Charlie's blog: We were welcomed into Kyrgyzstan with our very first 3000meter pass. It had been a steady climb up from the boarder which gave us great opportunity to enjoy the mountainous views, a welcome change after an month in the Kazakh steppe!
We spent a morning climbing what felt like the longest road ever, we kept telling ourselves it will go down round the next corner but every time we were greeted with more up hill. It got to lunch time and we cautiously looked at the cycle computer and to our dismay found we had only gone 15km! Not understanding why today was so hard we consulted Google maps to find, to our surprise, that we were already at 3000 meters altitude and the pass was only another 300m up! That made us feel a bit better about our measly 15km distance.
We made it to the top and had the obligatory celebration photo by the sign (it's only worth it if there's a sign!), and started the well earned downhill.
We found a beautiful hill to camp on that night, one of many stunning evenings in Kyrgyzstan. But we were still pretty high up so we quickly squashed inside our tent to play cards (quickly learning that when Aram says 'it's really simple', it defiantly isn't!).
The next day brought us our second 3000meter pass, we are on a roll... excuse the pun. Just before crossing the pass was stopped at a couple of yurts for chai and eggs, and my gosh they were some of the most delicious eggs I've had on this trip. Yurts are wonderful things, from the outside they are white and plain but inside they are an explosion of colour and warmth. Every wall is covered in a different brightly coloured and patterned carpet and the floor is bordered by comfy cushions and mats. You could seriously snuggle up and go to sleep right there. Throughout our weeks in Kyrgyzstan we saw lots of signs advertising yurt camps and it would have been absolutely wonderful to stay in one, but as we found out we were there a week after the season ended and everything... everything... is closed. So no yurt stay for us, but I already have plans to go back and I'll make sure I am here in yurt season!
Back to the mountains, once we'd had our tea and eggs and crossed the pass we were on to one of my favourite sections of the whole 5 months so far. It was 40km of sweeping gorgeous downhill with the most amazing mountain views. We were stopping every few kilometers to take photos it was so beautiful. We arrived in Toktogul and found this adorable guesthouse recommended in Carivanistan, Guesthouse Kagan, run by a lovely couple who also happened to own the most adorable (and bitey) puppy. On our day off we decided to hike up to a glacier... as you do on a day off from exercise! The hike was spectacular all the way to this glacial lake. However the whole day we were being followed by an ominous dark cloud which finally caught up with us literally as we reached the lake, thanks weather gods. We had a super quick lunch snapped a few photos and high tailed it back down the mountain.
We decided to leave our bikes in Toktogul and pop over to Bishkek for a couple of days. A 4 hour taxi ride later and we arrived in the capital, we saw the Burana tower and lake Issyk Kul, the second largest lake in the world and where the World Nomad Games were held!
Then it was back to out bikes and off towards Osh. The weather finally turned on us and it was a wet few days so we treated ourselves to a couple of guesthouses to dry off at night.
Arriving in Osh was pretty spectacular, there's a huge rock mountain right in the middle of the city which makes a very impressive skyline. We spent a day looking round the bazaar and climbing the mountain, Suleman Too. We also bumped into a fellow cyclists! I spotted Alex checking into our hotel with panniers so immediately knew he was cool:) We were sat having some tea and swapping cycling stories when a lady came up to our table, gasped and cried 'A wheely long journey! ' it was only Vera from Team Oufti! She along with her partner Cyril are cycling from Amsterdam to Tokyo and we have been following their trip on Instagram never thibking that we would actyally meet them! The cycling community on instagram is wonderful, there really so many people doing trips and everyone is so lovely. It's been a great source of inspiration and encouragement for me along the way so that was amazing to meet these people I felt I knew from social media .
Vera told us that there was a group of 10 cyclists heading to Sary Tash from Tajikistan, including our Caspian Sea buddies Will, Chloe and Josh! It turns out they were cycling with Team Oufti and the Bicycle Diaries from instagram! That gave us xtra incentive to get out Osh in time to meet up with the group.
Leaving Osh we had 3 days of up hill with two mountain passes to look forward to before arriving in our final Kyrgyzstan destination, Sary Tash. You wouldnt think that uphill for three days solid would be much fun but actually the road was gorgeous, had some beautiful camping spots and the best bit was all the kids in the villages, no on ever seemed to be in school but they would all come running to the road side shouting hello hello hello and lining up to give us high fives as we passed. So cute!
The third day was the biggie, we had about 60km to go which included a 3716m pass, the highest we had done so far. As we approached it it started snowing and we were wearing pretty much all of our layers. After A LOT of switchbacks and beautiful views we made it to the pass and had our traditional photo with the sign. It was a wonderful moment looking down at the that we had just cycled up, pretty pleased with ourselves at that moment :)
It was then a glorious downhill into Sary Tash itself. We arrived exhausted but happy and feeling very proud of our accomplishments. The next day we all sat outside the guesthouse waiting to cheer the group of cyclists in as they cycled into town. We had an awsome evening chilling out in the cafe, It was so cool seeing so many cyclists, swapping stories and relaxing. In fact we liked them so much that we decided to stay an extra day in Sary Tash so that we could cycling into China into China with the Ouftis, Diaries a s Josh. Best decision ever!
We had a bit of a life admin day where I sorted out for a VPN for China, updated in stara, Google ll the things I'd thought f while cycling. Our wonderful host also let us try fermented horse milk (100% would not recommend!!) and told us about his plans to build a yurt ans expand hia guesthouse (along with being a meterologist, motor bike and skI guide! This guy was awsome!).
The next day was time for goodbye as half the group were heading to Osh including our cycling buddy Aram who was at theend...and the Outfis, Diaries and Josh were heading into China with us.
We set off on yet another stunning road in the mountains. The whole day was spent cycling between 3200 - 3800 feet. It was tough, catching your breath was difficult and venues the mallet no lines required a lot of effort. We stayed in a cute guesthouse just 4 km from the boarder where we had to navigate to the toilet around two cows and slept in he traditional Kyrgyzstan way, on e floor bundled up in many many duvets and blankets (actually really comfy:)
The next morning we officially crossed into the final ountry of our rip. .. China! CHINA! The order crossing was a big plava and took most of the day but that is for e next blog.
We had such a good time cycling with Aram and as a group, it's been so much fun. I've really loved Kyrgyzstan and I've already told James we should come back for the next World Nomad Games do some more cycling here. I love this country:)
Next time... Chinese boarder, Kashgar and throwing up in the desert!