Kyrgyzstan (October 1st – 5th)

Hello and greetings from Kyrgyzstan. I had hoped to finally get round to uploading the photos for the last entries but I shouldn’t have been so optimistic. When I try to access WordPress here I can only limited-access, not full HTML and visual formatting options. Tor gets around that problem but it won’t let me upload any photos. A webproxy gets around that problem (although it’s a hugely error prone process), but then it won’t let me add the photos from the media library, and nor will it let me when I switch back to Tor. And as yet I have not found a solution to that problem. Perhaps a VPN would do it but I haven’t had the time to mess around with that. I never thought this trip would be such a journey into bypassing internet restrictions. Contact me if you have any solutions. So once again please see below updates for the last few weeks, and sincere apologies that they are photo and hyperlink free =[

Post script: Check out Nino’s sexy blog for some photos: grindimwind.ch/blog =]

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The distance from the Tajik border to the Kyrgyz border is around 24km or something. There is some kind of legal loophole (or illegal but nobody cares) which means you can sleep in this Nomansland, and move onto the next country the following day. This is particularly helpful for visa inconsistencies like one finishing the day before the other one starts, as was the case for Nino. In the middle of this valley we met two other cycle tourists – Debs and Kres – two British women in their 40s who had cycled from Islamabad up the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan and China (which I definitely now intend to head down), getting taxis only through the valleys most notorious for stone throwers. We exchanged stories, advice, and cash and then all retired to our tents and sleeping bags around 7ish ‘cos it was dark, and absolutely freezing. The long hot summer days of Europe, Turkey, and Iran were well behind us….

The Kyrgyz border was unproblematic. We got out passports stamped and were told by the official ‘1) Passport stamp, 2) Police check, 3) Customs Check’. Well we had just completed task 1, and the police were nowhere to be seen so we skipped straight to number 3. The customs officer threw his cigarette to the ground, took one look at us, checked our passports and said ‘Customs, no problem?’, to which we replied ‘No problem’, to which he then replied ‘Good luck’ and that was that. Maybe he knew something we didn’t.

A deceptively long cycle to our first town in Kyrgyzstan would bring us to Sary-Tash. Finally we saw a peak we could be sure was over 7km high: the snow-covered Lenin peak reaches 7134metres high. Hogroast. We knew that the Chinese border was closed which significantly disrupted our plans for onward travel. We had heard conflicting reports – some said the border was closed for 7 days, others for 10. One shop owner in Sary-Tash claimed it was only closed for 2. We needed a definitive answer. We asked some Kyrgyz squaddies what the deal was, and one phone call later we got the confirmation that it was indeed closed for the full 10 days. Balls.

We checked into a guesthouse and thought how best to spend the next 10 days. And that it was brought me to where I am doing this update from now – Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second biggest city. We taxied (trucked) it here with our bikes for $50 (reduced down from $100). It felt so good to enter this more temperate lower altitude climate. If anything it felt like summer weather again and we were cycling around in shorts and T-shirt. Such a welcome change to the all-layers-and-still-cold which it was on the last few days in the mountains.

Although we ain’t really seen a lot of it, Osh strikes me as a nice place. Sulayman Mountain in the middle of the city affords a great panoramic. It’s also got some caves in it which I went to check out.

Tomorrow we recommence the 184km journey back to Sary Tash but this time on the bike. There are two good passes, one of which looked particularly challenging. We reckon on roughly one week to get to our next significant destination – Kashgar, China. From there I hope to meet some others who are up for cycling the KKH at this late time of the year. We’ve heard through the grapevine of other travellers that there are other cyclists still coming this way through the Pamirs so we are definitely not the last people heading that way. I can’t say I’m massively up for returning to the mountain conditions. Some new gloves in China are a must. Pakistan and India will most likely be roasters however so I should enjoy the “cool” weather while I can…

So yeah. Maybe I’ll drop another entry in Kashgar in 10 days or so assuming we don’t have problems at the border. See ya.

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