Rarely have I seen such a long line of waiting trucks at a border. After a fruitless attempt to cross the normal border to Kyrgyzstan because Piggy appears to be too large, I have to take another border. It is made clear to me that large cars have to cross the border 20 km away via another border crossing. I suspect that I will once again be seen as a truck, while I already made it clear to the office worker that I am a camper and not a truck with a commercial load. Learned in recent years I pass the long qeue and try to connect with number one. Even before I get the chance to clarify my position as a camper van, I am cut off by a driver of an impressive trailer. The man is clearly out of his mood. Of course I would have had the same feeling in his position.With a power term that he may have learned from an American film or a famous rapper (Fuck You !!), he reinforces his dissatisfaction. When I read Els and Merijn’s report (www.2fortheroad.nl), I have to believe that we were almost lynched because he called on his colleagues via a two-way radio to come forward. But I miss that scene because in the meantime I have got out to make it clear to the customs officer that I have no merchandise with me and therefore have nothing to declare and therefore do not have to fill in all the unnecessary paperwork. It takes some effort to persuade him, but my attempts to be courteous, submissive and charming at the same time have a happy effect. Fortunately he spoke a few words of English.
In the meantime, the angry driver and some colleagues are coming in our direction, whereupon I point out to the officer that he is the boss. Fortunately, the officer understands my situation and tells the men that I don’t have to wait 2 days. To clear everything neatly, I let the angry driver take the lead so that I can connect behind him. The other drivers also agree and with a few handshakes peace has returned.
Pff … that was quite exciting.
In Bisjkek we visit Karin-Marijke and Coen (https://www.landcruisingadventure.com/ig), a Dutch couple who have been traveling in an old Toyota Landcruiser for 16 years. I had met them in Mongolia last year and it is nice to meet again. They had invited Els and Merijn to have a coffee in their Airbnb home, which ultimately resulted in a stay of a few days. I find a place in the open parking space of a hostel nearby. Piggy immediately filled up the entire space.
Together with Els and Merijn I spend a day in the mountains south of Bishkek. With public transport and a shaky lift on the trailer of a Kyrgyz family crammed with picnic material we reach Ala Archa and take a nice walk up the mountain where you can admire a high waterfall. It is my first introduction to the mountains that Kyrgyzstan is famous for. It is also called the Switzerland of Central Asia.
On July 3 I pick up my friend Jan from the airport. Together we make a tour through the eastern and northern part of Kyrgyzstan and enjoy the versatility of the landscape. The northern part of the large Isyk-Kul lake is largely covered with pine forests. We find a beautiful campsite on the edge of the beach, with shade from the trees. A refreshing dip in the fresh water in the morning and in the afternoon. The true holiday feeling.
Near Karakol we set up camp and accidentally meet Anja and Peter with their MAN truck (www.facebook.com/SolitaireCamper). In the spring of 2018 I met them at the fantastic campsite 3Gs in Armenia (www.campingarmenia.com/) of the exceptionally hospitable Dutch Marty and Sandra. The world is so small !!
Karakol is known for its weekly animal market and as the starting point for many hikes in the mountains. There are many travel agencies that mainly organize guided hikes with a guide, 4×4 car or on horseback. We set out independently with our backpack and tent and leave Piggy behind when the road gets too bad. I have become very careful with Piggy.
It will become a three-day trip. Finally I can use my loyal tent again. We climb the valley of the Arashan river as far as possible until our path is crossed by a wide wild river. The area is stunningly beautiful and offers views of the snow-capped peaks of the Tien Shan Mountains.
To get even more between the mountains we follow another valley where we drive with Piggy towards Inylchek. The area requires a permit because it is located in the vicinity of China. We don’t want to go after this. We’ll see how far we get. At the first barrier, we are advised not to continue driving because a man seems to have killed 3 people. The policeman exaggerated the story by remarking that he is a highly trained person with skills in shooting and mountaineering. He would have an AK-47 with him. He was supposed to be near Inylchek. The police is even looking for him with helicopters. But still, Inylchek is still about 100 km away so there will not be such a big danger now. So we continue and reach the highest point of this trip via many hairpin bends. 3822 m. What a view. Someone says that if anyone climbs that hill up there via loose rock, then we can see the whole series of snow-capped peaks, including the Khan Tengri(7010 m.), The highest in this area that lies at the three-border point of Kazakhstan, China and Kyrgyzstan. It will certainly take 1.5 hours before we could enjoy this view, but the sky is overcast on the other side of the pass so there is no other option than to abandon this plan.
Further south Piggy forced to work again to climb to an even higher pass. Breaking out black smoke we effortlessly climb to 4028 m. The highest point of Piggy so far. A good test to see if he can handle the higher passes on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan. This will certainly succeed! Here too we cannot get any further because permits are also required here that we do not have.
Via the south side of Lake Isyk Kul, where the area has much drier, but more colorful, mountains than the north side, we find a nice camping spot along a mountain river, somewhat removed, but visible from the gravel road. The next morning at 5 o’clock, from my roof tent, I hear a car stopping and the slamming of doors. I see two young men coming in our direction through the air hole in the tent, after which our attention is called with loud banging on the door of Jan’s sleeping compartment and loud calling. This is not a pleasant way to make something clear, I think. I quickly get dressed and get out of the tent. In the meantime, a loud conversation is taking place between Jan and the two men. Time to get involved in the discussion, I think, after which they look up and I also get the full tirade. What they are talking about is completely unclear to us. We indicate that we cannot understand them and ask if they might speak English to us. They become even wilder and do not make any effort (or do not have the ability) to show their anger with hand gestures. A load of Russian or Kyrgyz sentences is fired at us. It is slowly becoming clear to us that we have to leave here, but the why remains unclear. With hand gestures I try to make it clear that we need an hour to leave. Their understanding of my hands and feet communication appears to be absent. The youngest and most aggressive of the two becomes even more angry and starts throwing stones at me. One touches my head, after which I feel that I am bleeding. He then climbs to Jan’s window and grabs the top of the half-open window. Jan gives a big blow to his curved fingers while I just have the opportunity to give a big kick down on top of his head. After he has fallen down, he tries to grab another stone but is stopped by the other while an older woman has also got out of the car and tries to appease the case. According to Jan, he must have broken 1 or 2 fingers, while my kick on the head also had its effect. The men decide to withdraw while I make it clear with gestures that we will leave. After they leave, I can happily stop the bleeding in the mountain river, after which we even leave this place within my stipulated hour.
This incident does not affect my confidence in the friendly and hospitable Kyrgyz. Hotheads can be found in all countries.
The first hour we drive silently towards Son Kol lake. We have never left that early. It is now 6 o’clock. The early time makes this ride to the 3000 meters high more memorable. The misery of this morning is repressed by the mountain ranges around us with the long shadows yielding beautiful pictures. As icing on the cake, we are surprised with a beautifully meandering pass upwards. From the top we are watched by some tourists. What a beautiful sight it must be as Piggy crawls his way up over the stones and gravel.
On the plain next to Song Kol lake we pitch our camp next to a yurt camp where a group of Poles on horseback has just arrived.
The afternoon brings us dark clouds, the occasional lightning bolt and a thunderbolt, some rain and the possibility to take beautiful pictures. What a beautiful country and what friendly people.
After a considerable detour to the south, we reach the 14th century caravan serai Tash-Rabat via an excellent highway, not far from the Chinese border and the main route to Kashgar. It was an important stopping place in the time of the Silkroad.
The time is approaching when Jan is going back to the Netherlands. Within a few days we will be back in Bishkek and find an excellent place for Piggy and ourselves at the Tunduk Hostel (www.tunduk-hostel.kg).
On July 25 I say goodbye to Jan. Thanks Jan, they were nice and pleasant three weeks.
From now on I have to deal with visa applications for Iran and Turkmenistan (Tajikistan is already in my possession). This will take a few more weeks. For the time being it is no punishment to take a dip in the swimming pool of Tunduk Hostel from time to time.
The plans for the coming weeks:
Tajikistan with, among others, the Wakhan Valley and the Pamir Highway to Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan to Iran.
TAKE A LOOK AT PHOTO’S AND VIDEO’S OF RUSSIA, KAZACHSTAN, KYRGYSTAN
MY PORTFOLIO OF MY TRAVELS FROM 1987 CAN BE SEEN AND/OR BOUGHT HERE AT STOCK PHOTO AGENCY