The diaries - 14   

18 July

Osh - Kyrgyzstan


Sue managed to get a brief update off and away from Naryn, so I'll not bore you with covering the 'old ground' for she does a rather good job.  Suffice to say that yet more magnificent scenery rolled by our wheels on our way to Naryn, plus camping at over 9,500 feet in the Dolon Pass over the Naryn Too range of mountains, which are part of the Tian Shan.


From Naryn we went out to Tash Rabat, a 9th century Caravan Sarais, where the old camel trains of the Silk Route would stop on their long journey.  At Tash Rabat they could rest up and be safe from marauding robbers and thieves.  What was to be a 'mere visit' turned out to be a two day rest... where we would hopefully be safe from those same thieves... ha! 


Tash Rabat is beautiful, the
last fifteen kilometres being along unmade, unsurfaced, rough and pothole-strewn tracks, high up into the mountains. Tash Rabat is sited at 10,500 feet, the air is thin, clear and pure... so we stayed.  We were made most welcome by Nazira and her husband, who prepared a yurt (A ger in Mongolia) for us to stay in.  There were other visitors there of course, and the morning we left I found that a small magnifying glass I keep in the front pocket of my tank bag had been stolen.   Ah well... nothing changes.  A pal, Peter Schofield, had bought me this magnifying glass after we did the Stella Alpina Rally together back in 1995. (he'd been fed up of waiting for me while I put my reading specs on to look at the map!) The magnifying glass had been a constant and useful companion to me over the last ten years.


at Tash Rabat we climbed high into the mountains, probably to around 11,500 to 12,000 feet,

and I'm afraid I'm running out of adjectives to describe the scenery....


On our way to Naryn Sue had complained of a lack of power, but a quick check revealed that the rear brake was still sticking on.  We'd tried to free it off (sticking master cylinder piston) but all attempts failed... replacement required!


We returned to Naryn for a night in the 'English Guest House', and then on to Chaek, then headed towards Toktogul. We followed the river along an unmade road for at least twenty miles, along the Alabel Pass.  The track was just hewn out of the rock face, all crumbly and falling into the in places. Several fatal accident markers along the road warned of its danger, but no speed could be gained, so the markers were surely for th
ose that had gone over the edge.... the river below being a of rapids.  No one would survive if they went over the edge, yet here we were, only two and three feet from it on occasions, no barriers, no safety, just a crumbling road!


Yet more stunning scenery met our tired eyes as we rode round the Toktogul Reservoir. For many miles the water was hundreds of feet below us, again no barriers, no nothing, just the edge of the road and a two hundred feet drop.  Through tunnels, dusty and dark, road not yet made, large stones lying on the road, nothing to mark the edge of the road.  Had to laugh, Sue complained that her headlights and spotlights were useless, she couldn't see a thing.  I suggested that for the next tunnel she take off her sunglasses!


I read that Sue 'had a go' at my new toy, the BMW Navigator II, in her update.  Fair enough, the World Map is a little out of date maybe, but it's so useful I wouldn't be without it.  Anyway, I remember Sue, in Germany, coming to a rendevous at the dry bob sled run, following her compass on the little Garmin Three-Plus.  The rendevous was one mile away to her left, so she turned left.  She had been riding down a valley, a mountain to the left, but because the arrow said go left she turned left.  Ideally one should have ridden along the valley and come down t'other side.... but no!  Along a footpath, along the 'Rot Vine Fuss Weg'  path, through a field or two, more footpaths, people diving for cover, a quick text to say "Help, can you come and find me!" ... over the top, and eventually to the rendevous along another footpath, people scurrying for cover!  


Into Jalal-Abad, to the only hotel.  Sue goes in and immediately returns having received growls from the lady behind the desk.  I'm challenged to go and 'sort her out'. There are no other hotels, I go in and I'm immediately met with orders being barked at me to hand over my passport.  We're off to a very bad start!  I'm just about to shout back at her and walk out - when I lower myself - for she's sat at her desk, and looking at her square in the eyes, I say in a soft voice, "Now then darling, you and me haven't really got off to a good start now have we?  Shall we try again... do you have a room please?"  ... I smile, she smiles and melts.  I don't think she knew what I had said, but she melts, she's as nice as pie.... we're in!


Leaving Jalal-Abad we have a close encounter, well Sue does.  Over here the rules of the road are such that the bigger vehicle has right of way, but normal etiquette on roundabouts (driving on the right remember) is that when you're on the roundabout you give way to traffic entering from the right (the old French way!).  Entering a roundabout Sue follows a car onto the roundabout, but the car stops immediately for a white Lada coming from the right, Sue jumps on the brakes and drives around him, just missing him, and chunters away at the driver... for stopping on a bloody roundabout!  The white Lada of course now has to jump on his brakes to miss - and it's close - the motorcycle riding round the car that has stopped for him! Each missed the other by two inches at the most.  I can laugh now, but the lesson is learnt and we continue.


Riding into Osh we're in the outside lane when I spot a Hotel/Restaurant/Bar ... indicator on and the traffic behind allows me to the pavement.  A little more hectic for Sue behind, but we make it.  I walk back to the hotel (Hotel 3MA'C) and immediately I'm made at home.  Secure parking round the back, somewhere to work on the 'bikes without prying eyes or searching fingers, and we book in for a couple of days.  The staff are friendly and helpful, this place feels like home. The bier is cheaper than water, a good meal with bier, three pounds fifty!


It's Monday 18th July and, when finished with the update, will be walking to the DHL office to pick up (hopefully) the replacement rear brake master cylinder for Sue's 'bike.  We'll fit it later today and then in the morning we'll be heading off for pastures new.... Uzbekistan. We'd better, for our Kyrgyzstan visas expire tomorrow! 


We're still heading westwards, heading for home.  All of a sudden I realize that we've been on this journey now for almost four months... phew, how time flies.  I'm still not ready for home, I'm still enjoying every day of this venture, I'm ready for more!

How the hell I'll settle down to life once I'm home I don't know...


It can, and has often been said that you never appreciate something until it is no longer around. True. And in this case we are talking about a back brake.

It is a wonderful thing, it can be used for 'slow control', for coming to a stop gracefully, in corners if you really have to, and it is great for keeping the back of the bike behind the front down 1 i
n 4 descents on gravel mountain passes!


On the road to Tash Rabat, south of Naryn, there is a beautiful stretch of unmade, loose gravel mountain track, a pearler of a 1 in 4 descent. Using the front brake gently is not a problem, but when the back of the bike overtakes the front it is! Arse over tits, or base over apex, however you like your English grammar, the result is the same. "I thought you had finished doing that when we left Mongolia" he said, as he picked us both up, but I got a 9 out of 10 for style! It was with a certain amount of apprehension I set off for Osh, 3 days away over the mountain passes, and to where Rainbow Motorcycles had flown a new brake master-cylinder out to me by courier. There is a lot to be said for the 'mechanical' type of bike on a long trip, hydraulics are ok, when they work!

Adventures along the way have been many, more 'run-ins' with female gorgons in hotels, a supercilious Russian bank clerk in Naryn who had my hackles raised, but she came off best as she gave me a rotten exchange rate. Following a lorry absolutely full to the brim with watermelons, the young guy sitting on the back was gleefully bombarding me with large green missiles. Weaving and dodging, unable to drop back because of following donkey carts, it was a sticky business!

Here in Osh, which was once an important cross-roads on the Old Silk Route, we are people-watching while we wait for the master cylinder to arrive. It is hotter than I could ever imagine, a sizzling 43°C.  There is a definite 'Oriental' feel to the town, one of the largest bazaars in Asia, absolutely anything can be bought here, except poly-cotton wrap-around skirts and bacon and eggs. Beer is half the price of water and the cockroaches are so well behaved they scurry out of the shower before I get in.

We walked up Suliemain Mountain yesterday (with Mira and her daughter, from the hotel. Mick)
of the most Holy of mountains to the Islamic faith (but beer and vodka were still on sale for those who needed a little more 'sustenance'). The mountain has been hollowed out into 10 or 11 caves and is used as a museum, a fascinating place to visit.

Yesterday evening we watched the world go by - well, some of it. It must have been the policemens' night out: they were out in force, but partying! Two in particular caught my attention, more than slightly inebriated, they were kissing and hugging, getting so familiar with each other they were exchanging tongues. In all honesty I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. "You would think they could change out of their uniforms first - it wouldn't be allowed in England" was Mick's response!

There is a decided lack of tourists here in Kyrgyzstan, mainly due to the elections that were held on July 10. Presumably people stayed away in case of violence, and that is understandable, but this is a settled and democratic country now, whose people are extremely proud of their country and the path they are following. It may be a little off the beaten track, but fly to Bishkek, pick up a guided tour and you will be in for the trip of your lives.

Tomorrow, whether or not my part has arrived, we leave for Uzbekistan, as our visas will run out then. We are getting nearer and nearer Europe, but it is still a 'long way home'.


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