On the way to Song Kul, a lake at 3000 meters altitude, I met a Dutchman named William, who was traveling with a Dutch cycling group. He was bringing up the rear and I felt a little sorry for him,
because absolutely no one in the group seemed to be looking after him. 

He was completely overwhelmed – his physical stamina at an end. To top it off, he was totally overloaded with luggage. In addition to his panniers, he had several plastic bags dangling around the wheels of his bike.

It was interesting to see how long it took him to set up his tent and somehow get all his stuff under control. The water for his “astronaut food” was beginning to boil when I was already falling asleep.

The next morning we were rewarded with an incredible view outside out tents. We were surrounded by a beautiful panorama of white splendor. It was magnificent.

William took a complete hour to get everything packed up again before he was finally ready to depart.
Honestly, I would get pimples if I had to experience that every morning – if my packing method were so inefficient that I would need that long to get ready. 

Normally, after 10 minutes I’m ready to roll. 

The Kara Keche Pass was at 3360 meters and when we finally arrived after more than 6 hours,
William realized that it would be better for him to turn around and take an easier route.

Somehow, I felt sorry for him, especially since he was such a really nice guy.

By now, I had lost quite a bit of time and hoped that I would still make it to Lake Song Kul by sunset.
The trail was pure sloppy mud and the snow was just beginning to melt up here. Eventually, I could no longer remain on the road. 

It had been washed away by a river, so I had no choice but to continue to find my way cross-country.
Just before dark I found a great spot right on the lake. Unfortunately, it was freezing cold.

During the night, it became so cold that I woke up and, unfortunately, I had to go outside to pee.

I was shaking all over, but, at the same time, I was overwhelmed when I looked up to see so many twinkling stars.

No stray light destroyed the crystal clear view of the sky. It was gigantic! A view like inside a planetarium.

But at minus 8 degrees, I wasn’t able to stay outside long. I pulled on every bit of clothing I had
and attempted to get warm again in my sleeping bag.

The next morning it was snowing again and I sat until noon in my little “dog hut” and waited for better weather. 

When it stopped snowing, the snow melted surprisingly fast.

With a strong tailwind, I continued along the lakeshore in an eastward direction. I came upon some yurts, drank tea and ate bread there meeting a few people. I was surprised when I saw the two French cyclists again, whom I had met in Bishkek.

Starting off the next day, the trail led downward zigzagging on a steep slope. Sighting a small settlement below, I asked for food and tea at one of the homes. 

Total chaos prevailed there. The children defecated right in front of the door to the house; the goats ran about the living room; and meat had been cut on the table, but half of it was lying on the floor.
They wanted 200 Som for bread and tea; in the end we agreed on 20 Som. They tried again to get more from me.

As I continued on, the scenery was breathtaking as before and the weather was Icelandic.

 Later in the day, I reached the main road to Naryn.

 

The people driving their vehicles were brutally egotistic. They remained true to a single motto,
“You’d better look out, because here I come.”

I landed in the ditch several times to keep from getting run over and was really beginning to get worried. Then something happened that really shocked me. 

After fearing for my life again and barely escaping ending up under the hood of his vehicle, I thanked the driver by flipping him my middle finger. Boy was that ever a radical mistake!

I heard the tires squeal as he threw it into reverse and came full throttle back toward me. I tried to save myself and raced down the slope toward a field. He got out, yelled and threw huge stones at me
and appeared to go completely berserk. 

I pedaled away as fast as I could and, luckily, he didn’t attempt to come after me. The people here drink – far too much.

Continuously, I would see inebriated people in the villages staggering along the road – even before breakfast. Many of them would likely also be driving which is probably the main reason for such aggressive driving habits.

In Naryn, I decided to head in the direction of the Tosor Pass, a route which is touted among cyclists as a special treat. The weather was still bad and I feared there might still be too much snow, but I headed off anyway.

The asphalt changed quickly into a dirt trail and only a short time later I was alone once again in this vast beautiful landscape. 

Along the way, yurts and shepherds appeared who were driving their cattle along the narrow roads on the hillside. The beasts were quite afraid of me, so every time I passed, the flock would become totally confused and the animals often ran down the slope out of fright.

I felt very badly about that, and although the shepherds were always very friendly, they were sometimes not overly happy about it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t just dissolve into thin air.

Suddenly, I saw the first yaks. The shaggy animals somehow looked very unique. Large herds of them populate the many grassy plains. 

It immediately reminded me of a time when I was in Tibet.

 

I camped at 3500 meters shortly before arriving at the pass surrounded by a threatening storm.
Once again, I awoke the next morning to see a beautiful snow-covered landscape.

At 3890m (12,762 feet) Tosor Pass, was in itself a small adventure. Surrounded by rugged crags and steep slopes I could hear rumbling sounds all around me.

There were falling rocks and small avalanches everywhere, but the road was offset far enough so I was not in danger. Often, during my the last few days, there had been places where there were landslides and I would have to carry the bike and panniers one by one through a river or over rocks.

I had almost no problem at all with the thin air because I had become acclimated wonderfully over several months.

In eternally long switchbacks, the trail led non-stop down the slope until I eventually arrived in hot temperatures at Issyk Kul Lake (1700 meters) and my fingers could finally rest after braking so much.

I decided to change my plans and not take the Irkesham Pass to enter China – first of all, because I would have go all the way back towards the south and, secondly, because the political situation in China and the Pamir was continually escalating.

There were roadblocks on the road on the Kyrgyz side and cyclists were no longer allowed to travel the first 150 kilometers on the other side of the border in China.

They were being forced to find another way to travel that stretch of road and I really didn’t feel like doing that at all.

I left my things in a private house and hitchhiked to Bishkek to get a visa for Kazakhstan. I spent some time again with other cyclists and tourists in a hostel and then hitchhiked back after getting my Visa to get my bike. 

Beginning the 15th of July, it would have been possible to enter Kazakhstan without a visa. After only 4 weeks, I would have been able to save myself the bother.

The diet in Kyrgyzstan is very heavy on meat. There are a few dishes that are really tasty, especially Lachman – pasta with vegetables, sauce and a few pieces of meat.

As in Uzbekistan, there is stuffed Samsa and Mandi and also cutlet with rice, Makkaronies and Kretschke (buckwheat). The yogurt balls, which you can buy at the roadside, are very strange –
very salty with a very strong flavor.

From Barskon I drove along the huge Issyk Kul Lake to Karakol and nestled there at a small hostel.
I got a “luxury room” with an ingenious mattress for $6, so I stayed 3 nights there to be able to sleep really comfortably once again.

I tried to watch Germany’s 3rd World Cup soccer match somewhere, but I gave up in frustration for the third time because, unfortunately, the few TV channels there aired no soccer.

From Karakol to the Kazakh border was only a one-day trip, but it was Friday night and I knew I would be meeting a lot of drunks on the road.  That stretch of road was a thick red line on the map, but it was a rather rough gravel road. Shepherds were traveling that road.

First, two guys who were “armed” with thick cudgels came inconveniently closer and closer to me. I did not really know what they wanted and I tried to get away from them, but they followed me for quite a distance. It was uncomfortable.

No sooner had I shaken them, when another man came riding along, who shook my hand, squeezing vigorously with his bear paws not wanting to let go of my hand. There was no one in sight – just the man and me.

Somehow, the guy appeared suspicious to me and when he asked me if I was traveling alone, I said “No! No, my husband is coming just behind me.” Then he left.

I rode into a village and asked if I could set up my tent somewhere near the houses, because I really didn’t want to camp wild in this area on a Friday night. A woman invited me into her home then left me sitting outside her door about an hour until I finally asked the neighbor if I could pitch my tent. He was an old man, so I wasn’t worried.The next morning he stuck his head under the tent sail and asked me if I would like some chai. 

Luckily, I was already dressed.

We sat at a small table and were eating breakfast together when he told me he was 45. I would have guessed that he was closer to 70. The old man from the night before was therefore only 3 years older than me.

While we were eating breakfast he tried to persuade me to stay another night and then sleep with him in his bed. He wanted me to pay for his cigarettes and he told me he would like to give me a kiss.

As the situation became more and more uncomfortable, I retreated as quickly as I could and went on my way.

Shortly before arriving at the border I met Hubert, a Polish man who was hitchhiking home from Malaysia.

We exchanged money, SIM cards and maps with each other. He also gave me a large sheet of paper filled with standard questions translated into Chinese. Super, our encounter was a win-win situation for both of us.

The “at the end of the world” border was completely unproblematic. No more than 15 minutes after arriving, I was in Kazakhstan.

So, after 7 weeks I departed from a wonderfully beautiful country and was curious about what awaited me next.

2 Comments

  1. Great pics and story. Ok, now I know my next bikepacking trip 🙂 thank you.

    Reply

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