We didn’t know much about Kyrgyzstan. We knew it is a mountainous country with a proud nomadic tradition. Not bad for a start. The way from the Tajik border to the town Osh was a great introduction: green valleys, snow capped mountains and yurts and horses everywhere we looked. Nice. But I believed Kyrgyzstan had more to offer.
We spent three days in Osh. Except resting, we needed to plan where to go. The starting point (Osh) and the finishing point (Almaty – Kazachstan) were clear. The city Almaty was the closest place where we could apply for Russian visa. We checked a map out, we found there was the mountain range Tian Sian in between (yay!) and there was a small, probably hard but nice road to cross it (double yay!). We were ready to go.
But first we had to cross smaller mountains and saddles. Smaller but definitely not easier. It was the first time when we realised that cycling through this country wouldn’t be easy. We said goodbye to tarmac many kms ago, now we cycled on a dirt, bone rattling corrugated road.
We had to slow down to an average speed 10km/h. Despite this, we still managed to cover approx. 70 km a day. Yes, we were tired. But we didn’t complain as there was still something to see along the way. Behind every pass, the scenery changed. One day we cycled through a green forest, the next day we saw a 5m high wall of snow and the following day we passed through a desert. Sometimes there were villages along the road but most of the time we felt alone. There were only us. And horses of course.
After seven days we reached the town Naryn, the first big town since we had left Osh. As usual, the first big meal was pizza but we tried also Langman, the traditional dish for that region and one lovely lady taught us how to make it. Our sore bodies appreciated the traditional russian bath/sauna, we bought some food and after two days was time to move again. The Tian Sian mountain and Tosor pass waited for us.
The first few kilometres after Naryn were easy. A nice road, we passed through some villages and then we left the last one, Eki Naryn. Now we were in the valley of the river Naryn. We were surrounded by mountains and coniferous forest which looked like some mountains in Canada. Except those yurts 🙂 When we got higher, the trees were gone but we didn’t mind, it was still beautiful. We slowly followed a dirt road up to the valley for the next two days. We planned to bike around easy 50km a day, but it always took us the whole day to do it.
The third day the road became more interesting. We were already in the high 3000m asl. There used to be bridges over streams and small rivers but they didn’t exist anymore. Sometimes we could see remains of them down below in the river, that was all. We had to cross them. A few of them were easy to cycle through, then we had to push. Dry shoes lasted exactly till 5pm. Never mind, we camped right behind the stream and tried to dry them out in the late afternoon sun.
Once the sun set, it was freezing cold. We cooked a dinner quickly a went to sleep. Oh, it is going to be cold tonight… And it was indeed. When we got up in the morning, everything was covered by frost, our tent, bikes and our now frozen shoes too. But before we packed ourselves, it was warm again so no big deal. There were still 12km to reach the top of the pass in the altitude 3895m asl. Fortunately we had got some experience with pushing our bikes over rocks in such altitude from the last couple of months so it wasn’t a big problem for us and we reached the top around midday. I got a summit kiss and even I was happy I didn’t have to go any higher I knew mountains were going to miss me. That was the last time we were in the big mountains for next months so we sat down, ate a lunch and simply admired the beauty around us…
But it wasn’t over yet. We had to go down. We had to descent over 2000m in the following 40km. We braked pretty hard so we needed to stop in the middle of the hill to adjust our brakes again and relax our fingers. When we got closer to the lake Issyk-Kul, hot air, an arid landscape and the huge mere made us feel like we were somewhere by the Mediterranean Sea. We got accommodation close to the lake and after a shower and a delicious dinner we felt like humans again.
It was only 3 days plus a rest day in Karakol to get to a border to Kazachstan. Despite this, we looked forward to being in Almaty, respectively in Europe, it was hard to leave Kyrgyzstan. The landscape of Kyrgyzstan is beautiful, the tourism is growing, services are good but there are not many tourists yet. But what makes this country amazing are the people. Almost everyone we met, shopkeepers, owners of guesthouses, families in yurts or horsemen, they were very friendly and welcoming.
When we crossed the border, we looked back and promised ourselves we were going to come back again.