Tom and I hung out on the roof top and caught up while enjoying the beer. It WAS warm in Bishkek and there were stories about limited snowfall over the past 2 years (actually the Pamir’s have received about 25% less snow than normal for the past 50 years) and that summer temps had shattered ancient records.
We’d last met in Ulan Ude (an experience that did not make the blog entries of 2013′s BAM ride). I needed another day to chase visas so we prepared to depart on Wednesday.
Everything went well at the Tajik Embassy. I arrived LATE (9:30) to a short queue of one American and a Kyrgyz tour leader to “they’re not answering the door”. At that moment we were rung in. The website stated “document collection from 9-11, document pickup from 10-12.” “Come back between three and 5 PM today.” Sure.
The Uzbek visit went “missing”. Met folks in Osh who suggested that they were being ALL rejected due to harvest time (Uzbekistan can be VERY hard to find gas (benzine) in and apparently, so the rumor went, all the farm machinery runs on benzine. It seems the real story is that the woman in charge of the Consular services in Bishkek is rather power mad.
On Wednesday we headed for . . . Osh but with an expectation of going off-road on some tracks that Walter Colebatch had provided. (For the record, his tracks were NEARLY identical to the ones I’d guessed which means . . . my guesses were lucky.)
We stayed at a resort on Tortogul Reservoir after riding about 350km (210 miles) in considerable heat.
But before that . . . we were nearly the DESERVING subjects of an international incident. Why ? Oh, pounded by heat, a lack of rest and a fantabulous lack of judgement and apparent disdain for cultural & religious sensitivity.
At a chaikhana with EXCELLENT mince kabobs and a fantastic view of the nearly 20000′ granite crags next to the road we headed off for the loo. The signs were in Cyrillic but not difficult to follow. However, even Tom, who is fluent in Russian found it rather ambiguous. First we found ourselves in a prayer room. “Uh, we have to get out of here.” Then . . . a man gesticulated for us . . . and we were in another room which, at least for me, provoked memories of the GIGANTIC loos in China in the 90′s when a man could enter a room with a gutter running at the foot of the 4 walls which comprised it to see up to a 1000 chinese men squatting doing their business. (Of course, they would STARE unabashedly at a foreigner which often precipitated some performance anxiety.)
I noticed water pitchers, small stools with carpet patches on them and . . . prepared to relieve myself. Utter shock at my own inconceivable ignorance and complete lack or respect or regard . . . well, 100 lashes would have been fair. Hamd’Allah (thank God), a man stopped us. We finally found the outhouses (which were fairly ripe given the heat) but nonetheless rode away in shame.
The resort was easily reachable from the chaikhanna and while it did appear to be uninhabited we eventually were shown a (relatively) pricey room facing the reservoir. Dinner was excellent – the pelmeni was AMAZING and the local trout sublime. The room may not have been all-out budget but the a/c worked, the shower was great, and the kitchen excellent and a tremendous value.
In the AM we tried one of Walter’s off-road tracks or at least tried. We had a brief interruption by a Kyrgyz driver who was determined to show us that he could spray our bikes with his rear wheels sending gravel and stones at our helmets/windscreens BUT was not terribly happy when I decided to pre-emptively return the favor.
Eventually we ended up at a seeming gap in the hills and a steep, short, loose run up to a blind corner. I went up first and it WAS loose. I waited for Tom who struggled not a little because his throttle response was a bit indirect and the engine’s complete absence of bottom-end torque was most unforgiving.
At the “top” we realized that we’d chosen the wrong path ! I found this somewhat more amusing than Tom and rode both bikes down with minimal drama but not none. So we re-examined our GPS and I decided to scout a ravine. This quickly proved unprofitable while the sun and heat continued to soar.
Eventually we retreated to the ‘Pelmeni Pavilion’, tails between our legs and re-collected our religious infraction of the prior day over a beer or three. The next day we rode to Osh.