Susan and Ben have done a great job updating the blog with Simon’s dramatic texts, so these ‘retrofits’ from our time in Kyrgyzstan may now seem a little pedestrian and out-of-date, but Simon and I are going to include them anyway because we bloody well wrote them!
We left our hotel and made a brief stop at the garage where they’d changed our tires, so the mechanics could have their photos taken on the bikes, then, in bright spring sunshine, we headed east out of Bishkek towards the mountains and much-lauded Lake Issy Kul.
Almost immediately my ‘BRAKE FAILURE’ light flashed on and we pulled over. In the last few days my mechanical confidence had swelled (admittedly from a base of zero) after having changed my engine oil and filter, disengaged the brakes and ABS, removed the wheels and then reversed the process to replace the wheels (with new tires on), but in an instant that fresh confidence evaporated. In reconnecting the brakes and ABS mechanism I had somehow screwed up. Furthermore, in the 24 hours since I did it, I had failed to test ride the bike and so the problem had not been revealed until now, on the road, holding everyone up.
Fortunately, my traveling companions knew exactly what to do. “Ignore it”, said one. “It’s just a warning light” added another. “That’s right” said the first, “do the brakes feel okay, that’s what matters?” “Er…yes…but those big mountains we’re heading for look like they might require perfect brakes…” “Don’t worry, it’s probably just the ABS not working, and you don’t need it, not really” said someone else. “Right”, another pal chipped in, “Never even had ABS when I was a kid.” I glanced nervously at the snow-covered mountains and back at my helpful companions. “Okay…”
So we rode on down an unusually well-made road through Alpine scenery with the Kazakhstan border a hundred yards to our left and high mountains to our right. Other than John and Richard being ticketed for speeding (fortunately the cops’ speed gun only records two readings), it was a great ride and my sense of wellbeing was completed when my brake warning light turned itself off. Things seem to have beenjolted back into place.
Here’s a cool Kyrg dude we met on the way. We like the hat so much we found and bought one each to wear at Grey Silk reunions. Eat your hearts out, readers.
After a few hours we came upon Lake Issy Kul a 115 kilometer long brilliant blue lake, the north side of which is lined with Soviet-era summer resorts and the south side of which is still fairly wild and empty – and that’s where we headed for. On the way we went off-roading through an orchard to the shore of the lake where, surrounded by a flock of grazing sheep and looking over brilliant blue water at snow-capped mountains, we lunched on bread and cheese and basked in spring sunshine. It was a very fine moment.
As we continued on our way we came across a man riding a heavily loaded moped (a Suzuki 91) and realized that this must be Ernest, a Swiss adventurer that Nathan had told us about having met, so we stopped to talk to him. What a guy! Early 50s but boyish with a pony-tail, goatee beard and infectious laugh. He’s a cabinet-maker from Zurich who has already ridden this far alone on his tiny bike and is now headed across Mongolia and Russia to Vladivostok! Extraordinary.
A little further on, we saw a couple of guys preparing to hunt with an eagle and a hawk…
And finally we arrived at the Tamga Lodge, a basic hostel but clean and well-managed by the proprietor, Luba, a former mountain guide who had a good dinner waiting for us. Simon is chomping at the bit to get into the mountains and put his super-cool hiking boots to the test.
We are all liking Kyrgyzstan.