We had a plan! It was a perfect one, we were sure about it. It wasn't a very detailed plan, but just one that covers the necessary minimum. It took us quite some time and effort to work it out though and we were extremely proud about it. But we still decided to stay as flexible and open minded as our visa situation allows, ready to make changes and compromises whenever necessary. And sitting here right now, in the middle of Kyrgyzstan I am very glad we did.
Kyrgyzstan was not a part of our route. We never even really considered coming here, though I am not really sure what the reason was. Maybe we just knew too little about this place to include it in our master plan. We simply never thought about it. At least not until the third or fourth traveler we met told us we definitely have to go there. We decided to do some research and see if the country would be worth a detour. The first information we saw was all we needed to make our minds up. Kyrgyzstan as the first country in Central Asia decided to allow travelers from Europe to enter the country without a visa. We couldn't miss such a chance! And so we're here, in the middle of a country we never thought we would visit.
The formalities at the border went pretty quickly and the officials were extremely friendly. They were not really interested in checking our car neither, especially when a group of prostitutes came to a passport control. All eyes turned and we could have smuggled an elephant without anyone noticing it. And then one of the officials got a brilliant idea, that if David wanted him to, he would just deny me the entrance to the country keeping me at the border and David could continue the journey with one of the “working ladies”. “Mister, 50 Euro and no problem, very good women”. I am glad to say my husband somehow managed to resist the temptation and we're still traveling together ;)
We have reached Bishkek in the evening and the first thing we saw was a total darkness. We were even wondering if they had some temporary blackout, but we soon found out that it is a permanent problem. There are hardly any street lights in the city and only a small part of them works anyway. So you're on your own fighting your way through the streets, without light or paved sideways, but with holes bigger then yourself waiting in every dark corner. Driving in those condition is not much easier either. Some holes can cost you more than just one broken wheel and the fellow drivers are not making your life easier, since most of them drive with their lights off. Finding Bishkek Guesthouse was also a challenge, 7th floor in a building with no light and no lift, but we have finally made it and the extra friendly stuff made up for everything else.
In the morning we saw a different side of Bishkek. We saw a nice green city, surrounded by mountains and bazaars bustling with life. The holes in the roads and sideways were still there, but suddenly they didn't seem so bad. I especially liked Osh Bazaar, since it was the first market on our route, that really looked the way I always imagined it should. I was waiting for all the fruits, spices and nuts, for all the different smells and colours of Central Asia and I finally got it! And it was great!
We needed some spare parts for the car, so we headed towards Dordoy Bazaar which we heard was the right place for such business. And it definitely was. The market was huge! It seemed to have no end and the car parts department was more then we could have wised for. David and Gerrit looked as if Christmas came earlier this year. Thousands of tools and parts, all at least 50% cheaper than in Europe. We spent endless hours there, buying, checking and exchanging. Karossi got some new silencers and a fancy Russian windshield, as his old one had quite a bad whole after it got hit by a stone. The underneath of Gerrit's car got a total makeover to keep it from making funny sounds and movements which accompanied it since Mongolia. Both cars felt as new!
However car parts was not the only thing we were after. We were really lucky with the weather in Kyrgyzstan, but we soon have noticed, that the nights are getting very cold. We also knew that we will be traveling in the mountain regions, up to 3600m high. We needed some serious equipment! It took some time to make the perfect choice, but finally each of us left the market with a brand new winter jacket and few other pieces to keep us warm in all conditions. Their promised us we will be fine up to minus 40 degrees Celsius, but I really hope we will never have the chance to test it.
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with Kyrgyzstan at first. I guess I expected something more like Mongolia, a bit uncivilized, with gers and lots of animals. That's why I was really looking forward to lake Issyk Kol, hoping to find it all there. But the lake, especially its north part was just one village after another, all with standard houses and soviet style hotels, full with locals and tourists. For the first time in weeks we really had to look hard to find a nice spot for the night. And the one we ended up with for our first night was way below our standards. But we had more luck on the second day and we found a nice spot to enjoy the lake, which was indeed a very nice one. And I have to say, even if the gers and empty spaces are hard to find the mountains are everywhere and they are absolutely amazing. They tower over you no matter where you are, offering a splendid view no matter where you look. And although I'm no mountain freak, I absolutely loved it and was glad that we added this country to our perfect plan.
Anyway, it seems that Kyrgyzstan will not remain the only change in our route. We wanted to go to Uzbekistan and then travel through Turkmenistan to Iran, but the government in Turkmenistan decided to spoil our perfect vision. First we heard some disturbing news from other travelers we met, which were later on confirmed by our visa agency. The chances of getting a transit visa for the time we planned were scarce not to say non-existent. We could try to get a visa for November, but it could take around 4 weeks, because of some public holidays. And of course we had no guarantee we would get it in the end. Adding to it that our Uzbek visa expires at the end of October we knew it's not an option. The only suitable solution would be to go from Uzbekistan back to Kazakhstan and try to get on a ferry to Azerbaijan, from which we can cross to Iran. The only problem is, no one knows when exactly the ferry goes and how much it will cost when we get there. But we decided to give it a try, so keep your fingers crossed!