I’ve never been to Uzbekistan. I know it’s one of the most common holiday destinations on the planet but somehow I’ve managed to avoid it, until today.
I want to visit Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan but their road system is such that there is only one good road that runs north to south through Kyrgyzstan to Osh, and no good roads that run east to west. Rather than enter at the north then ride all the way down and then back up again we’ll spend a few days in Uzbekistan and enter Kyrgyzstan in the south and ride up from there.
I’m not happy to take people somewhere I have never been so I’ve organised a guide to meet us on the other side and take us through. That should make life simpler…maybe.
There are shed loads of border crossings between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and I’m not meeting the guide at the first border crossing I try. So why did I try it… because I’m an idiot… and I love sitting round being mobbed by hawkers, money changers and the great unwashed as I look at a pair of locked gates and speak to the guide at the next border down the road… twat.. Get to the next, correct, border a few miles down the road. It’s closed to all but Uzbek and Kyrgy foot passengers… Get on the phone, speak to the guide, and hand the phone to the guard for a chat.
The guide is just over the fence but hasn’t noted the complete absence of any vehicles crossing… excellent… this is going perfectly. Today we’re headed for Tashkent. I can smell it from where I’m standing. I can very very nearly touch it… but.. the only border open that will allow foreign vehicles to cross today is 60 miles west at Yalama. The guide tells us to head there and he’ll drive down to meet us in a couple of hours.
I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about being crossing into Uzbekistan. There is a big old list of drugs that you can’t bring in for a start. Bob and Carrie are carrying a bag of random health tablets big enough to open a new branch of Holland & Barrett. That could be a problem. Money can be a problem too. It all has to be itemised on entry and exit and can be confiscated if you’re unlucky/dishonest about it. We shared out the cash last night out to minimise that risk.
Uzbekistan is also not a big fan of alcohol. One of the riders is trying to smuggle about 3 bottles of whisky through, in his skin. It’s mad hot and he’s sweating it out, he’s smelling like a ram raid accident in an off-licence. It doesn’t go un-noticed and as soon as we get through the border three of the riders are pulled aside for breath tests. As soon as they walk towards our rider, Mr Al Cohol, the breathalyzer immediately starts flashing, vibrating and wailing like a rape alarm. That’s enough for them and they take him away for a chat in a private room. Option 1 is they get a doctor, do a test, take him to the police station and generally drop a massive turd in his plans. Option 2 is they bend him over and extract 100USD from his anal cashpoint.
Cash dispensed and it’s off for insurance at a little alley hidden amongst a long line of trucks.
We follow the guide to Tashkent through the mad Uzbek traffic. Maybe this is a favourite holiday destination for Russians. This lot are just as fucking crazy for sure. If you’re prepared to ride like a complete and utter twat and ignore all the road signs, traffic lights and speed limits then following a car through a city on a bike shouldn’t really be a problem. We all decided to put our brains in the panniers at the border and we’re ‘riding like we stole it’ but we’re still having problems keeping the guide in sight. The problem is the taxis. Every car is a potential taxi in Tashkent. If anyone sticks their hand out then 6 lanes of traffic immediately veer towards them and jump on the brakes to try and get the ride. It’s an Uber friendly system but means you’re constantly being attacked by people cutting across you then jumping on the brakes. I really enjoy it though:)
We all make it to the hotel in one piece and try to change some money. They ATMs only give out dollars. I wonder why that is, until I go to the exchange in the hotel. The exchange is a little room with a glass panel, as usual. Behind the panel are three people. One to do the paperwork, one to hold a sack, and another to shovel money from a massive pile in the corner. I think the exchange rate looks to be about 1cm to the pound.
Take a walk out to dinner down by the river. Eat some unidentifiable meat, drink some stuff that looks like a urine sample provided by superman, and get a bill bigger than buying a house…
We all hand over a couple of cm’s each and they bring a small cart for me to put the cash in.
Uzbekistan is quite a big country and it’s full of stuff I’d love to see but that’s all west of here and we’re going east. Next time maybe… Today we’re just off to Kokand and it turns out to mostly be a tour of Uzbekistans many and varied police check points. Blokes in big hats, all armed with fully loaded ballpoints, and they’re not afraid to use them… Having said that, Uzbekistan has a border with Afganistan so maybe it’s not such a bad idea to check. Saw a sign to Kabul today too which I wasn’t expecting.
The closer you get to Kyrgyzstan, the more the landscape begins to rock and roll. Out into the beautiful Fergana valley and get some welcome relief from the heat in the cool of the mountains.
Whenever there is a guide involved, then there are the obligatory places they want to steer you towards for a visit/rest/kickback. In Kokand we go to see Palace of Khudáyár Khán. Turns out to be quite an interesting place for a change. Kokand sits directly on one of the ancient silk roads and the whole place has lots of interesting history. Uzbekistan is an asian crossroads and as a result is a real melting pot of peoples from around the world. The guide is a 4ft dark haired woman that I wouldn’t necessarily of thought was Asian, she looks more south American to me. She says her husband is 6ft and has red hair. I really surprised she admitted that…
Take a look round the cool dark rooms of the palace in the afternoon heat. Every room has a woman in the corner, just sitting quietly in the shadows, passing the time. Living a simple life. Probably bored out her mind…
I try really really hard to avoid confrontation on the road and advise all the other riders to do likewise. It’s never worth it, and you’re always going to loose… but the little bastards out here are so absolutely fucking mental that I’ve caught an incurably bad case of ride rage. I constantly find myself threatening to ‘re-educate’/smash their bloody faces in as I find myself with a wing mirror in my face yet again as someone just pulls into the side of me. The little wankers just think its funny. Just like I think tying their cocks to my chain and running it through the sprockets a few times would be absolutely hilarious. Fuckers. I later hear stories of bikers that have been pulled off their bikes here and beaten by the side of the road when they’ve threatened the drivers like that. That’s the advantage we have of riding as a swarm though.
Get to the accommodation and go looking for dinner in the dark. Mention beer at any restaurant here and people start whispering and looking at each other wondering if they should call the alcohol police so we save them the trouble and head back to the hotel where the police beer radar is apparently broken.
Next morning we’re heading for the border with Kyrgyzstan, but not before we can use up 2 buckets of biro ink at the police checks, and visit a silk factory. Watch the women boiling the silk worm chrysalises then untangle them and spin the silk onto shuttles. They make all sorts here. Carpets, fabrics, scarfs, all sorts. Some manually and some using rooms full of old soviet looms, formally used to make Russian parachutes.
Getting out of Uzbekistan is surprisingly easy. Just mental hot and time consuming. You just have to make sure you always always know where your rag is… you really don’t want to loose it here. Let them poke, prod, piss about and waste your life till their heart’s content. Smile through the pain and only speak when you’re spoken to. It’s the quickest way.. I’m glad we’re in a group though. I can imagine that coming through alone would be a completely different experience.
Kyrgyzstan should be easy and quick. There is nobody else at the border. Surely it’s going to be simples. I’ve been through the northern borders and it was easy and straightforward. Nothing is ever simple though. Russia and Kazakhstan share a common customs treaty thing. You go through customs entering Russia and existing Kazakhstan. They’re trying to extend the agreement to include Kyrgyzstan but this border hasn’t got the computer system working properly so they’ve had to get the old border officials out their storage boxes, dust them off, plug them in and get the paperwork done the old way. These blokes seem to have been in storage for years and really need a good oiling. They’re creaking away every time their old limbs move and little bits and pieces keep falling off them. Sometimes they just stop completely still for minutes at a time, stamp poised tantalisingly above your form, before suddenly bringing it down with a bang that sends shudders though the portacabin.
Paperwork done it’s a quick skip into Osh to the hotel… in theory. Combine a GPS coordinate that sends you down a track knee deep in pea gravel to end up at someone’s washing line together with 2 hotels that have the same name and you have a fraught hour fighting hot traffic across town to ‘Ahh you want Sunrise 1…. this is Sunrise 2..” and back across town to find the hotel hidden down an alley about 300 yards from where you first started…
Luckily the hotel has a special little beer wash in reception for just this situation. It’s a machine just like a human sized car wash but it uses cold beer instead of soapy water. Walk a pissed off, tired hot and sweaty biker through the machine and they come out the other side completely cool and relaxed with a big stupid grin on their face. Result!
Day off in Osh to take a look about. It’s just an average grotty low rise city unless you want to take advantage of the surrounding mountains. I think you cam trek to 7000m somewhere round here. Bugger that for a laugh!
Just a wander about and watch the people watching me. Not many foreign faces round here though I get their fare share of tourists. Go down to the market to get some local spices and stuff. Whenever I do one of these long journeys I collect all sorts of things with different colours and textures. Plants, rocks, sand, earth, spices, flowers, whatever, and when I get back I make up bottles for the kids with all the layers of the journey in.
Osh market is the usual warren of sleepy stalls, 90% of which are selling the exact same thing. Christ knows how they all survive. There is a 200 year old woman cowering in a corner. She’s got more wrinkles than an elderly sharpei dog and she’s trying to make a penny selling little paper parcels of… something… could be dog shit for all I know.. Who cares. I buy a couple just to make myself feel better. Soon as I’m out of site she probably whips off the prosthetic mask and sprints off to the local off-licence for some gin.
Go out in the evening for a game of pavement jenga then eat at a restaurant with small huts nestled amongst the trees. We play poolet with the rotating table. Put the plates of food down, spin the table, eat what stops in front of you. Also known as spin the pottie.
Next morning, one of the riders has lost. Real bad. He’s lost his shirt, his socks, his pants and everything else within splattering distance. Over the last week he really been gambling with his guts. He was really on a roll. Now he’s on a bog roll. Poor fella looks near death. He gets on the bike and rides though. I’m just going to have to remember not to ride to close behind him today..
We decide to get petrol at a forecourt on a 1 in 1 slope. The sound of a high revving engine and exploding plastic signals a rider down. Another scar to add to the list. Head out into the lush green countryside, stopping often to let the sickly rider let off brown steam in the salubrious roadside services…
This road north through Kyrgyzstan is a real beauty. Threading through the mountains and the lakes on its way to Toktogul.
We start to climb and enjoy ourselves getting lost in every bikers favourite man versus machine versus mountain road game. It’s sunny warm and dry and our tyres are getting tired out with all the fun. Come round a corner and there is a queue of traffic at a standstill. Filter for a few miles with the parked traffic getting tighter and tighter until we get to the front and see the problem. Looks like someone has lost the man/machine/mountain game. A fuel tanker is lying on its side with a fractured tank. Petrol and diesel is pouring out across the road and cascading in a big stinky waterfall into the pristine blue lake below. There is a huge stain spreading through the water below and the police have closed the road. There is miles of traffic stopped in both directions and we’re miles from anywhere. I can’t imagine any recovery vehicle will get through any time soon.
I suddenly hear a huge rumble from somewhere. WTF? I look up and around to see if stuff is coming down the mountains or something. An Earthquake maybe? There is goes again. It’s coming from the right somewhere…. Over there.. somewhere in those people.. Where is it coming from? I wander over towards the noise… look in the crowd… it’s coming from my rider! He’s lying on the ground in the shade, surrounded by 100s of people wondering how a human can possibly make that much noise without the aid of a huge array of speakers and amplifiers. He looks like death. He’s a nasty shade of grey and I wonder if I should ask him how he would like to be buried. A local is trying to shove vodka down him telling him it will make him feel much better. I think a medivac is the only thing that will make this boy feel better. There is a proper thunder storm going on in his insides…. make that a chunder storm… The exorcist has got nothing on this boy. He is like a bottle of coke that’s been dropped from 100ft then opened. The crowd is beginning to suspect worse is to come and starts running for cover in every direction. Hands over their ears. They’re grabbing small screaming children and the elderly and fleeing the storm, diving behind barriers hiding behind cars and trucks, I think I even see some people on their knees starting to pray. There is a massive boom as his guts let off the final spectacular firework of the display. It’s too much for his mouth to deal with and it inevitably heads for the next nearest exit.. At this point, he has absolutely no shame, and absolutely no options. He has to clear the path otherwise he is going to be boiled alive in his own lava hot shit. Trousers down.. parents cover the kids eyes, and make sure their mouths are closed. KERRRRRRRBUUUM. Out it all comes in a massive thunder crap. He’s hovering 10ft off the ground supported on the thrust from a bum jet of screaming shit. I’m always really impressed the power that the human body is capable of. Eventually the thrust subsides and he performs a perfect gentle landing. There isn’t a toilet on earth that could have dealt with that. I think it was lucky he was out here in the open rather than a confined area. God knows what would have happened in a small cubical. As the noise subsidies, people slowly come out of their hiding places, just feeling lucky to be alive. He’s got to feel better after that… This bloke is indestructible. He’s like Captain Scarlet. He’s on his feet and ready to ride… amazing.
The police realise that they might not get so lucky if he explodes again so they decide to just quickly sweep a load of rocks and dust from the mountain over the flow of fuel and then just open the road. Can you imagine that anywhere else? So we all pick our way carefully through the slippery stream and rocks and out to the other side to freedom. There’s no traffic but it’s getting late now and we’re racing the sun to the horizon again.
However old you get, there are moments in your life where you see things that your eyes cannot work out and your brain just cannot believe are true, and it suddenly happens as we start to descend towards Tokogul lake. I can’t remember the exact moment it happened but some weird vision just took over my consciousness. It was one of the strangest experiences I’ve had for a long time. One minute we’re coming down a hill, and the next moment by brain is completely and utterly 110% occupied with the view in front of me. It’s like staring at one of those 3d picture books where your brain is going in and out of focus trying to work out WTF is going on. A picture on a page will never do justice to the picture I still have in my brain. Mountains and lake, sun and clouds, a wonderful watercolour evolving before my eyes. It’s like some sort of etherial vision appearing. It’s just amazing… like a dream… with police in it… Police? What’s that all about?
The bastards in blue are waiting at the bottom of the hill with their hand held one arm bandit. It’s just come up with 7 oranges and the bloke thinks he’s hit the jackpot. We’ve all been hypnotised by the view and we’ve all run straight through the trap.
I go over for a chat and the usual police bribe auction begins. He starts the bidding at about $40 each for all 7 bikes. Bollocks mate. Show me a picture. His trigger finger must have slipped in the excitement of his catch and he only has a couple on the gun. OK – $20 for the first 2… He’s not happy with that.. so I go for $20 for the first 3… He’s still not happy… but he can hear the sound of lots more money approaching as all the traffic that was stopped in the accident is catching up and will soon be heading down the hill and into his trap/pocket. I’m standing with my arms crossed, no wallet out, no hurry… He blinks first and motions to just put the money under a book on the bonnet of the car…
We try to take some pictures of the view. Those are proper big hills over the other side, and the lake is massively wide too. My brain is hurting working out the scales and distances so we just get on with it, ride straight into the setting sun and a mattress on a floor at a home stay in the village.
Captain Scarlet looks a lot better now and I can safely get within 20 ft of him now he’s showered. All fill up on a lovely dinner of Plov from the outside kitchen before heading for bed.
Kyrgyzstan is such a beautiful country. It’s largely just empty and your’s to go and play in. So we go and play…
Out of Toktogul and take the one road north up towards Bishkek. PC Twat has decided he wants to do some more wallet raping and catches us again as we climb into the mountains out of town. You’d think we’d see these bloody traps and often we do but they still get us. You could slow to walking pace and they’d still pull you over. There are no posted limits anywhere… “Jeeeeeesus. What’s the bloody speed limit?” “Sorry sir, it’s 10km less than you were travelling”. Of course it is….
We’ve just started regarding them as road tolls rather than fines. So with that in mind we just think fuck it, let’s just enjoy ourselves. The fines are the same regardless of how fast you’re going anyway. Up we go into the mountains. This ride is one of the most beautiful I know. Cold and bright and fast. Big open bends with a good surface. Views to die for… if you’re not careful. No barriers but hey, you can’t have everything. The chase is on….
Chasing across the mountains, big smiles on our faces, bikes all singing and dancing their way north. Life is good on days like this. Get towards the high plains and the Kyrgys seem to have introduced a few speed limiting measures since I was here last. Tank traps. The road is flat, open and fast but every few miles there are big big holes in the road. They’re usually about 10ft long and maybe a foot deep. They’re perfectly rectangular and man made. They’re fucking deadly and going into one would certainly be a one way trip. No warnings, no signs, no barriers. I guess they’ll be back to fill them in later maybe… gives me an idea though. Biker burials.. Perhaps I could offer a service whereby bikers can be buried in their favourite roads. I’ll speak to the local council. It could be combined with their pot hole mending and would save them a fortune. You could have a little plaque and everything…
Up we go again. Another 3300m pass. Up and up, through a tunnel at the top then out to yet another ‘fuck me’ view. God this place is beautiful
I’m using this trip to conduct a scientific experiment to see exactly how much pleasure a biker can have before they get bored. Exactly how high is the average biker pleasure threshold? I’m beginning to think it’s infinite…
Get on towards Bishkek and it’s the usual chaos with tightly knitted traffic and soaring temperatures. It’s some sort of national holiday celebration tomorrow so the centre of the city is all being closed off. The city roads are narrow and tight. Filtering is tight and dangerous but 100% necessary. It’s here I find out exactly why you need balls of steel to ride a Ktm. If they weren’t made of steel, they would have been cooked, removed, and put in a can of Heinz beans and meatballs by now. Sitting in traffic on the Ktm is like sitting astride a barbecue. Jesus by bollocks are on fire. I had to piss myself 3 times just to douse the fire and relieve the pain.
One night on the floor of a basic home stay, next night a modern hotel with the comfiest beds in the world. Yin and yang. Light and shade. Gotta have it.
Next day we’ve all got stuff to do to the bikes. Oil and tyre changes need to be done. A quick worship at the God of Google and we get a lat long for place in a ‘container city’ outside town run by Dima and Olga. It’s right across town and the place is gridlocked. All the main roads are closed and we spend a fractious hour crawling through the melee to the post apocalyptic area that is ‘container city’. Rows and rows of old containers, many selling all sorts of crap and others offering millions of other sorts of services. You really have to know where to look in these places else you would waste hours.. We find Dima amongst the mess, just like a motorbike oasis.
We all load up with oil, replacement nuts and bolts, chain lube. gloves, indicators from a 1940 Ural… well why not… and numerous other bits and pieces from her little Aladin’s cave. There is nobody in the vicinity that can change bike tyres so she rings ‘the best bike mechanic in Bishkek’ and gives some directions back across town.
We’re all wandering about getting ready to leave and we hear a big noise somewhere close by. It can’t be Captain Scarlet, he’s standing right next to me… It sounds like a big crash or something big falling down.. don’t know what that was.. Anyway, Tony and I head off across the city to try and find the mechanic. It’s difficult not to think in ‘western’ terms when you’re doing this. I’m going to be looking for a garage of some sort aren’t I? With bikes in or around it probably. The smell of oil in the air. It’s going to be obvious surely. Not. We get to the place. Its just a very shabby residential place. Not a fucking thing in site that looks likely to fix bikes. We’re going down narrow rough roads round housing estates, looking through gates, going down paths. Nothing. We find a row of lock up garages. There are a few people about but nobody knows anything about bikes. We’ve been looking for ages when we just come across a 4×4 coming in the other direction that flashes his lights and points. We follow him back to the lockups we were at earlier and he stops at the garage right next door to some bloke we asked just a few minutes ago! Perhaps he thought we were going to rob the place or something. Anyway, he opens the garage, rolls out an old Africa Twin out the way and gets on with changing the tyres. We could easily be doing this ourselves really. Tony is just changing his tyres early. It’s mental hot and if we can get someone to do it then why not. Still, keeps the local economy going I guess.
As we wait, a some British registered, Japanese imported weird looking 4×4 people carrier arrives with a Russian bike tour bloke at the wheel. He’s come to speak to the mechanic. He runs bike tours in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. He’s thinking of running tours with the 12 Urals he has in Bishkek. “Impossible to kill. I took all the oil out of the engine and gearbox and then drove 120km off road on one. No problem” I wouldn’t buy a second hand bike from this bloke thats for sure…
Tyre done we head back across the city to the hotel to rehydrate/drink gallons of cold beer. As I walk into reception there are 2 more bikers there checking in. They’re the last 2 of my riders coming though China. They left the UK early and went west through Russia to Irkutsk, then down into Mongolia to Ulaan Bataar then west back to Russia before coming south through Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan. So, here we are then. All 9 bikes ready to go.
Oh yea.. the big bang we heard this morning at container city… was a car bomb going off at the Chinese embassy a few miles up the road. Nice.
Our route from Bishkek to China is going to take in Son Kol lake. It’s not the easiest place to get to and the roads are going to be steep and rough so the Victories both take different options and will meet up with us again in a few days. Get out the city early and head towards Issyk Kul lake. A beautiful fast ride through the mountains on new roads built just like a big bob sleigh run. Delicious big fast positive camber bends and views for miles ahead. Not a bugger on the road either… except for the police of course…. toll paid and we get to the lake. I think this is one of the biggest highest fresh water lakes in the world. I would take all day to ride round it. We’re only going half way today to Karakol. We take a random track towards the water and end up on a beach.. with the horses.. obviously
There’s a storm coming over the mountains. Big skies, big weather. It doesn’t last long and before long we’re back in the sunshine and running out towards Karakol alongside the big fields of crops.
Karakol is quite a rough isolated town without too many facilities. We head on in for dinner. “Sausage in Claire” is on the menu. Ummm. From the looks on all the bloke’s faces, Claire could be quite busy tonight…
Next morning we need to leave early as we’re meeting someone later to take us up to Son Kul lake. Quick skip round to look at the wonderful wooden Jewish church then along the south of Issyk Kul.
Must be the first day back at school today. Get anywhere near a village and the roads are full of dressed up kids. The boys in suits and the girls with huge snowflakes in their hair.
We meet our bloke at the rough road junction up to the lake. There is only one way up but there are yurt camps all over the place and I have visions of those knackered penguins that come up onto the beach with a belly full of food, and a million penguins in front of them. “Now… which one is my bloody nest…”, so this bloke will just guide us in.
The ride up is the usual rutty, loose single track stuff climbing up and up into the dusk. Lovely ride though.
Get to the top and there is a huge rolling grassy plain in front of you with tracks off in all directions. The guide just lifts his arm and points to one and off we all go. You know when you’re out walking in the summer and their are swifts all doing their low level tricks catching bugs on the wing.. that’s what it feels like as 7 bikes all swarm about taking 7 different paths across the rolling plain. The sound of engines getting closer then further away. Everyone just having fun in the falling sunshine.
We get to our camp just before the sun starts to hiss into the lake and I run around trying to catch some of the beautiful evening light.
As soon as the sun goes down, the temperature drops about 100 degrees. Jeeeeeeesus it’s cold. Quick dinner and we all retire to the yurts for a 10 hour snoring and farting contest. I think I scored very highly on the farts but there are people who’s snores can be heard from the moon so I was never going to win that one. I think we collectively achieved about 10 minutes sleep before the lights started to come on again outside.
Get up to go for a piss. Christ it was cold last night. I flippin froze my tits off. I pick them up out the bed and put them in my pockets. I’ll have to put them back on later…
Out for a piss. The sky doesn’t look at all happy to be awake this morning either…
The mad Russian with the indestructible Urals told me the road down from the lake was one of the best routes in the region. It includes the ‘road of the 33 pirates’, and that’s why I asked the Victories not to come this way.
Round the lake we go, round a corner and the ground drops away in front of us. Here are the 33 pirates. 33 very steep loose and tight switchbacks dropping well over 1000m into a valley.
Pictures just don’t do this road justice. I found it a really scary experience! It’s so loose that you find yourself flowing towards each corner on a bed of deep rolling stones and you’re convinced you’re going over the edge. I was constantly hovering over the eject button the whole way. One rider boiled the brakes and another just had to bin it or take the very quick way down. He’s hurt his ribs but he’s still moving. Good lad. You off road boys would be up and down it all day on the little bikes I’m sure but I’ve not got the skills for this sort of stuff so I’m just glad to get down in one piece.
Get that out of the way though and the rest of the ride is just as the Russian said. It’s just so so so beautiful out here. Vast plains with the dusty track just finding a fast flowing path across them. Water, horses, clouds and sky. No people. No houses. No nothing. Just us, the bikes and the sounds of revving engines bouncing off the mountains. One of the best hours of my biking life..
All too soon we get back to the main road and make our way up to our home stay in Naryn, the last town before we get to China.
I’ve had a load of tyres shipped out here so we spend the day changing those and fettling with the bikes. One of the bits of my chain oiler has snapped, and I’ve lost a few bolts from the pannier frames so I head down to the market to look for bits and pieces amongst the warrens. Naryn is a weird place with what looks like small, odd shaped hills all around it. They’re not hills though, they’re mountain tops. It’s all pretty high round here.
Towards the end of the day the light starts to change and a couple of us take the opportunity to head out to check the bikes and look for pictures. We just pull off the road and ride up into the hills, then turn around to look at the views. Very special round here. Very special indeed. Fuck I’m a luck boy….
Getting close now… really close. There is bugger all between here and the border. Nothing except Tash Rabat on the old silk route. There is a restored road house set amongst the mountains up there. There’s load of argument about exactly how old the place is. I’m just certain it qualifies for a ‘fucking old’ qualification. Take the road out and through the cold mountains. Feels like nomansland already.
Take the rough road up the yurt camp at Tash Rabat. Someone has been up here, swept the mountains, polished the sky and carefully arranged a few fluffy white clouds to welcome us in. They’ve done a really really good job…
Pay a visit to the road house as it would be rude not to having ridden all this way. It’s bleak, cold and dark inside…. like my head… but it must have been a life saver to people travelling through here 100s of years ago. The yurts are a better option tonight though for sure.
Another fractious night in the bollock freezing cold and an early start to get up to the China border before lunch. Line the bikes up for a quick group shot and we’re on our way.
The Torugart pass used to be a rough old ride but the unstoppable force that is China has payed for a road to be built to ease the trucks journeys to every consumer it can find on the planet. I’m convinced 90% of the plant’s surface will soon be covered in Chinese tarmac. It’s a real pity. It’s easy to forget where you are when you’re just humming along on smooth tarmac… until you open the throttle. It’s up about 3700m so the bikes response to the throttle is about the same as a wife’s response to an amorous touch after an argument. It’s always slow, and more often than not it’s completely undetectable.. More beautiful scenery though, and light that only comes with altitude.
Out of Kyrgyzstan and up across nomansland to the gate to China. Cross my fingers and hope that the guide is going to appear through the fence..