My way home
Part VI: Kyrgyzstan (3804 – 5003 km)
Part VI: Cycling in Kyrgyzstan
From the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border I cycled towards lake Issyk-Kul, a lake so large, that during the communist era, it had been used for submarine and torpedo tests (length: 182 km, second largest mountain lake in the world). I passed the lake along the North shore, through many small villages with cute houses, little homestays, and booths selling fished from the lake.
Traditional clothing, hospitability, food, language in Kyrgyzstan seemed very similar to those in Kazakhstan. The average and despite an obviously even poorer population, at least I didn’t notice too many differences. Landscapes varied a lot however, from beautiful coniferous forests right after crossing the border, over relatively flat roads along the North shore of the lake with a stunning mountain chain to the right, through a steep gorge (even including a nice, lonely canyon again) on the way from Issyk-Kul to Bishkek. I spent several weeks in Bishkek to work on my photos and this website, fix my bike and gear, enjoy amazing Chinese food and practice a little bit of Russian. Most importantly, I prepared for the arrival of my girlfriend from Taiwan.
Once she arrived, we rented a car and went on a round trip from Bishkek to Son Kul, a rather inaccessible mountain lake of incredible beauty and vastness. From there we went on to the South shore of Issyk-Kul, where we participated in an ethno-festival with traditional hawk hunting, horse games, yurt building and presentation of traditional costumes. From Issyk-Kul, we went on further East to Karakol, a city that is a popular starting point for trekking and adventure activities. We chose to go on a 4-day hike up to the high-altitude lake Ala-Kol and through the valley Altyn-Arashan. We made friends with a nice Czech couple who knew where to find a wild hotspring on the way back to Karakol! We also spend the next day at Issyk-Kul shore, but then had to head back to Bishkek which meant saying good-bye.
From Bishkek, my next goal was to reach Osh, the beginning of the Pamir Highway. There is only one road through the very mountainous terrain and it leads over two 3000 + metres peaks and thorugh beautiful and diverse landscapes. Yurts, horses, sheep, cattle hospitable people everywhere and not too much traffic. I drank a lot of Kumys, ate many Kurts and had amazing descents up to 84 km/h. I reached the reservoir lake Toktogul, a relict from Soviet times of course. The thing looks nice from the road going all the way around it (no bridge), but the humidity and temperature at the lake shore where I had decided to put my tent was disgusting, but it was getting dark already, too late to find another place.
The next day, I noticed a strange noise and pushback on the rear brake. It turned out that my rear rim was torn, which made any further cycling impossible. I hitch-hiked to Jalal-Abad, organised a place in a hotel for my bike and went back to Bishkek, in hope of getting help with the bike. They were only selling light-duty disc brake rims so that the only way to get it was to have a friend sending new rims to me from Germany. However, during this period, I had medical issue with my hand that I also couldn’t get a satisfying treatment for. It took me some days to realize that this had to be the end of the cycling part of my journey back to Taiwan. I got my bike transported back to Bishkek, applied for Russian visa, then took a three-day train through Kazakhstan and Russia, an overnight train to Kiev, then a last one to Lviv, the “capital” of Western Ukraine. I took some days to catch my breath, then went on with a 24 hours bus to Duisburg, Germany.