Heaven and Hell in Bishkek

"Stay together and everything will be alright", is the advice that Karin gave us when we left Germany. Now we try out if this can work out

“Stay together and everything will be alright”, is the advice that Karin gave us when we left Germany. Now we try out if this can work out

Read this article in German

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, November 2012

I am a positive person and always try to discover the positive side in any situation. “At least we are healthy” is one of my most frequently used sayings. That one is closely followed by “It could have gotten so much worse” and “well I am sure everything is going to be alright somehow”. And I do not just say it like that. I really believe in it myself. Nothing ever makes me struggle because once I think about a plan not working out I already work on a plan B. But what happens if plan B does not work out either? What if really everything fails? In Bishkek we found out. We have yelled at each other for being annoyed with the situation and hugged each other until nothing else in the world mattered anymore. We thought about selling the bikes and giving up, we fought, won, danced and lost again. Bishkek was probably the most intense month of our entire travel.

Hell: On the way to Bishkek Roberto’s camera gets stolen

Heaven: Completely exhausted we reach the capital Bishkek. I cook a meal we did not have in months: Chicken and cauliflower.

Heaven: Roberto is able to extend his Kyrgyzstan Visa within a single day. Miss Liu from the Chinese visa agency smiles when Roberto hands her his application form and papers. His visa will be ready within a week.

Hell: My laptop is broken. It is unable to start. All my articles and pictures are in it. Five different computer stores declare it as non-reparable.

Hell: Miss Liu calls. Roberto is the first Mexican ever to ask in Bishkek for a Chinese visa. The ambassador is nervous and confused and asks for plenty of additional papers. It is not sure if he will get his visa anymore.

Hell: Roberto gets stomach pain of sorrowing so much. The pain stays for an entire week. He sleeps bad and dreams of border, soldiers and papers.

Heaven: I find a store that is able to repair my laptop. It will take two days and cost 45 $.

Hell: At night I am the one that dreams of grumpy soldiers and border controls.

Heaven: Our French hostel mates make pudding and hot chocolate for everybody. We chat with them and finally think of other things than visas.

Our funny friends in the hostel travel all together and each single one is a master chief!

Our funny friends in the hostel travel all together and each single one is a master chief!

Hell: Roberto is lactose intolerant. I try to smack less noisy and avoid watching his eyes for feeling so guilty.

Hell: Roberto accompanies Miss Liu to the embassy to answer the ambassador’s questions. The ambassador took a day off. Roberto still does not know whether he will get a visa or not.

Hell: Bad mood in the city’s traffic. One after the other the buses squeeze me off the road. Drivers open their doors not caring for the traffic, parking cars move out of the blue and a minibus nearly squeezes me into the waste water ditch. I am steaming mad and race on the left lane towards the driver. On the red traffic light I get him. His window is open. I yell to him in a mix of German and Spanish. He yells back in Russian until the traffic light jumps back on green. I am not really satisfied.

Full concentration in every single second in the streets of Bishkek.

Full concentration in every single second in the streets of Bishkek.

Heaven: Finally we find a properly equipped outdoor store. For days we have been doing research in shops full of pirate products.

Hell: I really did not expect these prices. How shall we ever be able to pay for that? And apart there will be Roberto’s camera that needs to be compensated. Apart there are the things to repair and visa costs are more than triple the price that we had paid in our Visa marathon in Tehran. Without equipment no winter cycling, without winter cycling no mountain passes and without mountain passes no China. Without China – well we could as well just go straight back home. I fall into a short but heavy depression. Roberto talks me out of the worst after a day.

Heaven: I meet my friend Anne and her friend Dan. We drink tea and laugh about the noises that surprised people make. I stay until 2 am and enjoy the fast bike ride back home in the empty streets of Bishkek. Suddenly everything appears to be not that bad after all.

Heaven: Anne makes her way towards China and we take over her warm couch in Dan’s place. From the first moment on we feel that the three of us make a great team. Dan is an incredible host and soon turns out to be one of our best friends on the way.

Heaven: I discover a German restaurant. We call some friends and eat curry sausages, Nuremberger sausages, sauerkraut and potatoes with cheese. All the food is downed with plenty of fresh brewed beer.

Roberto, Dan, Kim, Katy uad Filip in the German restaurant Steinbräu

Roberto, Dan, Kim, Katy uad Filip in the German restaurant Steinbräu

Hell: Roberto calls Miss Liu again. “Is there news concerning my visa?” he asks. “Problem, visa problem. Come here, come to my office”, Miss Liu yells into the phone. We are shocked. On the way to her office we discuss our possibilities of continuing. We try to work out a plan B and C and grow easily 20 years older within 15 minutes.

Heaven: Miss Liu looks at Roberto with a puzzled face. “What are you doing here?” she asks all concentrated in her other work. “Oh, that was you on the phone? Problem? No, no problem. Sorry. Everything fine. Come Wednesday“.

Heaven: Finally! With a giant smile in his face Roberto returns from Miss Liu’s office. He waved his passport around and we dance on the sofa. China – here we come!

Heaven: The Polish sleeping bag manufacture Cumulus answered! We had spent weeks researching online for proper winter sleeping bags and now we can hardly believe it – our favorites offer to sponsor us!

Inside the Cumulus Mysterious Traveler 700 I am prepared for any weather!

Inside the Cumulus Mysterious Traveler 700 I am prepared for any weather!  This Cumulus Sleeping Bag weights 1.2 Kg and their Comfort level is -11 Celsius

Heaven: We discover a shop where I find the winter jacket of my dreams and even the price is relatively okay. I reserve the jacket for the big shopping day.

Heaven: We go out to have a beer in a bar. They even have a foosball! I love this game! I have not played for more than a year. Of course I tell everybody what a good foosball player I am.

Hell: The day before all five balls had been stolen. We cannot play.

Heaven: Probably that is better. I suck in foosball for German standarts.

Eventually we find a tablefootball with balls and win one game after the other

Eventually we find a tablefootball with balls and win one game after the other

Heaven: Finally our big day has come: the winter equipment shopping day. For two weeks we had been doing research for this day. I have the firm intention to find the best exchange rate in town and find it after a short time. Now I just need to take dollars from the ATM.

Hell: The ATM does not want to give me any money.

Hell: The following ATM does not give out any dollars either. We cycle through the entire city and try out all ATMs. We try it with Dollars and Kyrgyz Soms, with and without receipt, with high and small sums. Not a single ATM gives out any money.

Hell: I cycle back to Dan’s place as fast as I can. Carrying the bike up the stairway I nearly knock myself out with the handlebar. My jaw hurts for six days.

Hell: I call the bank for 20 times but cannot establish a proper connection. When I call for the 21st time a lady explains to me what had happened. Somebody tried to clone my credit card, the security found out and now my card is blocked. I write two long mails to my bank underlining words like urgently, emergency situation and immediately. I am panicked. We have 120 Soms left, a bit less than 2 €.

Heaven: The bank calls me back on my Kyrgyz cell phone. I am bank VIP now; my case has very high priority. Within the same night they move some money from here to there and by the following morning I am able to take out at least some money.

Heaven: I get 40 Dollars. On the way back from the bank I find a stand with Bratwurst sold.

We can chose between Bratwurst with mayonnaise and "Karri-Wurst"

We can chose between Bratwurst with mayonnaise and “Karri-Wurst”

Hell: The Kyrgyz will celebrate the Eid al-Adha day on Friday. The Chinese decided to join their public holiday and close the borders for this and the following four days. The last of those days is the day when my Chinese visa expires. It is Wednesday. There is no way for me to make it to the border within two days. Apart I need to wait for my emergency credit card and the sleeping bags. I need to get a new Chinese visa as well.

Heaven: Finally I can take more money than 40 Dollars and we finally start our big equipment shopping day. The exchange rate is even better than before. I get windproof, waterproof and breathable gloves, winter shoes, socks, a facial mask (such as the bank robbers wear) and a winter jacket. Apart I find a fluffy pyjama pants in a second hand store and bicycle lights.

Against being bored on the long bus ride towards Osh

Against being bored on the long bus ride towards Osh

Roberto finds gloves, socks, a new helmet and a long thermal shirt. Apart we discover what we have been searching for since Turkey: a tiny travel-backgammon. We feel like drunk and are unable to stop laughing when we try out all our new gear inside Dan’s flat. Suddenly the snow-covered mountain passes do not appear as frightening anymore. Nothing can stop us – we are together, we are healthy, nothing else matters.

Heaven: Dan managed to find liquorice for me. I have been searching for my very favorite sweets in every single store since Austria.

I cannot believe my luck and try to make them last forever

I cannot believe my luck and try to make them last forever

Hell: Our cell phone is out of order and I have to fill out the six paged visa application form for the fourth time.

Heaven: Dan takes us to a party with foosball and balls! We win one game after the other. Can there be any better team than us?

Heaven: Dan, Roberto and I go for a day-trip to the close Ala-Archa National park and hike towards a frozen waterfall.

Hell: The taxi driver suddenly wants more money and we get lost in the snow.

Heaven: Roberto finds the way back home and we have a picnic at the riverside with a view on the mountain peaks.

Roberto_Dan_Steinfeld-e1353570108717

Heaven: Yeah! Our friends Nurkyz, Dan, Roberto and I will go for a two day’s horseback ride. The horses are healthy and happy; the new sleeping bags are fluffy and warm. By the second day weather changes, it is grey, foggy and soft rain falls. We do not care at all. That is why we brought our new winter gear.

Heaven: Our new Cumulus sleeping bags have proven their quality on their first night outdoors in the mountains. Stuffed in a bag half the size of our old ones, these down filled bags are so reliable that we are not afraid anymore of the -11°C nights of the Chinese winter.

Hell: The soft rain turns into wet snow, then into snow flurry, a snow storm and later into a hail storm.

Hell: The new super water proof winter equipment is not water proof at all. We are all soaking wet with blue lips and red hands and we are happy when the ride is finally over.

Hell: Somewhere on the 4 ½ hours ride through tiny mountain trails my camera falls out of my pocket.

Heaven: When we finally make it home the flat is warm. Finally the city opened the central heating and we enjoy the first hot shower after a while. Roberto cooks a soup and Dan prepares some hot chocolate.

Miss Liu takes Dan, Roberto and me for a visit in a traditional Kyrgyz tourist village.

Miss Liu takes Dan, Roberto and me for a visit in a traditional Kyrgyz tourist village.

Heaven: Finally the emergency credit card arrived!

Hell: It cannot be used in Kyrgyzstan.

Hell: Roberto and I spend our anniversary with bank visits and skype phone calls in overcrowded internet cafés.

Heaven: The outdoor store gives us our money back for jacket and gloves.

The entire team supports our shopping. We are sad that we have to bring half of our new gear back to the shop.

The entire Gerber Sport team supports our shopping. We are sad that we have to bring half of our new gear back to the shop.

Heaven: We manage to receive emergency cash after a day and buy a new and more expensive jacket and gloves.

Heaven: My Chinese visa is ready.

Heaven: Online we find an Australian couple that is searching for two people to share a taxi from Osh towards the Chinese border. At the west bus station we talk to a minibus driver and reserve two spaces from Bishkek to Osh in his car for the following morning. Bikes are no problem. We share one last dinner with our friends before we head towards the bus station by the following day.

4890 Total Views 2 Views Today
  1. Pingback: Bicycle friendly freeway towards Kashgar | | Tasting TravelsTasting Travels

  2. P+P says:

    crazy story!!! and we enjoyed bishkek that much… can not believe it! But you survived and we gonna see us probably soon – i need to touch you – to feel if you are real!!!! 😀

    take care and keep dry. felipe

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      Haha – you two! We also hope to see you very soon! We are still in Chengdu, bikes are ready so let’s meet soon! Where are you two? We need somebody to shoot our Christmas Postcards hehehe. Big hugs (cyber hugs, real hugs will follow soon hopefully) from Annika & Roberto

  3. Anaid says:

    I finally made the time to read on of your stories and I’m glad I did.
    I laughed so much especially the foosball heaven and hell, so honest

    I miss you both a lot and wish I could see China with you, but I’m kinda doing right now

    🙂

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      Anaid!! We miss you too! Once we meet again we will play foosball until our hands hurt 😀
      Hope it will be soon! Big big hugs from China!!
      Annika

  4. Hector says:

    Better late than never: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!!!

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      Thank you so much! We had a chaotic day but a nice evening in a Chinese Restaurant 🙂

  5. Pingback: Razones por las que vamos a regresar a KirguistánTasting Travels

  6. Pingback: Why We Will Return to Kyrgyzstan - Tasting TravelsTasting Travels

  7. Pingback: Himmel und Hölle in Bischkek | Tasting Travels

  8. Pingback: Smoky Rockies: Cycling the Trans-Canada Highway - Tasting Travels | Tasting the cultures of the world by bike

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*