Day 62 – Monday, May 21 – Yurt Camp at Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan – Dave

Woke up in our yurt – all bloody freezing and feeling the altitude.  Looked out to find snow on the ground and bikes.  Whose idea was this anyway?

But the views and sense of isolation were stunning.  Here are some local yak wandering close to our yurt…

Yak, Yak, Yak...

We read and chatted while we waited for a break in the weather so we could visit the  Tash Rabat caravanserai a few kilometers up the valley.  It is 15th century – a stop off for Silk Route caravans – with roots back in a 10th century monastery.

Just as we prepared to make the short ride up the valley we heard the putting of a small engine, looked out of the yurt and saw Ernest, our Swiss pal, on his Suzuki 91 making his slow way up the valley!!!!  We hailed him and he stopped.  A happy reunion, but the poor guy was shivering furiously, having been battling his way through rain and snow on the terrible road up from Narin for 4 hours!  His plan was to see the caravanserai and then immediately make the 4 hour trip back, but we persuaded him to stay with us and gave him hot food and drink and some dry clothes.

When he stopped shivering, we all set off for the caravanserai.  Here’s Ernest on the moped – I think we can all agree that he is a total lunatic, no?  But a great guy and an  inspiring free spirit.

The caravanserai was impressive – imposing, isolated and rich in history…

Inside it was a little eerie as each room (for travelers and their horses and camels ) had a small mound of snow in the middle of the floor, lit brilliantly by the light from the smoke hole directly above.

Then it was back to the yurt camp for dinner…

Yack, yack, yack...

A group of Aussie travelers showed up and joined us in the dinner yurt.  Among their number was Ian, a diving expert who had formerly been with the Australian SAS.  He now has a sideline euthanizing beached whales by placing explosive charges on their heads and blowing them up!  He even showed us a diagram of exactly how it should be done…shaping the charge, placing the sandbags, running the wires…

As we stared numbly at the diagram, unsure exactly what to say about blowing up whales, Ian launched into a series of tales (accompanied by photos) of his SAS combat in Vietnam, of holding up a Saigon brothel at gunpoint because he “paid for the night but only got one shag” and of joining the Rhodesian Army.  “Oh”, I said, “looking at the photo of him in 1960s Rhodesian army uniform, “what were you doing in the Rhodesian Army?”  He smiled and replied “Shooting blacks”.  Then, on seeing our jaws hit the floor, he hastily added “but they were all commie blacks”.

Suddenly it was time for bed.

Best to you all.

Day 60 – Some day in May 2012 – Exploring Lake Issy Kul Area – Dave

Pouring with rain this morning, so we chatted, read and updated our journals till the skies cleared, then Simon, John and I rode off to explore the area.

We followed the south shore of Lake Issy Kul for three-quarters of an hour, then turned up a dirt road into the mountains in search of some thermal springs we had heard about.  It was great riding up a spectacular valley.  At the lower altitude it was lined with small farms – mostly sheep, goats and dairy, but this one was given over entirely to beekeeping.  Very unworldly – men in strange white hooded outfits moving slowly through the maze of hives amid puffs of smoke.  Ridley Scott would have loved it.

As we climbed higher the valley narrowed into a spectacular sandstone canyon where we followed a rough track, winding beside a fast-flowing river.

Riding these traffic-free, dirt roads is challenging but hugely exhilarating – standing on the pegs, leaning forward, riding fast enough to smooth out the bumps, wind blasting your face…

Finally we arrived at the trailhead where there was a small cluster of buildings – several A frames and a couple of small circular white adobe buildings – the thermal springs.  It felt like we had ftime-warped our way into a 60’s hippy colony.

But the few locals who were there seemed confused by our arrival and not as welcoming as we have become used to.  Our offered hands were shaken, but cautiously, and no one smiled.  We seemed to have breached some protocol we didn’t understand and it wasn’t helped when Simon disappeared inside to take some pics of the thermal spring, only to find he was in the women’s toilet – and it was occupied.

So we didn’t stay long.  Fantastic brisk ride back down the sandstone canyon in the evening light with the brilliant  blue Lake Issy Kul soon appearing ahead.

Not far from the hotel we paused by this ‘piece of sculpture’…

Boys and Mig

 

No one could explain what the hell it was doing there by the side of the beautiful lake, but it made Simon happy and he took this great pic…

An Australian couple, Shane and Christine, had arrived at the lodge.  She’s a pharmacist and he’s an artist.  He seemed like a well-balanced chap for an Australian, but when he showed us photos of his art we realized how deceptive appearances can be.  Here’s his website…

http://www.outbackart.com.au

Yet another good day on the road.

Best to you all, love to my family,

Dave

 

Just in China! No-man’s country for older men and vans

Just received following text from Simon:

Just over the Torughat pass and awaiting new customs and new registration of bikes and van in  China, current altitude 3750 metrers We are all feeling a bit rough .

Have met up with Paul. Roads worse than I imagined only just got up pass and bottomed out a lot on the ruts poor old van

More when I get a bit more oxygen in board!