Just a quick update from Bishkek – we were going to write a full update on our time in Kyrgyzstan today so far but we were otherwise busy, taking turns in the toilet – ‘nough said…
We spent days in Bishkek to lodge and collect our Iranian visa, then on Friday, we had to make an appointment for our Uzbekistan visa for today Tuesday 10am. Each visa process is different and precise and it is in your interest to do all the research and have all the right documentation, photocopies of passports and other visas in either black and white or colour as they want, the right size photos, the right number of visa applications, “letter of invitation” (which we used Stan Tours for in a couple of instances), an idea of itinerary and hotels we’ll ‘use’. It’s like each border crossing – there are so many pieces of paper to get, complete and get stamped by various people along the way, going from one little window to another and then they are all taken away and you’re waved through and welcomed to their country!! We’ve updated a couple of travel forums online with the latest border procedures. It is amazing how long each visa takes!!! I have spent 3 hours on our India visas today and the application isn’t quite finished – the joys of poor internet and crashing sites…
While here we also organised motorcycle insurance, which wasn’t easy to find out where to go. The reason is that very few people here have car insurance. What happens here when you have an accident is that you negotiate on the spot and work who is at fault and how much will be paid. It might take 1, 2 or 3 hours and once an agreement is reached, money is handed over and you continue on your merry way. I’ll spare you the details here but have updated a travel forum with detailed address and contact details.
Talking about car insurance, the driving here is the worst we’ve seen so far!!! Oh my goodness…. Basically, if they can’t see anything coming, there’s nothing and they overtake, or even double overtake and, miraculously, it works most times… And if there’s a bit of room between us and the vehicle in front, they overtake, forcing us to brake and back off some more. That’s ok most of the time, except when they then suddenly stop (yes, literally, and it’s happened many times), and when they do that on bad roads to avoid damaging their car on pot holes – it is so much easier to maneuver at a certain speed on a motorbike on bad (potholed or gravel) roads than at stop/start speed. What we had thought could did happen yesterday: they have a weird way of upgrading roads here too, with perfectly good sections suddenly stopping, either for both lanes or one way only. And on double laned sections, you suddenly share those two lanes, one for each direction. But the road signs are tiny. And yesterday, a truck obviously missed his blue arrow to return to his side and was coming straight towards us!!
Their way of dealing with traffic lights is interesting too!! The lights have the number of seconds clocking down. As soon as the red light gets to below 7, traffic starts to nudge forward, and often actually take off well before it’s turned green. The trick is not to get to the front of the line or you get hooted at for not taking off on red!!! On the other hand, as soon as the green starts to flash, you stop!!
As we had a few days before our Uzbekistan visa appointment, we decided to head to Issy-Kul lake and hills the next day. We first found an old, closed Russian resort called Ulan on the edge of the lake. We were invited to leave our bikes outside, slip through the torn down fence and head for the beach. It would have been quite a lovely place in its time but it was obviously still perfect for families to enjoy today, even though all the buildings were derelict and empty and weeds everywhere there had been paths. There was nowhere suitable for us to camp and no hotel. So we carried on. So far the area didn’t appeal to us much and we were wondering where we were going to end up for the night. We eventually found a local ‘resort’ which had one room left. It was an absolute oasis, full of flowers, trees, well maintained gardens. The room rate included 3 set meals. So set that at the designated times for each meal. All the tables were laid out with the starter on the plate. It felt like a canteen but it was a good deal and the food (mostly) good.
The next day, we were going to head for the hills and camp, but we both had bad necks, I had a bad headache and we decided it wasn’t worth camping in that state if we could stay another night. We could and did!! We liked the fact that we were the only foreigners there. Unfortunately, we have found our interactions with Kyrgyz folk very limited – they are a lot more reserved, timid, scared or baffled, we’re not sure.
We set off Monday for Bishkek, via an unknown loop so that we could get more off road experience. Looking a Google earth looked a little daunting but I was up for the challenge. The scenery was stunning. But the winds!! Oh my goodness, I got blown right across the road at one point. No wonder I’m getting arm and stomach muscles!! We came across the most beautiful stream and I stopped. Big mistake. I just managed to stay up, but couldn’t take off again as taking my left foot off the ground to put the bike in gear would have had me blown over. All Anthony could do was wait patiently until I was ready to take off again. So I am afraid I have very few photographs, except when it wasn’t gusting and I could take them on the move like many I have taken so far (my years of traveling out bush in a 4 wheel drive and taking lots of photos while driving to show Anthony when I got home have come in handy on this trip!!).
The drive was stunning, through the mountains, very little traffic, few power lines. And the road? Well…..it was all tar and perfect!!! It also meant we missed the 30 kms of road works we’d had on the way over. Lucky once again. Although we didn’t get the practice we were after.
Back in Bishkek for 2 nights and a day to collect the Uzbekistan visa. That all worked perfectly. But the rest of the time was not much fun as I alluded to in the opening paragraph – must have been the minced meat we had in various forms at the resort… We’re pretty much back to normal and should be on our slow way to Tashkent tomorrow, heading south and then west, arriving there in a week or so. Can’t wait for more camping!!!!!!!