Day 23: Bishkek in a breeze

Over breakfast, we contacted the German embassies in the region to investigate how it would be possible to get rid of our car. We’ve run out of time to fix it, and now were exploring options to dispose of it legally. Neither the one in Kyrgyzstan nor the one in Kazakhstan proved to be very helpful.

On a whim, Moritz decided to call up Ryan from Iron Horse Nomads. He had read about Ryan’s experience in all things automotive in Kyrgyzstan. After a quick chat with him, we were hopeful about being able to go ahead with whatever we decided to do if we could only get to Bishkek where Ryan was based.

We checked out of the hotel, changed some money and bought some snacks for the road. We were left with a lot of Tajik Somoni that we had no use for, but there was no way to change them in Kyrgyzstan either.

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Kyrgyz roads surprised us. Pot-holes and bumps were minimal between Osh and Bishkek. Cows, horses, sheep, dogs and goats were also far and few in between. Nevertheless, almost 600 kilometers were a stretch to tackle on a single day with our limping Kangoo.

Once we left the city behind us, we were met with charming sights of nomadic yurt camps amidst mostly lush green hills. The views reminded us of Iceland.

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We stopped for lunch at a scenic spot on the side of the road, overlooking a stretch of blue lake. We made some pasta and as we were packing up, spotted another Mongol Rally car speeding past us. It brings a sense of familiarity when you spot a fellow rallier on the road. This time was no different. We had seen no one during the Tajik stretch of the Pamir Highway.

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After another 3-4 hours of driving, a mountain range slowly emerged on the horizon as the sun set.

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Once we hit the serpentine road crawling up the mountain, we were engulfed in complete darkness. Despite the late hour, the traffic was surprisingly heavy.

Overtaking the occasional truck and being overtaken by reckless local SUVs, we made it to the top. Visibility was zero. We had sworn we wouldn’t drive in the dark, but the we were close to Bishkek, and decided to push ahead.

A long, dark, narrow tunnel saved us from having to drive all the way across the mountain. The tunnel was well-known for not having any ventilation, making Carbon Monoxide poisoning a real risk, especially for bicyclists, due to its sheer length.

We emerged from the tunnel safe and sound, but were instantly greeted by vapor on the street and a misty rain. We were caught in a cloud! With no street lights, we clung to the rear lights of another Mongol Rally team in front of us.

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An accident which must have taken place minutes before we passed served as a warning. We proceeded even more carefully and inched down the mountain with limited visibility. While we deliberated stopping for the night on the side of the road, the cold rain and the absence of any suitable spots meant we pushed ourselves to continue driving and finally arrive in Bishkek just before midnight.

After being on the road for 13 hours, we were exhausted. We tried printed maps from the Lonely Planet to locate a B&B. When we eventually found it, we were told they were full. We managed to find another B&B, which was an unmarked building, i.e. no address or signboard anywhere. It was pitch dark inside.

We woke up the guard, not knowing if we even had the right place, who had to wake the French owner up.

He was bewildered, “You want a room…NOW?”

After convincing him that we were indeed just tired travelers who just wanted to rest, we were granted beds to sleep in.

This post is part of a series covering my trip across Central Asia in four weeks.

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