Tag Archives: Cycling Kyrgyzstan

Day 111 : Ready to fly!

29 Aug

We took a morning swim in the pool of the fancy, 18 rooms house we stayed in Bishkek. After packing our luggage and saying goodbye to our hosts, we took a cab to go to the shop where we left our bikes few days earlier. On the way, we had a crash with a marchoutka, and we had to leave the cab in the middle of the traffic, with all our stuff, as it didn’t ride anymore. Not a good start for our last day in central asia! We  managed to jump in a bus and reach the bike shop, where we happily found our bikes back.

Nervously intense Osh Bazaar

Our next mission was to go to Osh bazaar, to buy a hundred Kyrgyz caps.We had the brilliant (?) idea to buy them in order to sell them in Europe, and it was the place where we could find the best prices. It was indeed cheap : a hundred caps for a hundred euros…after a lot of negociation! When we left the bazaar, 3 cops stopped us to check our passport, and then started emptying our pockets, checking out the money. They obviously wanted to transfer some in their own pockets, and we had to take the money back by force from their hands. Kyrgyz cops are most corrupted we’ve seen and those are the only guys you should be afraid of travelling Kyrgysztan. With our money in our pockets and our caps in our bag, we could rest and eat. Our last meal was not shashliks, but chinese dishes 🙂

A hundred caps…how much?

Chinese Shashliks 🙂

We struggled to put all our gear in the taxi, but somehow managed to do it. We spent the night in the airport, as we were taking off early in the morning. After a night with no sleep, we had to fight with the crew of the company, who wanted to make us pay for the bike by kilo, asking for 400 dollars each…while it was supposed to be 30 euros for the bike! My internet connection helped us big time, as I could show the manager the terms and conditions of his company, where it says that it is indeed 30 euros for a bike going to Budapest. It still needed half an hour of arguing to make him agree for the amount. It the end, it worked. After that, we went through other issues : woman at the customs saying our visa is expired -while we dont need visa for Kyrgysztan anymore-, and few items taken from luggages : scissors and camping gas, and we struggled to keep our knife and locker. All those guys in the airport were the biggest concentration of stupid people we’ve seen in 4 months, and getting into the plane was a huge relief. As we still did not sleep at all, we fell asleep before taking off, and woke up after landing. Europe, here we come, for more cycling adventures 🙂

Now, let’s hope we didn’t forget anything

Central Asia, see you next time!


Days 108 – 110 : Issyk Kul it’s so cool

27 Aug
For a few euros, we could get in a Marchroutka, a shared minibus, and reach Issyk Kul in a few hours. The lake is the second largest mountain lake in the world, with a length of 180 km and depth of 700 meters (!). The water is clear, slightly salty, and never freezes due to thermal activity underneath. All around, huge mountains with snowy peaks, where float many rivers ending up in the lake. It is also the most famous tourist spot for Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Russians in the region.
It has numerous discos next to Chopon Alta, the city we arrived, on the north coast. The first night, we went out and spent the night with a group of Kyrgyz students on the beach, sharing vodkas until the early morning, and properly celebrating the end of the first part of our trip!
After having tasted the Kyrgyz nightlife, we decided to go further, leave Chopon Alta, and give it try with the countryside. 40 km away, we hitchhiked and the guys lead to a house owned by a family of Russians, where we could sleep for 5 euros. The place is remote, and has a direct access to the lake, with a tiny beach and a handful of people. After sunset bathing with the family, we came back to our little soviet bungalow. We made a barbecue of duck shashliks with the group, and stayed out next to the fire for good few hours. Our hosts all have wives and kids, but it didn’t prevent them to go out to night club after emptying 2 or 3 bottles. We were tired and didn’t want to go out again, so we managed to skip this one. “Just don’t tell our wives and kids we went out, and tomorrow we’ll say we went to sleep at the same time”. All right, no problem man. Have a good one!
Menu: Donald duck shashliks
crazy Pavel and his friend
We were next to Gregorievka mountains, and found a group of people going deep into the mountain to pick mushrooms. We got into the car, which was 62 years old Bolga from the soviet era. We were 10 people in it, and the engine didn’t handle well our weight in those mountain paths…so we had to stop every 3 km or so to let the engine rest. One of the youngers in the car speaks english, and we asked him if we could stay with them for the night, in their camp. We negociated a deal with him (we’d give them around 7 euros for the night and food) and set up in their camp high in the mountains.
62 years old Volga
There were about 30 people from 3 generations, picking mushrooms and cutting wood next to their tent. Those guys spend the whole summer in the mountain, where they go back to their traditional nomad lifestyle during the good season. We rested during the day, took a swim in the cold water of a small lake nearby, and ate excellent food made by a woman in the camp.
Second lake
At evening time, the guys told us “hey, lets go to the store!” -“Mmhhh, but we’re in the middle of nowhere!” -“Beside the second lake, there is a yourt sellling beer, vodka and cigarets!” -“No, not again, not today!” -“Yes, today! Davai!”. We headed up there, had to wait the shop owner to finish his prayers, and paid them 2 bottles of vodka for 2 euros. After a night walk in the trails, where we could hear chacals screaming, we  went back to the camp and shared few glasses before going to sleep. The stars were incredibly shiny and the sky reminded us of what we’ve seen in the Kazakh desert few weeks before. 
still no idea what happened with that picture
The next day was our last one before coming back to civilization, and we decided to trek and go even deeper in the mountain. Our friend proposed us to go to some waterfalls he heard about. We started following the river, in the path made by the cows and horses living there. We walked for 2 or 3 hours to get the beautiful, untouched waterfalls we were looking for. We took some time to enjoy the scenery, and took a -very- cold shower there. This point was the furthest we’d go in our trip. From now on, it will all about going backwards : first to Bishkek, then Europe and ultimately Belgium.
 Chai loo…Chai maker
On the way to the waterfall
Cooling in the waterfall
The way down

Day 107 : The final ride

27 Aug

The last ride of our trip in Central Asia was from Karabalta to Bishkek, approximately 60km. Nothing interesting on the way, but we were pretty excited as it was our final destination in Asia, and getting there was the result of 107 days of pedaling through eastern europe and central asia, for more than 5300 kilometers. After celebrating our achievement with a beer, we headed up to the bike shop to see how we could pack our bike. The guys gave us empty boxes and helped us packing our gear as well as possible. We did a pretty good job and just have to hope that there won’t be any damage in the plane. Bike packed, we could plan the last few days of trip we had in Kyrgystan to explore the Issyk Kul area, with its beautiful lakes and mountains.


Days 104 – 106 : Yourts and yogurt

26 Aug

Delayed with our little excursion in the mountains, followed by a u turn to the west, we decided to hitch hike to the north to catch up the distance. After waiting for a few minutes next to the main crossroad a truck stopped and agreed to give us a ride to Toktogul, 300 km further, for 1000 soms (approximately 15 euros). We got in the truck, fixed the bikes in the back, and took a seat behind the drivers, 2 friendly Kyrgyz in their early 30s. On the road, each cop we see is stopping us, requesting a bribe to let us go without problem. 50 soms (a bit less than 1 euro) is enough for the cops to be happy. In one hour, we were stopped 4 or 5 times by the police for no specific reason and bribed all of them. After few hours in the truck riding between mountains, we reached Toktogul, the hometown of the drivers, and one of them  offered us to stay at his place with family, where we could sleep outside, under the stars and next to the chickens.

Cirga our friendly driver and his family

Toktogul has a big reservoir of water, a lake with calm water surrounded by  big snowy mountains all around. The water is warm and swimming there has been a real delight. We didn’t take a proper shower for 4 or 5 days and washing/refreshing there was the only thing we wanted before getting back on the asphalt. A swim and a fish later, we started the ascension of a big mountain, with 50 km uphill. The road is good and the scenery starts getting breathtaking. We see many nomads on the way, living in their yourts and selling dairy products from their horses , mainly milk, cheese and butter.

Toktogul reservoir

This part of the road might be the most amazing place we cycled. Huge spaces, incredible mountains, and good conditions. We crossed two ranges of mountains, one at 3200 meters and the other at 3600 meters. Nomads welcomed us to stay with them and set up the tent next to their yourt. We witnessed and experienced their lifestyle, centered on the horses. From a very young age, they use them to commute, and nearly exclusively eat food made from horse milk.

How to make Kumizz

Drying the cheese
Arrived a the top of the mountain, we had to cross a 3 km long tunnel to pass on the other side. A jeep stopped next to us, and the driver told us we shouldn’t cross it on a bicycle, as people die there every year due to lack of aeration in the tunnel, falling asleep with gas emanation. Azret, the driver, speaks good english and works as snowboard and paragliding guide in the mountains. He kindly proposed us to stay at his place in Karabalta, in the valley. The downhill was incredible : 80km long in breathtaking landscapes. We quickly got to Azret’s flat, and we visited the city together. It used to be an active industrial town during soviet era, but since the decline of the empire, it declined and it is now more like a ghost town with empty factories and radioactive areas.
Just one more
We should’nt stay more than five minutes