Day 24 & 25: Bored in Bishkek

The first order of business was to get back in touch with Ryan from Iron Horse Nomads, who we had contacted when we were still in Osh. After a lavish breakfast of tiny crepes, baguettes and all other things French (thanks to our French host), we called him.

Ryan had a busy day ahead and told us we could come by in the afternoon, when he would take us to a car spare parts bazaar where we could sell the car to be scrapped for metal. The Renault Kangoo wasn’t worth anything in Kyrgyzstan.

We were mentally prepared to end the trip. I still clung on to some hope, but Moritz was not convinced that we could fix the car. So we started the monumental task of clearing out the vehicle.

It was incredibly emotional. The car had become a living, breathing member of our entourage. It took us 3 hours to sort and throw out things we would not be taking back on the return journey. Not surprisingly, we tossed out most things. What the rally organizers tell you is true – you won’t need most of the things you pack for the trip. Then again, we were expecting to need all our food and camping gear once we entered Mongolia.

We got some help from the gardener at the B&B, who helped us clean up the car and watched in amazement as we pulled out a million things from our Kangoo. We laid everything out on the driveway to be able to sort better. The B&B owner came by, and let’s just say he was less than impressed to see the mess we had created. We weren’t planning to leave anything lying around, but he didn’t seem to trust us.

We called Ryan back, but he was still busy. We decided to make the most of the day by heading to Ala Archa National Park, a short drive from Bishkek. Our only mode of transportation was still our rattling Kangoo, so the 30km drive took somewhat longer than it would have in a different car. The park was stunningly beautiful, but I felt distracted.


Unfortunately, we could not meet Ryan that afternoon and agreed to meet the next day. We knew we would scrap the car, but we still didn’t know how or where. The uncertainty was unbearable.

We had dinner at Manty Bar, a swanky upscale restaurant specializing in dumplings, or manty as they are called in Turkic cuisines.

After a delicious meal of soups, manty and beer with a straw, all the pent-up emotions came bubbling out. Moritz and I had a long, difficult discussion about our options. I wasn’t ready to let go. I felt like we hadn’t tried hard enough, and that we should have picked a different car. None of this changed the fact that we were, in fact, done with our trip. With the 4 weeks we had taken off work, there was nothing to do now but pack up and go home.


The next day, we checked out of the B&B and went to Ryan’s office. We were hoping to sort the car out and leave for Almaty that day.

Ryan proved to be very helpful. While he was out fixing his own cars – he offers off-road tours and car rentals himself – on the first day, we crashed at his office.

We weighed our options. We could import the car, which would set us back several thousand dollars in import taxes, then sell it. Or we could sell it and make sure to mention in the contract that the buyer would go through the import process and pay the import taxes (which the buyer may or may not do, but we are legally not responsible).

As the car was a fully functioning vehicle with no issues besides a slightly artsy side mirror (it had fallen off in the Turkmen desert, we promptly ran it over and now had it attached to the car with cable ties) and the, well, missing rear suspension, we didn’t want to lead the car to the butcher just yet. We had learned that there might be only four other Kangoos in Kyrgyzstan which would mean that instead of being fixed, our car would more realistically be scrapped for the value of the metal parts.

Some creative thinking combined with desperation led us come up with an ingenious idea: store the car, put it up on blocks, travel back home, return the following year with the spare parts, fix the car and do the Mongol Rally part two! We expected Ryan to kick us out of his office for the sheer stupidity of it. His reaction: “Great, let’s try it!”

We took the car for a diagnostic test at a fancy mechanic that Ryan knew. While they inspected the car, we had lunch with Beth, Ryan’s lovely wife, and Akelai, one of his Kyrgyz colleagues.

After lunch, we went to get a letter from the mechanic, which essentially stated that our car was completely broken, and that we needed to order spare parts from abroad. The idea was to buy some time from the Transport and Customs authorities as our car was only allowed to stay in the country for four days.

We went over to the Transport authority’s office with Ryan, who seemed excited by the possibility of trying this new approach to help us, and in the process, make some new contacts at the Ministry.

The guys at the Transport Ministry were sympathetic, but asked us to go to the Customs authority to get our car’s stay extended. As the offices were to close soon, we postponed going to the customs office until tomorrow.

If this insane idea actually works, we will be back next year to continue our journey from Bishkek onward.

Since we didn’t manage to sort out the car and head for Almaty as planned, we checked into a new hostel. We had dinner at a pub next door and got some washing done. Bishkek is hot and humid. What I wouldn’t give to be on the road right now and camping on the countryside!

After three nights in Bishkek, it felt like we had never been in one place for so long. But we were excited by the possibility of still continuing this trip, albeit one year later.

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

One Comment Add yours

  1. Great picture of the local specialty of beer being served with a straw!

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