Before we continue, here’s a holdover video taken by Chris’ Helmet Camera from Kazakhstan showing our ride into Atkobe (you’ll hear Ger’s opinion of the crazy traffic at an intersection around the 10-minute mark). http://youtu.be/m0XgUpt_nzk
Back to the present. We made it out of Kazakhstan and into Kryzkstan without any issues except for a delay at the Kazakhstan border while they used a passing semi-trailer rig to fix a camera and light fixture overhead (they used the passing trailer to put a ladder on top of the trailer to reach the overhang).
Steve and Ger hamming it up while waiting for border to re-open.
Using available resources (trailer) to fix the lights and camera
KR border guards and customs were very friendly and helped us fill out the necessary customs forms and we were on our way.
The hardest thing about blogging about Kyrgyzstan is trying to spell it correctly and to try to capture how wonderful the people and scenery are in words and pictures (can’t be done)!! Unfortunately their tourism industry is basic but has lots of potential. Lots of mountains and scenery here and our route to Talas (only 45 miles from the border) took us past Kirov Reservoir with magnificent panoramas. We stopped at the dam to take some photos but were “shooed” off by a security guard (we must have looked like potential bombers).
View from road
Enroute to Talas, 2 cars drove up alongside us (30-40 MPH) and handed Ger apples and then tried to hand us tomatoes but I waived them on as it was getting a little dangerous!! After arriving in Talas we spent about 30 minutes trying to find our “homestay” for the night and a taxi driver led us miles through town to within half a mile and refused to accept any money. The “Homestays” are part of a national program called Community Based Tourism “CBT” very similar to what we know as Bed-and-Breakfast “B&B”.
We all were accomodated in one house and were treated to tea, bread, jam, biscuits and sweets shortly after we arrived. Later, we had our first home-cooked meal (salad, potatoes, meat (horse maybe or mutton?) in over a month in their “Yurt” (or Buizu sp?) in their back yard.
Ger awaiting her meal in the Yurt
The next day we headed to Toktogul (only about 120 miles) for another Homestay – this one a little more “basic” with an outdoor shower and “traditional” toilet. Enroute, we bumped into 2 guys from Reutlingen we were in Plieningen) and exchanged stories and info on the roads.
Meeting Germans from the Stuttgart area – small world!
Again, our host family in Toktugul was wonderful (Mother teaches French in the school and the daughter-in-law had been to New Mexico and South Carolina) and the food was excellent (Rice in peppers for dinner). They also had some local crafts for sale (you can guess what happened next). On our way to the local store we bumped into Max from Illinois who is assigned to the town as an English teacher for the Peace Corps for 2 years. He came back with us to have dinner and shared some of his experiences living in Kyrgyzstan.
The older kitchen stoves outside.
Horsemeat available at all price points!
Delicious and simple meal
Our third day was spent exploring the roads around the vast Toktogul Reservoir which offered some magnificent mountain and river views. We spent our third night in a quiet hotel in Chychkan Gorge next to a peaceful flowing river and we set off for Bishkek the next day. Right before we departed we heard another motorcycle pass through and we caught up to him at the top of the pass. It turned out to be an Italian on a 30-year old BMW R80/GS wearing sandals and a North Face Parka complete with Tartan luggage on the back and Tweed side tank bags. He had been on the road for several months through Iran and Turkmenistan and was making his way back through Kazakhstan. We chatted for a while sharing stories before continuing our separate ways.
This guy was amazing! Loved Iran – hated Turkmenistan
Ger’s new Mountain Man boyfriend. She taught him to use her Camera Phone to take a picture as well!
The route to Bishkek (the Capital) was also awesome and took us over another 3000 meters plus (over 10,000 feet) pass.
Brian arriving at our mountain top tea break stop
We stopped at a Yurt for tea and saw how they milk the horses (I didn’t know horses gave milk) and make the fermented horse milk and other products. Ger got to try her hand at churning the milk in a cow hide container.
Trying Yogurt Balls – not our cup of tea.
Churning the milk before it goes from the leather container to the wooden churn.
Butter, apricot jam, yogurt balls and a brown (I forget exactly) butter type thingy
Roadside clearance sale on yogurt balls.
After we arrived at our hotel in Bishkek we met this AWESOME young lady from the Czech Republic. Dominika is a a 22-year-old Mechanical Engineering Student who has been on an solo adventure – she certainly has some stories to tell (especially from corrupt Kazakhstan police). She has a Facebook Blog (in Czech language but FB offers a decent translation from computer versions) at https://www.facebook.com/DominikaNaCeste/timeline. We hope she is successful as she departs today back towards home.
Dominika and her trusty Yamaha 250
Found some Bushmills at the local market so had an impromptu Taste of Ireland with Chris, Dominika, Ger and Steve.
Started drinking Kefir to combat any “irregularities”
Meeting our fellow motorcyclists yesterday was inspiring and humbling. It shows that you don’t need a super motorcycle and super gear to have a great adventure – just something mechanically sound, an open mind, a desire to learn about new cultures and an adventurous spirit. Today is a rest day in Bishkek and Ger is in town at museums and post office while I take some time to update the blog. We will likely lose internet again after Bishkek keep tracking us on our Spot Tracker link.