Friday, 14 November 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Osh to Jalal Abad; Today: 100 km; Total: 1508 km



May 30, 2014

To avoid the rush-hour traffic, we woke up to my alarm at 5:30, had a coffee, and took off. Radu had managed to get the GPS maps from Open Street for me, so it was a relief that at least we had a half-hazard map of Kyrgyzstan. The ride started with some heavy traffic in a narrow road with no shoulder. The coming traffic was rushing to get to Osh, so we had to be very careful, and sometimes, get off the road to avoid the coming traffic.

After two hours, we stopped in a cafe and had breakfast: eight fried eggs with tea. Then, the non-stop ride began.

In a village/roadside town, we stopped and bought some veggies for dinner. The rain had started already. We started looking for a spot, but we could not find a possible camp spot. Anyone we asked where we could pitch up our tent repeated the word, Jalal Abad, which was the third largest city in Kyrgyzstan! That meant no camping for the night.  

The heavy rain and the bumpy road to Jalal Abad coupled with stones thrown at me made the ride rather frustrating. We were cold, wet, and tired.

 With the help of the GPS, we found a decrepit hotel: Mal Mala very old, huge building which was literally falling apart. It had not been maintained for ages, with no shower, no elevator, no internet for $7. We washed ourselves in washroom with cold water, ate in a cafe in bazaar, and spent some time in a coffee shop.

I checked the weather forecast. It was going to be rain again for a few days!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Osh; Today: 90 km; Total: 1504 km




May 28-29, 2014

After having some kind of concentrated milk with coffee and bread, we left for Osh. It was all downhill, so we arrived at about 11 am. When in Osh, you cannot help noticing the cars: They were all second-hand German or Japanese. It didn't matter if the steering wheel was on the left or right!

In Osh, if you ask girls for direction, good luck! Girls would not even look at you and shun you as if you were invisible. When we were trying to find Taj Mahal Hotel, Raimon asked three groups of girls, but they ignored him. Hard luck! There were no men around!

We found a guest house from Lonely Planet guide, but it was not a convenient place. We, then, checked another one which was $10 a night per person in a six-bedded room with a shower and a toilet. It also had a beautiful yard for the guests to sit and chat. We checked in.

I was a little worried about safety and security in Osh, so I tried to blend in when I went out to Bazzar by not having my knapsack or my camera on me. I even didnt have my passport on me when I went to Bazzar. I didnt want to look like a tourist. I was also warned about the corrupt police in Osh by other cyclists who were stopped, asked for their passports and money. Thats why I couldnt take any photos in Osh.  

We rested the whole day. Tomorrow, Fausto and I will be travelling together again. Raimon and Radu will leave a few days later.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Climbing Again; Today: 90 km; Total: 1408 km



27 May, 2014

We woke up at 7 this morning, had breakfast, and by the time we took off, it was 10 am. It was pay-back time: we were coasting down the mountains along the Gulcha River. The road was perfect, and the weather had sporadic rain on us to make it even more pleasant to ride. We stopped at a cafe and had some quick lunch with lots of tea. When we started riding again, we were in for a lot of climbing. It was our last pass before Osh, not very high compared to other passes, but since we had lost a lot of altitude (at 1500 meters), climbing to 2300 meters in heat was a tough job.

At 5:30, I arrived at the top after everybody else. We sat down and enjoyed the scenery. Some young people came to us to take a photo.


On top of the pass, there was a monument and a statue of a historic figure, where many people would go to take a picture of the scenery and the monument. There were some high school graduates who had taken an excursion to the top to celebrate their graduation. There were some people dancing to the music played from the speakers in their cars. They actually invited me to join them when I was going to the monument. I joined them and only talked to them for fun.

On our way down the pass, we saw a British solo cyclist who was going to Pamir. We exchanged some tips and left. It was getting rather late for camping, so we picked a spot close to the river and pitched our tents.

We had a weird meal Raimon made: rice, with tomato source on top with two fried eggs. It tasted awful. Some was trashed although we were very hungry. The food was so bad that when a boy from village who had come to watch us, ate it, left us and the food--possibly doubting our sanity. He could only eat a few spoons. He left the rest of his share!  






The Dancing Party

View from the Pass

The Statue on the Pass

High School Graduation Party over the Pass




Hospitality


Tasted Aweful




Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Seeing Greenery Again; Today: 75 km; Total: 1318 km



May 26, 2014

I woke up at 6 am in no-man's land. We had nothing to eat for breakfast, no bread or water, so we packed up and left. One km after where we had camped, we saw the Kyrgyz border control. Had we known the border control was so close, we would have crossed the border last night.

Passing through the border guards and officials was easy. They didn't notice our one-day stay without a visa. In half hour, we were officially in Kyrgyzstan. As always, it is very exciting to enter a new country.  

The road was very bad for 15 km--big gravels, but soon, we were riding on smooth asphalt for 25 km to get to Sary Tash, the first village after the border. We had breakfast in a "cafe": some tea, a fried egg, and bread and butter.  We then bought some veggies for dinner.

We started a very steep road from 3200 meters to 3600 meters and then we went down 150 meters and up again, but after that, we had downhill to 2700 meters.

It was very surprising to see such a huge difference between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. For example, the border crossing on Tajik side was such a miserable place. The poor officers did not have the slightest facilities in their site. However, on the Kyrgyz side, the site had buildings, computers, electricity, etc. On the Kyrgyz side, the people were much better off than the Tajik. This was obvious by the houses they lived in, the cars they were driving, and the number of herds they were keeping. What is more, the Tajik land was much greener.

We enjoyed our ride on meandering good roads, and for the first time on this trip, I could go fast with my bike not worrying about bumps and pot holes. My maximum speed reached 68 although I was braking sometimes to control the coast down. We went through beautiful pastures full of horses and cows. People seemed very friendly too.

At about 4 o'clock, we met a couple who were cycling from Mongolia. They had a lot of information about our route ahead. We talked for half an hour. Then, the rain started, so we had to depart.

We continued for about 20 minutes in the rain looking for a place to camp. There was a very serious looking old woman in front of a beautiful garden. Radu, who knows a little bit of Russian, asked the woman if we could camp in the garden. She opened the gate for us! So unexpected from such a serious-looking woman!

The rain had stopped so we started to pitch up our tent as quickly as possible because it was not fun to do it in the rain at all. After 15 minutes, when our tents were up, the old woman, with the same seriousness in her attitude, brought us a big thermos of tea and a loaf of fresh, home-made bread. How hospitable! But in her look and her behaviour, you could not see any kindness--no smile or anything.

In an hour or so, the garden became full of people, all relatives I guess, and they started to play some kind of game with a soccer ball. There were about 50 of them, all ages. It was very interesting to see with how little, they had so much fun! They played games until dark when the rain started again. It reminded me of the only day of the year when Iranian people do something like this: the thirteenth day of Nowruz. Why shouldn't we learn from these people? I wish we could, especially in such day and age when digital life and cyber world is taking over most our face-to-face encounters. None of the people in the garden had their head down on their cell phones or iPods; instead, they were playing games and enjoying the moment enriched with each others presence.  

In two days, we will be in Osh where Fausto and I have to decide what to do for the rest of our trip. Where are we going after Kyrgyzstan? Are we still going to China. What about the visas for Mongolia and other places. 









Tea with fresh home-made bread




Sunday, 5 October 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Goodbye Tajikistan, Hello Kyrgyzstan; Today: 50 km, Total: 1243 km



May 25, 2014

The homestay was full of tourists last night: three Americans who were traveling in a jeep and four Russians on motorbikes. We had our own little room and slept comfortably. We left the village at 9:30, but before that, we went to the centre to get some drinking water from the only well in the village. There were some people in line for filling up their water bucket. 

With a strong head wind, steep road, and constant bumps, we walked our bikes the last 5 km to the border where we registered and left Tajikistan, but we still had 25 km to the border control of Kyrgyzstan25 km of no-mans land.

After the Tajik border control, there was the famous Pamir Goat monument, in 4200 meters. We celebrated our achievement by taking photos with the monument. The scenery changed suddenly on the Kyrgyzstan side of the border. The surface of the mountains changed from rock to soil, so it suddenly got green with more springs. There also were many high mountains straddling the two countries.

We rode our bikes downhill in a very bumpy but beautiful road until 7 o'clock when we decided to camp. We could not go further because it was getting too late, but we did not have Kyrgyz visa yet. We could not stay a day in Kyrgyzstan without passing the border control.  

We camped in a beautiful spot and had a lot of instant noodles. Let's see how the Kyrgyz border control deal with our stay without visa tomorrow.  

Breakfast in the Homestay

From left to right: Italy, Catalonia, Iran/ Canada, Romania

Raimon at the Top; Photographer: Radu


Going down to Kyrgyzstan; Photographer: Radu


Melting Snow for Dinner

One of the locals in Kara Kool




The Statue of the Goat at 4200 meters

Going down to Kyrgyzstan
 
Kyrgyz/Tajik No-Man's Land

Melting Snow
Chinese/Tajik Border