The Pamir had left his mark. Kati crawled along the gums, all attachments were battered – screws were missing, suspensions were broken, the suitcases shined in a creased look and held on to the bike out of pure solidarity.
Unfortunately, my 24-105mm photo lens had also given up the ghost – zooming was no longer possible, only pictures in the 24mm wide-angle range were still possible. It was time for extensive repairs and a replacement lens from home.
Bishkek seemed to be the ideal place for that, especially since I had to get the other visas for Russia and Kazakhstan. The Kazakh visa was easy to get, cheap with 30 USD and stuck in my passport after one week. It was not so easy with the Russian one – as visas are normally only issued in the home country of the applicant, it took me 17 days, regular visits at the embassy and a number of good arguments why the nice lady behind the counter should break the law for me.
In Bishkek it is about 45 degrees with a relatively high humidity at this time of year – there are hardly any possibilities to cool down. The time around the embassy appointments I spent in the Sakura-Guesthouse, a nice backpacker’s lodge with an international audience. The central topic of the evening discussions was of course the visa problem in the Central Asian countries, which is extremely unpleasant for travellers.
Gunter and Cäcilia from Munich – both well over 60 – travelled with their motorcycles across Iran to Bishkek. If you know the strains that are involved, this is an outstanding achievement.
Mark and Robyn from Australia – both teachers – are on tour for 2 years. We had a very pleasant and funny time together in Bishkek.
I was able to use the time spans between the embassy appointments for tours through the country lasting several days. The first one led to the east, to Lake Issyk-kol and to the Tian-Shan border mountains to China.
On both sides of the more than 160 km long and 6000 km² large lake stretch over 4000m high mountain ranges.
The water is crystal clear, slightly salty and popular for swimming in summer
Karakol, the district capital founded by Russians in eastern Kyrgyzstan, served as a starting point for excursions into the mountains to Altyn-Arashyn.
Valentin, a Soviet motocross legend. He dominated the Soviet sidecar motocross scene as a professional for 12 years, now lives in Karakol and runs a summer camp in Altyn-Arashyn. He advised me to leave Kati in the stable and to go up to the camp by jeep or on foot, because most of them had failed in the ascent so far. As always with such advice, my ears automatically switch to pull through.
The ascent in the rain was certainly one of the more technically demanding passages of my previous trip, but basically no particular problem. Only my sidebags had once again given up their love for me and said goodbye prematurely despite previous repairs.
The area is beautiful, but looks like the Austrian or Swiss Alps. The river originates from a glacier and was accordingly cold. I had finally cancelled the crossing.
Valentin is still a sought-after interview partner – here with Korean television.
After another stopover in Bishkek I went up to Kochgor and the Song-köl lake. A more than 3000m high summer pasture with countless yurt camps. This area was the craziest in terms of weather I had seen in my life. For days on end every hour changing conditions between sunshine, rain, hail and snow storms.
The circumnavigation of the lake with Kati was obvious, but even full of high spirits one does not make it through the swamp. Highly motivated I boarded there, until nothing worked anymore. After 3 hours and in spite of minus degrees of sweat I could free Kati – to lift the 200 kg heavy, up to the hubs in the mud sunk motorcycle more than 10 times meant physical and mental maximum performance. Without my Indian-Nepalese meditation experiences she would still be pecking there today and I would have gone home on foot.
Motorbike journeys in a different way – this Ukrainian-Kazakh group with their Russian Ural sidecar motorcycles on the way to Song-Köl over the 3300m high Kalmak-Aschu Pass. They took it rather easy, the most important travel item was the flask filled with vodka.
As mentioned before, the Pamir had left his traces – also with me. When you are on such a journey through several countries, you want to experience an increase of impressions or at least new, different experiences in each country. My stay in Kyrgyzstan has shown me that on this journey apparently no more was possible for me. After the experiences in Tajikistan no new or improvement seemed possible anymore – the following impressions were grey and mau in comparison. Strengthened by the constant problems with visa applications, I decided not to continue my trip to Mongolia, but to return home through Kazakhstan and Russia.
Mongolia is worth to be visited fully motivated after the necessary distance – this will also happen on one of the next tours.
The departure from Bishkek towards home.