Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Into the mountains

Day 71 - Saturday 20th August - Sary Tash - 185 kms

The night before, we received an email from our friends Anna and Howard. When we left them the night before, they were planning to leave Osh friday morning... Howard, who had been suffering from an upset stomach since leaving Tajikistan, got worse overnight and had to go to hospital. He was put on a drip and given antibiotics. He had caught  some parasite while in the Pamir. 

Photo with Anna and Howrad last time w evade dinner in Osh:

That left us more determined to be careful with the food in the Pamir, and we bought some dried fruits  and nuts, few tins of Paté and biscuits. That would help us keep going if guest houses meals were looking not too good! 

Massive overland truck in Osh. 

We saw many participants of the Mongol Rally:

We left Osh soon after 9:30. It was slow going, as usual. We took our time as we only had 185 kms to the village of Sary Tash. Going from 1000 m to 3000 m altitude, was enough and we needed to spend one night at 3000m before going higher. 

On the way we met a couple from Estonia, on two DRZ400. They were having lunch at a cafe, so we stopped for tea with them.

As we were leaving, a Mongol Rally car was stopped near our bikes. It was being pulled by a truck! Not sure it will make it to Mongolia!

The road was very beautiful and taking us through few mountains passes.

We arrived at Sary Tash by 3pm. We stopped at the same home stay than two years ago. There are few more guest houses now, but all are pretty much the same in  term of facilities! 

Our room. Same than two years ago! 

Dining room:

The sink to wash hands, and only access to water, is the blue box you see next to the bikes in the left. The toilet is down the enclosure for the cows, the little grey hut bottom left. Yes the "hole on the ground " stuff! 
At least this time it was the guesthouse "private toilet"! Two Years ago, we had to use the village's public toilet! You don't want  to know! 
Going at night was funny, as, with the headlamp, I could see the glowing eyes of the cows looking at me! 

Both bikes had behaved very well at the highest pass of 3600m so we were confident that they would climb to the highest points in the Pamir at over 4600m.

After changing out of our motorcycle gear, we went for a walk, in search of a little shop. We found a small cafe instead. 2 cyclists from Poland were having lunch. The cafe only had one portion of  Plov left, so we took it and shared between both of us. 

Another couple, cyclists too, arrived and asked the cafe owner if they could change Tajik currency for Kyrgyz Soms. Banks don't change Tajik Somonis. We bought some from them as we would be going that way. 

After a chat with all the cyclists we left and finally found a little shop, in the usual shipping container that is used for everything in Kyrgyzstan! The shop was manned by two small kids. It had nothing we could possibly want so we walk next door, I.e. The next shipping container. It was empty but had a couple of things. Probably crisps :D.

A man was outside, I presume it was the owner. He came inside and told us to wait two minutes. He was so drunk he could barely stand and had to lean against the wall, while trying to talk. A kid came ( I presume his son!). 

After that we went back to the guesthouse. 
It ended up being a full house with several cars from the Mongol Rally. All had British number plates as it starts in the UK and many buy their car there. One car was driven by two young lads for  New York. 
Then a small van and a car arrived, ( also Mongol Rally people!)  with 8 people in total, with a  variety of nationalities. 

Dinner was boiled potatoes and buckwheat with a  fried egg and bread. We opted out of meat as it is usually rather vile. 

After that, it was an early night as, with no TV and no Wifi, there was not much to do but read. 

Day 72 - Sunday 21st August - about 60kms - lake Turpal-Kul yurt camp.

After breakfast we took our time to pack. We had plenty of time. 

We then rode to the nearbye fuel station to fill up on petrol. The place was run by children, once again! 
The little girl in charge looked very serious and efficient. 
After that we rode to Sary Mogul, further west, passing a police check point that did not bother with us. 

We had in mind to get to Lenin Peak base camp, at a round 3600m, it would be a good place to spend the night and get used to Altitude. 
In Sary Mogul, with no idea where to find the trail to the base camp. I spotted a sign for the local CBT ( Community Based Tourism) and found it passed the usually randomly located shipping containers. 

The staff at the CBT office told us it was better for us to go the yurt camp near the lake, as the base camp, which is maintained and built by various climbing companies, would not expect us and have space or food for us! Or so we understood. 

While stopped in town I got talking with a lad. He was from Israel, and as all the kids over there, travelling after the end of his military service. He was planning with his friends to get to the yurt camp, but finding difficult to hitchhike from Sary  Mogul. 

For us it did not matter, they were all in the same direction  and higher.  The yurt camp location looked nice in the photos, so we decided to get there. Once given some vague directions, we left. 

Yaks : 

The trail to the camp was sandy and tricky. We finally found the bridge and some random trails. It was not obvious as there were trails and car tracks going to random places. We kept aiming at the mountains.

It took us a while but we finally managed to find the yurt camp, 25kms from the village.

The place was beautiful, but as night fell, it was bitterly cold. 

Sadly, Lenin Peak, that is 7200m high, was hidden by clouds! 

We had a small walk a round. The place was just few yurts and couple of tents. It was a harsh environment. 

In the camp, we met three Frenchs who left in a taxi that came from the village. There was also a family ( Deutschs?) who lived in Dushanbe ( capital of Tajikistan) and a German couple arrived later on as well. 

We all took refuge in the dining tent, as it had a stove, so it was warm inside. The staff also lit up the yurts' stoves, using the usual dried cow pat as fuel!

Dinner was a gruel of potatoes and cabbage, salad and bread! When we asked without meat, they just removed most of it, although we still found lumps of fat in it! 

It was also decision time. Stress, relief,  fear, tears, disappointment.... In the end, for reasons I will not specify here, we decided we had no choice and we had to turn back. The Pamir  would have to wait. We were gutted, but sometimes stuff happens and well...  that's life. We decided to ride back straight to Osh the next day.

Day 73 - Monday 22d August - Osh - 245kms

The trail back to Sary Mogul was great fun to ride. Our bikes, I must say, are perfect for this sort of terrain! Both of us have decided that our respective choice is the ultimate bike for trips like these! 

My XT is perfect and I love it. It takes a full new dimension on trails....Throw it through sand, mud, rivers, gravel, any stones, rocks etc... It just goes and I feel so confident riding it that nothing really scare me. 

Few pictures taken while riding:

Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country! 
Sary Mogul: 

And then my helmet camera ran out of battery! 

On the trail we came across the Israeli kids. I stopped to give them some tips as it was no obvious to find the yurt camp.  They were carrying big bags. I hope they got a lift in the end! It is a long walk. Although, just out of the military, they  are probably superfit and I am sure they can make it easily. 

We stopped at Sary Tash to get some more fuel. The same kids were running the place. This time I managed few pictures of Fatima.  She was a bright sparkly kid. I felt sorry for her. With good education, given a chance,  her life could get so much better. 

I asked her if she was going to school, she said yes. I hope she won't get married off early and shackled with an army of kids,  and what is certainly a very harsh existence in this area. I hope she will be given a chance! 

We arrived in town by mid afternoon. 
We went straight to the Osh Nuru hotel. We like it there. 

We had a rest, we were both very tried. We had not had much sleep in the last two nights, 

For dinner we went back to the Aztec restaurant. They had descent food and an English menu. 

Day 72 - Tuesday 23rd August - Osh -0 km

We have done over 14,000 kms. Not bad on our 250cc bikes! 

After breakfast we walked across the street to the bank, to change back our unnecessary Tajik currency. Banks don't change them. We were advised to go to the bazar and find  the money changers there. The Turkish Airline office was also in that direction. We walked first to the Airline office to change the date of our flight. After that we crossed the bridge and found quickly the money changers. We had a good rate and got Kyrgyz Soms. 

We then walked across the bazar and bought some bread and cucumber. We still had few tins of Paté. So that would do for lunch. 

The local bread is very nice. 

After that we walked back to the hotel and had our lunch and a rest. We decided to ride to Patrick's house the next day. We had left all our camping gear at his house. We had to go to pick it up. 

I checked my map, looking which trails would be OK to do and where to stay that would not be too high, to spend the night. We should be able to ride some beautiful trails and dizzying passes,  before we go to Bishkek. 

That's all for now folks! 

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