A break in Osh and first impressions of Kyrgyzstan
1st toll 27th of June , 2017 – Kyrgyzstan (Part 1)
Enter the country on a mud slide
We were glad we made the steep, snowy and therefore slippery passages on the way to the border without major damage. At the customs in Kyrgyzstan we spent about three hours. We should pay an Eco tax, but there was no official price list. So we negotiated for a long time and bargained for the exchange rate, since we only had US dollars with us. Magriet payed the taxes with a disparaging gesture and the customs officer wanted to send the Dutch’s back to no-man’s-land for the night. But Lukas interfered and solved the problem, so we were able to travel on together.
Shortly afterwards, Xenia’s heated grip slipped on the throttle and we had to secured it with two cable ties. With this quick fix we could ride on. The streets in Kyrgyzstan are perfect compared to the countries before. Nevertheless, the 285 km to Osh felt like a stretch. Arriving at the Hotel Biy Ordo we were able to buy beer and order pizza. What a feast!
We made it to Osh
We enjoyed the bed, the air conditioning and the shower. Even breakfast was served. By DHL we sent our passports to Switzerland to apply for the China visa there. Then we went to MuzToo to see if our delivery of tires, spare parts and many other things had arrived. MuzToo is a motorcycle rental, tour operator and therefore has a workshop where you can rent a work spot.
As we walked in, Martin noticed that there were five Motul spray cans on one shelf. The same products we had in our package. Sure we are not the only ones using these products but still?! Afterwards, Martin saw that there was also a bag of the same coffee brand, we put in the package. 10 minutes later it was clear: our package, for which we had exchanged material for worth around 250 USD, was opened here and the content was spread all over the place. Although everything was tied up well, provided with packing list and marked with our names. What had the person thought when tampons and contact lenses came to light? It was a shock for us. All meticulously selected parts were scattered somewhere, maybe already installed and sold? After 3 hours we had 95% of our things together again, but one of our Heidenau K60 Enduro tires and Xenias chain kit were not found and our Swiss coffee was as good as gone. We collected everything with the inventory list in a box and deposited it in a separate room. What a crap!!!
Most of the spare parts will be used after returning from Kazakhstan, so we had some time to order any missing parts. Then we went to visit our friends Rafael and Hansueli (we had already met the two in Uzbekistan). When we saw his bike, we had to laugh. Rafael had our missing tire on his motorcycle! He and his fellow travelers had already had a bad week, so he was not too happy when we asked him to ride to MuzToo again and change the tire. Nevertheless, we sat together peacefully at dinner and had a beer together. The next day we went with Rafael to MuzToo, got the tire off his bike and stored this with our other things.
Ladina, whom we had met several times with her friends in Tajikistan, took our damaged drone with her to Switzerland. So it was transported free and fast. Thanks again Ladina!
Lots of work on the bikes
The next day Magriet and Bé left us. They had their passports with the required visa back and moved on. We went to MuzToo to swing the tools. First we had to clean both bikes from all the dirt. On Martin’s Tenere we took off the tank, so we could disconnect the battery for welding. When everything was dismantled and prepared, the mechanic weld the cockpit. It had broken off in Tajikistan due to corrugation. Martin also dismantled the crash bars of the Tenere, so there could be welding work done as well. Also on Xenia’s XT660R we had to do. We re-glued the heating grip on the gas grip and re-adjusted the hand guards. Meanwhile Xenia cleaned and lubricated the gas stove and cleaned the panniers neatly.
On the second day we reassembled the Ténéré. The chains of both motorcycles were cleaned and lubricated as well the rear brake pads replaced. Small adjustments and attentions rounded off the spa program for the motorcycles. Xenia had cut strips of rubber from an old tube and pasted them on the fuel, oil and thermos flask for protection. In Iceland, the fuel bottle of the stove was rattled through and could not hold any more pressure, so we did not want that to happen again. We also washed the foam air filters and sprayed them.
On the third day at MuzToo we adjusted the length of the side stand. So the bikes stand upright and we need less strength to get them upright before the start. Then we went to Brio coffee and enjoyed quick internet, burger, coffee and cake. Great to be back in civilization!
We only took one day off and went to the pool. On all other days we got up early and worked non stop on our website, videos and posts. We cleaned, cared and mended all our panniers, straps, helmets, boots and more. As we said, we are not in holidays!
Ready to leave to the walnut trees
After we had received our passports back by DHL, which had been provided in Bern with the visa for China, we could think of the onward journey. Thanks again to Monique (Xenia’s mother), who organized the visas for us in Switzerland. Monique helps us with everything that needs to be done for us within Switzerland. Monique you are the best!
Already the day before, we had packed everything and so we went early in the morning on our way to Arslanbob. The road was in a good condition, but somehow boring. It felt like a real change after 19 days working on the motorcycles and working in the hotel on the laptop. Now we were back on our machines. However, the break had been necessary to be able to process the experience at least in part and of course to update our website.
We were happy to see that our GPS took us on a shortcut. Away from the boring main road we rode over a small gravel road over lavender covered hills. So we followed the river upstream and hoped to eventually find a bridge that would lead us back to the main route. A river crossing would not have been possible because the water was way too deep. The bridge came and so we soon reached Arslanbob, happy to be a bit higher again where it was a little cooler. We found a guesthouse where we could set up our tent and spend the night for 400 Soms. Immediately we went to see the local waterfall. On the last piece, stalls lined the way, cluttered with cheap, brightly colored China products. Once down we were able to admire the falling water from about 15 meters above. We were probably still busy with all the other impressions, because we found the waterfall nice but had somehow expected more. Arslanbob is visited by many tourists, although the valley is a dead end. Back at the guesthouse, we cooked our pasta in the garden and slept in the tall grass between geese and chickens.
We had slept well and were curious about what the new day would bring. On the main road we rode back and then on to Toktogul lake. The temperatures were almost back to 30 degrees celsius, so we made our first break in the shade of the trees. Here we met a farmer’s family who sold their melons and tomatoes. We were invited by them to eat melon and in return gave them our peanuts. They told us that the peanuts are barely affordable for them. For us it was “just peanuts”, but a luxury item for them. They also gave us a melon and tomatoes on the way. Such warm encounters are always beautiful, even if communication is limited by language barriers. We drove on into the mountains, The road and the view became more exciting again. At Toktogul lake we went to bathe with our underwear. So we had our shower and did our clothes washing in one. After that we set up the tent and Martin constructed a kind of awning with the tarp so we got a bit of shade on the treeless bank.
The next day we went to the mountains and over a pass. The temperature fell noticeably. So we drove with pleasant 19 degrees over this small pass and saw hundreds of white yurts and thousands of horses. Everything embedded in these endless green mountains, which occasionally crossed by a small stream. A paradise that offers less comfort than the cities, but becomes every summer the home of the Kyrgyz nomads.
Towards evening we were looking for a stream to filter out drinking water and also a place to pitch our tent. On the horizon, a thunderstorm brewed and we hurried to set up the tent and cook dinner. Martin had tried to create a dry place with the tarp, where we could handle the fuel stove. But the wind was too strong. We barely managed to finish cooking and put the tarp back together, as the rain started. So we sat in the tent in our small, comfortable chairs and had also set up the table in front of us. Outside it stormed and rained while we were able to eat comfortably indoors. Sometimes you need a bit of luck as well.
We rode on and enjoyed the beautiful landscape. Over and over new fields appeared on the horizon in changing rich colors. From bright red to blue-violet to yellow, always accompanied by the green grass. At Issykul lake we looked for a cozy place to set up the tent. We filtered water from the lake to have a tea and cook our food. Martin wanted to swim first. The wind was already relatively cold, but the water was nice and warm. Hardly in the water Martin did realize that the water is salty! We stupid tourists tried to filter drinking water from it. Hahaha, we both had to laugh and Xenia googled the water quality of the lake (yes, at the lake Issikul in Kyrgyzstan we had 3G reception!). The water contains 6g of salt per liter of water, so it is not really drinkable. So we had to ration our water supply a bit because we did not want to drive back to the next village to buy water.
Back together with the other overlanders
After a quiet night, we had 2 coffees with the rest of the water, and continued to Karakol. There we met Magriet and Bé once again.
Martin got to know Markus, with whom he also went for an additional round riding in the Karakol National Park. The path was still okay until it rose steeply and disappeared in the forest, covered with thick mud and really big puddles. Martin reached the limit with his motorbike and put it on the ground more then once. The creek crossings helped only conditionally to get all the dirt back down. Tired but happy, the two of them came back, where by now a whole gang of Overlanders had arrived with trucks, Unimogs, Landrovers and motorcycles. So in the evening Shashlik was grilled and all ate together in the garden. Just great!
We met Brian from Australia and Cat from Germany, who were traveling together. They were so likable, we decided to explore Kazakhstan together. Cat rode an older Transalp and Brian a KTM 990 with well over 100’000 kilometers. We planned together the next few days and prepared for the start the next day.
The first 83 kilometers we covered quickly and so we were soon at the border crossing to Kazakhstan. In Kyrgyzstan, we were quickly stamped out and could leave.
The first impression of Kyrgyzstan was simply fantastic.
We will only spend two weeks in Kazakhstan and then return to Kyrgyzstan to stay even longer. We were very curious to see what else we would experience in this motorcycle paradise.