mirror river

By the second day the road met the Naryn River, one of the most beautiful rivers I had ever seen. The water was crystal blue and completely still. Like a giant mirror the Naryn reflected all the rocky walls around it.

We shared the road with a lot of sheep

We shared the road with a lot of sheep

Heading upstream the Naryn River the hills started and so did the endless up and down. Every couple of hours we met a man on a horse waving a red flag. Fifty meters behind him we usually ran into a herd of 10 to 200 sheep, horses or cows. In the end of the parade another two riders took care that the herd stayed together and a little boy on a donkey waved another flag to warm the drivers who arrived from the back.

Cycling down towards the Toktogul reservoir

Cycling down towards the reservoir

The first rain since July

There were not too many towns around and traffic was low – just as I like it. Still I was happy for every shop or restaurant on the way. After a couple of days full of ups and downs we arrived to the first mountain pass.

Along the beautiful Toktogul reservoir

Along the beautiful Toktogul reservoir

Compared to the passes ahead of us this was just a tiny training mountain pass and we made our way up much faster than expected. Rolling downhill we finally spotted the Toktogul reservoir, a 285.3 square meters tall lake that we would have to cycle around for half a day.

View on the Toktogul reservoir

View on the Toktogul reservoir

After the season’s last melon break (winter was about to begin) we waved goodbye to the Naryn and cycled towards the mountains. By the following day we found ourselves going slowly uphill in the light rain.

The last rain had hit us arriving in Tehran, Iran in July. For weeks we have been cycling in a thin shirt during the day. Now we were finally forced to unpack our sweaters and even the jackets.

Why did I carry my map all the way?

Why did I carry my map all the way?

We stayed overnight in a hotel that appeared to be a skiing hut in Kyrgyz style. Vodka, beer, Shashlik and sheep-soup were on the menu and the waitresses wore traditional Kyrgyz clothing.

Water and rocks is all we see for a while

Water and rocks is all we see for a while

By the following morning we had a mountain pass to climb – the highest so far in our cyclist’s lives.

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  1. Mladen says:

    Hi!

  2. Hector says:

    What a beautiful sight!

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      Hello Hector!
      We could not stop ourselves on smiling either. It is just too beautiful out there and we can absolutey recommend a visit to Kyrgyzstan! Next time we will come in summer to see how the landscape appears then 🙂

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