At the China-Kazakhstan border crossing in Korgas, one of the largest in Central Asia I expected long cord of trucks, snaking queue of "ants", that's how people involved in the trade in the border region are called in Poland, pushing, honking, exhortations, loads of packs of different size… Place, which resembled the description above, I found quite quickly and once there - surprise! It is not the border terminal but a shopping center. Nowadays, the first place people need. Information boards were indeed in place there, but only those showing where the viewing platform is .. view of ..Kazakhstan (that is not more then looming in the distance steppe) and where for a fee you can also buy a car tour, whose route ran along no man's land separating the two countries. The view had to be immense experience, as there were many people willing to take it. Honestly, it is not hard to please tourists from China and tourism marketing does not have to develop complex strategies - just think something out, put kitschy sculpture, paint arrows and collect money.
Change money, change money! Young money changer that appeared finally shows me the right way to the terminal and urges to change money once again.. „change money?. Well ok, maybe a small amount, apparently on the other side it is not possible. price is fixed, the boy counts and hands me a wad of money. moment! I stop his hand outstretched to take my money and I begin to count. And here the young man turns on his heel, runs to a nearby colleague and comes back giving me one more note . Then, as he sees that I go on counting, adds two more. Standing closeby his older colleague is laughing and almost slaps me on the back, "Ot, molodiec dziewoczka! Parieszyła, molodiec! (Well, bravo girl, look at her, she counted!).
The terminal has proven to be a great, empty hall where I was the only person. After providing a little entertainment to the Chinese border guards I passed to the other side. To the terminal on the Kazakh side 7 km road full of trucks. And so, cycling among their greetings after more than 8 8 months, a little regret a little bit of relief I left China.
And I get to another world.
Invariably it fascinates me, as the space of only a few kilometers separating the two countries can change the environment - and in the case of China, such a sensation is always guaranteed. Starting with the familiar style border terminal of the 80s and the restroom with a hook in Kazakhstan almost everything seemed familiar to me. In the first village I encountered I went to the shop and watched the shelves full of faimliar products - bread, including the wholemeal one, milk and kefir, sweet bread rolls, lemonade, fridge full of beer and shelves full of vodka. Why the hell it was not available in China ? It is true that I mean mostly the products from the beginning of the list (in Urumqi if I wanted to eat cottage cheese I had to do myslef), if I wanted to buy vodka for my farewell party it was hard as well- the Chinese equivalent of this alcohol is a nasty stuff. A little later at the raodside restaurant I ate dinner consisting of buckwheat with goulash and salad, I talked with the local people digging Russian phrases from memory and thinking with relief, at least in the matter of communication and eating now it will be downhill.
Kazakhstan is for me now it's just a transit, less than 300 km - I'm cutting a corner of this huge country and I head to Kyrgyzstan - IssykKul lake while there is still nice summer weather. Road is flat as a table, kilometers by which nothing happens it gives a foretaste of traveling the Kazakh steppes, but here in the south of the country it is better, because the mountains loom on the horizon. Sometimes.
At hardly ever frequented, local, open only in the summer season Kazakh- Kyrgyz border in Karkara valley I come after sunset – There is a rumor, that although the border closes at 18.00, there you can pitch a tent and spend the night - "Nu, kanieszna, you can " (pol. you can, of course,) tells me young border guard pointing to a spot behind the fence, booth at the back of the guards.
After a few minutes he comes asking, or can I help you.
– Noooo, What is there to help, thank you very much. I do it every day
– But I will help. Or bring hot water in the kettle? You can brew tea, or wash . we are always here helping such travellers, Many of them come here
– ok, that's actually a good idea, Please bring this kettle! I thank you in advance!
Water and a kettle with the guard appear soon
– Why alone?? Aren't you afraid?
– Well, it's kind of normal to me. I do like it this way, moreover already I got used to this style. And one always has to be careful, as in life everywhere
– No friend? or husband?
– Well, as you can see - no
– And what, are you afraid of me? There is nothing to be afraid of!
– Why should I be afraid? I'm not afraid. there is light eveywhere, a lot of people, soldiers.. No reason to be afraid?
– It is good. I will come leter to pick up the kettle
After half an hour shows up again
– Well, what's up, fine? Chai drank?
– Yep, drank, washed up too.. you can take the kettle, thank you
– Good. And what are you afraid of me?
Gosh… Why he keeps on repeating it, starts to be irritating. In some situations I am scared, but today this is not the case at all!
– I told you that I'm not afraid because there is nothing to be afraid of. Thank you for the water.
– do not mention it, I will ring another one in the morning.
Now he starts inspecting my tent.
– one or two persons one?
– two! Just for me and my stuff. Good night he says! I answer, I hide and close my tent sharply. Do not expect invitations inside my dear boy
The promised kettle with hot water in the morning never arrived. Apparently I have not deserved one. The young man opened me the border gate as if nothing had happened, He smiled, and I was already in Kyrgyzstan.
To the lake Issyk I had some 130 km 130 km. The road leading from the border of the valley Karkary is an absolute feast for the eyes and ears, which in addition to the neighing of horses do not have opportunity to hear a lot more hassle but it's a fight fot your muscles and bicycle as the surface is a gravel, rocky one. Gravel has many faces and the Kyrgyz one is nt really "bike-friendly" – big, sharp and loose stones make, it impossible for a bike to roll - sometimes I preferred to walk, a 50 kilometers to the asphalt takes me all day and affirms in the conviction, that is a real nightmare which can effectively spoil the joy of the audio-visual experience..
Where you look on the slopes of the hills grazes cattle - sheep, cows, horses. Horses in Kyrgyzstan certainly you cannot be sorry for - they have, what I appreciate most in life - freedom. Kirghiz people, rarely leave their horses and they emerge out of nowhere, when you are convinced, no one is around. - how many times I'm sure, that I'm alone and then out of nowhere, somehow secretly, appears a horse with its owner on its back.
31 August 31st is the Kyrgyzstan Independence Day – that day 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union announced the creation of an independent state. Longing for the Soviet era are still high, especially among the older population (...you know the Russians are educated people, they kept everything in order here), but the last day of August is a time of festivities and fun, traditional dances and food.. There are no marches with flares in hand as it is in Poland now. I'm in Karakol, one of the major Kyrgyz cities so I join and enjoy celebrations!
Lake Issyk Kul is one of the first places, that I associated with the name of Kyrgyzstan. And I began to associate it. well, , not so long ago, when one of the festivals travel watched the slideshow of brother Damian - Polish Jesuit serving in Kyrgyzstan. also I remember, that there is, on the southern shore of the lake kind of retreat house, built by Polish Jesuits and as it was just on my way I decided to visit it. In the summer it is full of kids and youth attending summer camps , but the school year was about to begin so they have just left.
However, in last August night the house was full – full of friendly and interesting people. I met a small group of Poles and slightly larger Uzbeks, Russians mainly from Uzbekistan and even one American - David, whose dream was to see Central Asia, all came to talk about important issues. Therefore I tooka dvantage of this company. the possibility to talk in my mother tongue, enjoyed sun and endlessly blue sky, dip in cold water and the crystalline Issyk kul and joined trips into the surrounding mountains. It was a time of important meetings and discussions and our contacts have hardly torn off, thanks to them also my journey through Uzbekistan was different, a nie inna.. but about it in my next entry).
The road south shore of the lake is considered to be quieter, less touristy and more scenic - initially after the departure of Karakol quite narrow and crowded then relaxes and calms. Close to the lake runs only on the stretch several tens of kilometers and are certainly one of the most enjoyable kilometers of this trip. long 170 km, more then 10 wide, at the altitude of 1700 meters above sea level the lake stretches to the horizon and gives the impression of the sea. The Tian Shan mountain ranges 3-4 3000 - 4000 meters high, ireflect on the surface of water and make the sunsets unforgettable full of shades of purple and orange. Travel period also seems to be optimal - early September, when crowds of tourists departed, They wound up on the beaches last umbrellas, but it is still really warm.
Bokonayevo is a large town in the center of the southern shore of the lake, what is known as much ugly. Kyrgyzstan is one of the tourist centers and indeed larger village with storeyed buildings, broken paving slabs, wzbijanym dust on the road by the speeding minibuses, and for this there is no access to the shore, Therefore, I was not going to stop here, even - but I was stopped. He smiled at me and started to talk nice Haye – as it turned out rider from the Netherlands in a solo trip through Asia. It's fun sometimes to talk, So I tempted to be in the same guesthousie, and when it turned out yet, the next day will be so far. Birds of Prey Festival (You can translate the Festival of Game Birds) referred to herein as Salbuurun quickly convinced himself, the road is not a hare, will not escape.
Salbuurun are demonstrations of traditional techniques and game hunting, which they are used in accordance with the tradition Kyrgyz birds of prey (orły i sokoły), horses and greyhounds. For the sake of observers currently used as bait, artificial animals (for example,. wypchanego lisa, which is pulled on a rope by a rider on a runaway horse and a trained eagle dives from the air and grabs it or fighting teams on horseback, where is the original trophy animal killed – most sheep, in the case also stuffed festwalu). Bringing together both locals and tourists festival recall with a tear in his eye – They had a huge impression on me huge majestic birds, which could be seen up close, and especially their relationship with the owners, who raise them from the chick. Education is a long process bird, a long process of taming the bird with a man before him learn appropriate behaviors. I watched young boys holding their young birds and their głaszczących fondly. The festival is also a product demonstrations of traditional fabrics, hair braiding, building a yurt or scroll children. Look!
Road towards Bishkek leads down the scenic canyon of the river, and I get tired at every turn the pedals – noser, which almost does not continue to move forward to the point, she wants to cry with helplessness. I manage in ostataniej time to get to Bishkek, where in the Catholic Church (run by Polish Jesuits has just) again I met with a group from the Issyk Kul and taking them to Kazakhstan, to Almaty - only there I have the opportunity to develop the new passport because in the old place for a stamp visas and other just ended. Come after him stand for a few weeks, but it is already decided before developing a route.
After a fairly meager in the visual experience Bishkek (do not go out in the evening without a flashlight, street lighting almost does not exist) lying on the other side of the border Kazakh Almaty (old Alma - Ata) It makes me a very positive impression. Almaty is a breath of civilization in Central Asia. Not too big, not too small town, as much as traditional with modern Warsaw is a common denominator - the number of inhabitants (more or less) and the recently opened metro line. Well ok, in Warsaw are already two, but also they built it 20 years-plus. However, the most beautiful mountains in Almaty are - the same band thousanders Tian Shan. Special Mission in Almaty successful - I'm leaving him a complex with the embassy requesting fresh passport and visa to Uzbekistan. Because there just decided to go in October.
*Visa to Uzbekistan is not the cheapest, although its manufacturing have such trouble is not. It's expensive "business" - in the case of the Poles must first obtain (read redeem) invitation in one of the agencies for the "modest" amount of $ kiludziesięciu and then the next and-paper 75 Euro go to the embassy for a visa. Uzbekistan is also a much more formal "attractions", but this will be in the next post.
Kyrgyzstan is also the first weeks of meetings with cyclists. Quite a lot of them here. Roads from the north to the south is a little - in fact, there are two. Roadside cognitive questions are fairly predictable in nature: where are you from? Pamir did you leave or until you go there?
Nobody wants to believe, that the Pamir (mountain range in Tajikistan) I'm not driving. that October, though it's sunny and dry month is already in my, secular belief may be cold for long escapade 2000 km on average quality roads in the mountains at an altitude of more than 3 - 4 thousand. Km. And with the passage through the Pamir, certainly an unusual place and being on the list of my dreams, it is the duty of every cyclist. I was not prepared him physically, mentally or hardware. Only so much and so much.
– What are you carrying there in those saddlebags? Asks encountered in the driveway of a solo cyclist from the Netherlands. During the, When I push the bike, stopping every now and then to catch the air, It chop-sloop ahead and catching me ... her bicycle equipment meets the standards of fashionable recently backpackingu - no panniers, some packets strapped to a bicycle and one larger package on the trunk ...
– Well ... you need the same things.. reply
– So what specifically? gaze sweeps phenomenon, I'm in. How many pairs of shoes you have? What specific? A t-shirts? I polled the contents of the panniers. I have two, longs, some shoes.. continue. I look at her heavy shoes in this hot summer day and makes me weak.. no fact, It is a little hard of transporting food, but without the unnecessary baggage is to be a free mind! explains the profession colleague. I mean, how can you carry even a few t-shirts. Is shorts. There is always the possibility of washing.
– Exactly, it is not always washable. I am carrying some, to be clean.
– Well, all in all you can, but it is.. and there hangs
– Exactly, but it is what ..? how is it? stupid? I assure you, that my mind is also absolutely free.. If you go with this for a few years, that is,, These are things that I need. And this is the need to carry then it all is the fact, quite unpleasant consequence, but what to do.
– Excuse me, It came out a little silly. I will go..
– ok, and I myself continue popcham
– But from what, for Strom?
– Exactly! For me too steeply
Meetings with cyclists are just such – different, just as there are different people. It is not only the exchange of polite formulas or theses tips. It's watching your bicyclics equipment. God forbid, that was greater than the law provides! You will then receive a number of councils, as something, what you have is not needed. You can buy a shirt for example,. merino wool, because she's wearing a few days does not smell - something out of it, I tried, I can not wear that, especially in the heat, not to mention, I hate the tight T-shirts. Just as I hate cycling shirts at all, because artificial material, from which they are made even me burn. That you can sleep in a tracksuit.. yes, I practice, but in hot climates tracksuit fall off and I perversion, after washing up to then jump in your thinnest how you could get a set of cotton piżamowy. I then substitute home, I separate day from night. Itepe, in item. So… Leave me alone!!!
By the way, because it's very much in the topic above – just today Heike Pringurber, ie Pushbikegirl published a post on how to optimize your equipment for the expedition, and where I added my two cents or five – I encourage you to read HERE (English and German).
To drive through Kyrgyzstan, from the north north from Bishkek to Osh remains me some 12 days, ok 600 km and more than three passes 3 thousand km. After returning from Almaty still I go to the rectory to pick up a bike.
– Where it now? asks brother Damian.
– Well to Osh
– that's! I'm going tomorrow to Osh car. maybe toss? But what are you then to throw fejsbuka? joking
– I fejsbuka inform about the crime committed, please do not worry
Yes my dear, I committed a crime. I gave a toss on the first pass, and even second! And it was a really great decision. It has long been thought about, to the first section of the main road from Bishkek to Osh overcome some communication – This is the entry of 600 meters around. 3500 Too Ashu Pass potraktowałabym in terms of challenges and so much. The worst is that, that, especially in this initial section was very busy road is narrow and without the possibility kempingowo-beds to the very first pass.. then already significantly loosens. There Observing the ongoing slow vehicles glad, I do not have to inhale the stinking fumes and bounce every moment to the side at the sound of the horn. The worst thing for the cyclist lying in wait for the pass, however - it's about 3 kilometer tunnel, which was the worst, I had ever seen. Narrow, unlit, completely without shoulders - after accident, when a dozen years ago it collided cars blocking traffic, the level of exhaust gases has become so large that a few people in it suffocated – ride a bicycle is impossible. And well – do not even try! Horror.
Brother Damian leaves me in the pass and I did not keep up with putting on his clothes, such pizgawica. You need as quickly as possible to fight a little bit lower and find a place to stay. Fortunately, it is not difficult. Half September is the time, When the shepherds called curl. jaloo - the place roughing shepherds during the summer grazing sheep. Here and there still consist of yurts - their makeshift homes and rushing herd below, where the animals have a chance to survive the winter. Traces jaloo is trodden round concave, Path, traces of hearths, faecal.
One day the wind is too strong, by putting up a tent, but I manage to get to the village asking for a bed. A tak, here is the one, She tourists have spent the night at home - just call! Roadside shopkeeper pulls out a battered phone. After half an hour I sit in the warm kitchen. The young housewife is stirring, a pot full of potatoes with mutton, every moment she jumps up to pour tea into cups, Kyrgyz custom, which is sweetened with honey jam tudzież. At the table sits lovely 2-year old toddler, whose face lights up constantly smile, especially when it gets to a teaspoon of sweetness licking. On the other side of the table, half sitting half lying father glances at me, finally he asks. the same set of questions I hear constantly…
– Why alone?
– Well. because I like
– The husband must be, children too. Who then will help in old age?
– Well, it's true. But here in Europe it is quite common. Girls do not push to exit married and increasingly do not want to have children. With me it is like that
– Yep, I heard of. I know this one too.. our girl, but lived in Europe. Her brain works differently now. She does not want a husband, or children. And I grabbed her, and what - is it wrong this way? (In Kyrgyzstan it is still alive the custom of kidnapping their future spouse). kidnapped, Put the white handkerchief on her head and she is mine . We have three children – two here, one with his grandparents in Naryniu – There is a kindergarten. Life goes on.
Here quote from the book Louise Wlodek “Just go across the river”…..:“Issykkulski region is known for throughout Kyrgyzstan with the largest number of kidnappings of women. Boys, instead of going to the girl and ask her or her parents to marry, They organize and colleagues chose for stealing. Kidnappings are different in the details, but the scenario is similar: the girl is suddenly attacked on the street, puts force and exports to the car to the house of a man, who stalked her on his future wife. On-site women in his family convinced her, She agreed to marry him. Solicitations sometimes takes a few hours, sometimes even several days, but almost always at the end of the girls say “yes”. Then the wedding takes place…”
I look at his wife. Pretty, slim girl. Bandana quite accurately covers her hair.
– How old were you? I ask
– 18 when I was kidnapped, 19 when we got married
– Well, and if you do not want it, well as the girl does not want a man, that kidnapps her, what you can do?
– nothing really - she replies still smiling
I look at the baby, and I think, I really look like a happy family.
My male host goes on:
– If your western customs reached here it would be a mess – if woman didn;t want to get married. What is a life without family. Who will help you in old age? I feel his disapproving eyes on me. For whom do you live - for yourself only. Well yes, only for yourself. What poor a life it is.