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Old 26th October 2013, 00:48   #121
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Default Day 14: At Bashy - Tash Rabat - Torugart Pass - Song Kul (Part -1)

Towards Katai


Route map for the day , planned vs actual
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-01.jpg

The day ahead was long as the plan was to head south initially, visiting the caravanserai of Tash Rabat, then go as close to the Torugart pass as possible, and then finally take the less used road towards Song Kul through the precarious Moldov pass. However, this was based on certain assumptions which as we found later were not true. Reach Song Kul we did by the end of the day, but not before going through one of the best drives in the country.

The ancient silk route caravanserai lay about 70 km south of our night halt. After a good breakfast with the Australian couple and the Brit who were staying in the same homestay as us, we pushed off by 9 am. The Aussie couple had decided to drive their Lada 4x4 towards Tash Rabat, while the Brit was heading north towards Kochkor. We stopped for a brief moment to capture At Bashy from atop a hillock before bidding adieu to the pretty village.

The drive towards Tash Rabat on highway A365 built by the Chinese was awesome. After we left the highway, the last 10 odd kms were on a dirt track. As we moved further south and towards the Chinese border, the settlements dwindled. It still took us a good 1.5 hrs to reach Tash Rabat. The gate to the caravanserai was locked but a lady appeared immediately from a yurt nearby and charged us 100 SOM per head as entry fee. There were no boards mentioning this particular tariff but thankfully we had been advised earlier that this may happen and is perfectly legal.


A view of At Bashy and the mountains south of it
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The wide valley near At Bashy, taken on the move
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This is how they travel to China
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An excellent highway leading towards Tash Rabat (and eventually towards Torugart Pass)
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Once we leave the highway, dirt track greets all the way till Tash Rabat
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Some settlements on the way to Tash Rabat, notice the rolling smooth green hills
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Almost there now
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Tash Rabat is probably Kyrgyzstan’s most remarkable monument and it is in complete contradiction to the popular belief that the country is only about landscapes rather than historical sights. Tash Rabat is a Silk road monument which was made in the 15th century to shelter an array of merchants and travellers along one of the wilder stretches of the Silk road. Its location is even more remarkable - tucked away from sight, half buried in a hillside in a non-descript valley. The building is entirely made of stone and looks quite small from the outside, particularly because a large part of the monument lies inside a hill. This perhaps helped in insulating its occupants from the harsh weather.

The front entrance leads into a central hall that is surrounded by a network of small rooms. These were used as bedrooms, prison cells, pantries, prayer rooms and even as bath rooms. The rooms were well ventilated and lit despite being underground. Every room had a vent on top to allow fresh air and light to come in, and so we did not need a torch to go around the monument. These vents were probably covered during the winter.

Since there were no English speaking guides available, we made do with our own guidebook and walked about the entire place in about 30min. We finished the tour just as a pack of around 30 tourists came in a guided tour. Thankfully, for the brief 30min that we were there, the feeling of being alone added to the charm of the place. The Aussie couple from At Bashy had also reached in their Lada 4x4, but instead of exploring the caravanserai, they went for a hike and later we could see them atop a knoll nearby.


Tash Rabat, the first view
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Notice how a major part of the structure lies beneath that hill
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Note the light holes on the roof of Tash Rabat
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The dome at the top of the structure
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Thick walls demarcate smaller living quarters inside
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A well lit corridor leads up to the main central hall
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The gathering hall, where most assemblies must have been held
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An underground prison
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The prayer hall
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Bathroom was inside the premises, basically a hole in the ground
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A donkey leads a herd of sheep, pretty much the story of every office
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We were back on the highway soon and by 12:30pm even made it to the first check post on our way towards Torugart pass. The formalities of getting the permits checked threw us off by a good 15min. The landscape ahead was just out of the world with an arrow straight road heading towards a set of snow clad mountains beyond which we knew lay China. The bad part was that the last 50km after the first check-post was untarred which slowed us down considerably. It was under construction by a Chinese agency, so it would be safe to assume that the road would be complete by early next year.

We sighted huge 18-wheelers laden with goods and marked with Chinese symbols as we inched closer to the pass. Another 25km later, the border fence began, marking the no-man’s land between the two countries. On our left, we could see the Chatyr Kul, a beautiful (and quite huge) lake located next to the border. Sadly, it is surrounded by a big wetland and hence getting a good view of the lake can only happen if one treks (safely) near it. By 2:30pm, we had reached a settlement of trailers beyond which stood a building with Chinese and Kyrgyz flags flying. This had to be the second border check-post and the final one inside Kyrgyz. Torugart pass itself lay within the borders of China and chances were bleak that we would be allowed beyond this checkpost but we decided to feign ignorance and try our luck. Needless to say, the authorities turned us back after inspecting our papers.


Back on the highway, and towards Torugart, the first checkpost can be seen in the distance
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Papers chekced, we were about to let go towards the mountains beyond
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The road beyond
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A panorama of the plains near China
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Settlements were few and far apart.
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On the left one can see the marsh of Chatyr Kol, to the right the fence marking the no-mans land
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Chatyr Kol, finally we get a view
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Signboards now start having mandarin characters
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It was almost 3:00 pm and now both of us were hungry enough to eat horses. The settlement of trailers lay abandoned but we assumed that one of these must serve the trucks which pass by and must serve as an eatery. After knocking a couple of times on a few trailers, we were pointed towards one trailer which apparently sold food. We had to wake the owner and his son who gladly cooked us a very tasty meal of laghman and chicken. While they cooked, a pleasant conversation ensued, aided by our Eng-Ru dictionary. It was here that we realized for the first time that China was actually called Katai by the local populace.

After lunch, it was time to move on as we still had a good 5 hours of daylight. However, Song Kul was a around 300 odd kms away, and a good 100km of that was on untarred road, while another 100 was on bad tar. It was an ambitious target, but nevertheless we decided that it was worth a shot. We also decided to drop our plan to try the lesser used road via Moldov pass and stick to the more frequented route towards Song Kul. Adventure quotient had already been high on the trip and it would bode well for us to take it easy on an already stretched day.


These caravan trailers serve as dhabas for the trucks that pass through this border
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The last checkpost till which we went, beyond this starts the climb to Torugart Pass
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day14_0131b.jpg

The kitchen inside one of the trailer and its happy occupant
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day14_0140.jpg
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Old 27th October 2013, 19:34   #122
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Default Re: Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

To the jewel lake

The next 4 hours of driving was just about retracing our steps. The untarred road which had been a delight to drive on earlier, seemed to be a royal pain on the way back. The dust, the sun, the monotony, everything was getting to us. The alternate route towards Song Kul was enticing to break this monotony but we were running desperately short on time. In the end, it was a natural decision to leave that 4WD track in favor of a tarred stretch all the way to Naryn and half-way back to Kochkor. A poorly placed signboard marked the detour towards Song Kul and immediately thereafter the tarmac gave way to another dirt track.


These guys are sick and tired of improving their own country's infrastructure, and have started moving out.
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A play of light and shadow back at the valley of At Bashy
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The wide valley runs arrow straight with a lovely road to boot
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It also has some mix of bizzare brown between green, yellow and white
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Climbing back towards Naryn
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It had rained in the afternoon and hence the track was a bit slushy at places, but nothing that would bother the TLC. It was quarter past seven when we reached the detour and we hardly had two hours before it would be pitch dark. With Song Kul still a good 50km away, there was no time to stop and take pictures of the beautiful green meadow through which the dirt track went. The entire region surrounding the lake has been marked as a nature reserve and hence there was practically no construction of any kind anywhere and no electricity poles running across the landscape.

The route passed through a couple of mountain ridges and each time we climbed a crest we half expected to see the lake in the distance, only to be disappointed over and over again. Eventually, we reached a set of switchbacks which would shame even the Gata loops. I think they were much more than 21, and each hardly 50m in length! As we neared the end of the switchbacks, we finally glimpsed the lake in the distance. It was fascinating, nestled in a bowl, surrounded by snow clad peaks. It was a sight to behold in the dying rays of the sun.


The Song Kul nature reserve begins - I call it windows wallpaper green
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No electricity poles, no settlements just a road and huge meadows
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Like a sine wave we climbed hills, rolled back down, climbed again and rolled back down again.
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That is the path we had followed
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The crazy switchbacks
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Sun sets over lake Song Kul.
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A lone horse silhouette
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Driving was becoming increasingly difficult as we were headed straight west at sunset. With the sun glaring right into our eyes, it was difficult to navigate on the muddy track towards the lake with some close calls. It was dusk by the time we reached the lake and unlike what we’d imagined, there were hardly any yurt camps to be seen! We had heard that there were numerous camps on the northern and the southern shore of the lake but we could hardly see any nearby or in the distance. We drove about for half an hour before we finally came upon a first set of yurts. As we approached them the owner came out and mentioned that his was a private yurt, and pointed us in the general direction of a yurt camp he knew was operational. With much difficulty, we eventually reached that camp. For the longest time no one came out of those yurts, and when a lady finally did, we realized that the family had already turned in for the night and it was our headlights that had woken her up! Realizing we were tourists and in need of a place to crash, she immediately started waking up her family to vacate the yurt she had earmarked for tourists like us. We mentioned that we would rather pitch our tent than have them vacate a yurt for us but the lady would have none of it. Feeling guilty, we eventually agreed.


A panorama of dusk from the yurt we had stayed.
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Night stay was at these yurts.
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Once the family was settled into the other yurt, we took our little master and cooked a simple meal consisting of some soup and noodles. We had already committed a social faux pas and were not about to commit another by requesting her for food. Outside, it was really cold, but we braved the wind to take some night shots. Night photography is an art which is mastered only by the finest of photographers, an art which requires tons of patience and bravado to face biting cold winds. We hardly possess any of those qualities, but it was simply lovely to gaze at the stars and try to take shots as well. The Milky Way was clearly visible, and for a few seconds we simply gazed at its magnificence. In a while our fingers became numb and we huddled back inside to call it a night. It was freezing cold even inside the tent. We tried to fire up the ‘bukhaari’ but it was too damp to start a fire. Despite our own quilt and a layer of thick quilt given to us by the lady, we were not able to catch a wink. Eventually, we got comfortable after wearing some woolens and getting inside double-quilts. We thanked our stars to have found this accommodation so late in the evening, a night in our tent would have been sorely uncomfortable here!


Cooking dinner
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A feeble attempt to capture the milky way.
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day14_0232.jpg
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Old 28th October 2013, 23:28   #123
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Default Day 15: Around Song Kul - Bishkek (Part 1 of 2)

The long way around


The longer route towards Bishkek - circumnavigation + western exit from Song Kul
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-01.jpg

The sun was well up before we could manage to crawl out of the yurt. It was our last day in the countryside as we had to return the car back at Bishkek the next day and then had to catch our flight back home from Almaty the day after. The capital was about 300km away via the eastern route through Kochkor, approx 8 hours away. We had planned to spend a couple of hours near the lake and hoped to be back in the city for a nice dinner. However, greed got the better of us and for some god forsaken reason we decided to circumnavigate the lake and then take the lesser used western route back! It was a bad bad decision, which turned our ‘relaxed’ day into a long 15 hour drive which ended at 1:00 am!

Lake Song Kul has all the necessary ingredients to create a picture-perfect vignette of the Kyrgyz nomadic way of life: a wide alpine lake, nomads on horsebacks, yurts, lush green pastures, bare snow-capped mountains and contented herds of livestock. The jewel lake really lived up to its reputation of being a heart-wrenchingly beautiful place.

We spent an hour or so in the morning in the traditional Kyrgyz nomadic way - pampering dogs and gorging on a lavishly laid out breakfast in a typical shyrdak-lined yurt. We also briefly interacted with the family who owned the yurts, and after paying them for their troubles also decided to donate our quilt to them. There was no point in lugging that all the way back to Delhi.


A typical Kyrgyz Yurt
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Our night halt, of the 5 yurt only 2 were typically leased out to tourists
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A lavish setting for a simple breakfast of bread, butter and eggs. The homemade jams were fantastic
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The greedy dog was behaved enough not to enter the dining yurt
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The family which had hosted us
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Another set of tourist yurt but still father away from the lake
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0271a.jpg

Our drive began eventually at 10 am. We started heading east on the southern shore of the lake, reached the end, headed north briefly, skipped the road going out of the bowl and started moving west on the northern bank. The dirt track here on the northern shore was in a much poorer condition as compared to the one on the southern shore. In two hours we had completed more than 60% of our circumnavigation! It was too early to break for lunch and so we skipped the massive group of yurt camps on the northern bank. As we progressed further ahead from this camp, the dirt track started deteriorating rapidly. We were now progressing mostly in the 1st gear on a marshy, uneven track. It took us an hour to traverse the next 16 km on an unbelievably poor track.


We drive down to the lake
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And yes found it full of water.
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Picture perfect vignette of the Kyrgyz nomadic way of life
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0281c.jpg

A shepherd approaches us to chat
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A jenny takes care of the foal, probably very recently born
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If only they put their heads together, they would be free.
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0282b.jpg

Another nomadic settlement
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Dirt track on the northern bank of Song Kul
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There were horses, snow clad peaks, meadow in all directions one could see, and horses munching on
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The TLC on the northern bank of Lake Song Kul
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The group of yurts on teh northern bank, mostly for tourist accommodation.
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A monument of some kind, did not care to explore
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Sea gulls? ID anyone?
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0307b.jpg

We had now reached the north-western boundary of the lake and the flat track now gave way to hills adjacent to the lake as we moved south. If the previous 16km were bad, the next were even worse. The inclines were crazy and at times the vehicle was tilted at precarious angles. The next 18km took us about 2 hours to cover, as the track was now more of an OTR challenge than a dirt track! The strain was showing visibly on our faces, with each obstacle being taken up in a carefully planned manner. On numerous occasions, I had to jump out of the driver seat, walk a bit ahead to plan the safest route ahead. Aarti too was hanging out of the window guiding me through these tough spots. It was 3pm when we saw the elevated track that had been constructed, an extension of the track on the southern shore. However, lady luck of good roads eluded us still.


Many alternate approaches to this knoll, choose your pick.
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View of the lake from up above this knoll
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And finally we are back, to a better dirt track!
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The track was partially complete and bridges/culverts over numerous streams were still missing. We had to descend from the elevated track every time a stream came by and then had to hop back on to it, much like what one has to do on the Moreh Plains stretch. One such crossing was particularly precarious, but by then I had lost all patience. Hoping that momentum and brute force would do the trick for me I marched on, only to be stuck bang in the middle of soft mud. The TLC would now neither move forward nor backward, all its 4 wheels were spinning wildly and each attempt was sinking it further into the mud. I climbed out to take stock of the situation. I had neither a tow rope with me, nor a vehicle in sight to tow me out even if I had one. Nor did I have a shovel which I could use to dig my way out. The situation was hopeless, but still we thought of giving it one more try before we start walking towards the nearest yurt for some help. I took hold of the top supports of the vehicle and rocked the vehicle sideways for a couple of times just to shake things up a bit. Then returned inside, engaged 4L and the central differential. Engaged the reverse gear, floored the gas pedal and suddenly let go of the clutch. The vehicle miraculously lurched back but started losing momentum almost instantly. I quickly engaged the forward gear the TLC started skidding forward only to lose momentum again. Once again the reverse gear was engaged. After doing this rock n roll for about 5 - 6 times the final reverse lurch got us out of the bog. We thanked our stars and took an alternate route across the stream. Soon we caught the western dirt track out of the Song Kul lake marshland, a track which was much better and with no marshes. Little did we know that within the hour we would be towing!


And finally, we are out of the Song Kul bowl, headed west towards Bishkek.
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0314.jpg
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Old 29th October 2013, 00:20   #124
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Default Re: Day 15: Around Song Kul - Bishkek (Part 1 of 2)

Quote:
Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post
The long way around

The sun was well up before we could manage to crawl out of the yurt. It was our last day in the countryside as we had to return the car back at Bishkek the next day and then had to catch our flight back home from Almaty the day after. The capital was about 300km away via the eastern route through Kochkor, approx 8 hours away. We had planned to spend a couple of hours near the lake and hoped to be back in the city for a nice dinner. However, greed got the better of us and for some god forsaken reason we decided to circumnavigate the lake and then take the lesser used western route back! It was a bad bad decision, which turned our ‘relaxed’ day into a long 15 hour drive which ended at 1:00 am!
Aren't those mad crazy decisions what make for awesomely memorable trips and stories later?!

That said, you guys were well placed. You were flying out on the day after tomorrow, so of course, even more sense to finish the trip on one last mad adventure!



/I seem to have missed a lot of updates from this thread with my recent travels - bookmarked for later reading this week.
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Old 30th October 2013, 04:00   #125
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Default Re: Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

Never imagined this place was so beautiful. Resembles our very own Ladakh.
Thank you for bringing out this Jewel. Your pictures are just stunning.
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Old 30th October 2013, 13:28   #126
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Default Re: Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

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Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
Aren't those mad crazy decisions what make for awesomely memorable trips and stories later?!
That is true to a certain extent. One certainly enjoys remembering such stories later, but that moment is seldom relished. As they say happiness = reality - expectations. Our expectations were high (of reaching Bishkek early), Reality was an absurdly large time frame (and bad roads). Thus during those hours Hapniess dropped. Plus it wasn't any thing spectacularly different, just an OTR!

Quote:
Originally Posted by MohsinRoadster View Post
Never imagined this place was so beautiful. Resembles our very own Ladakh.
Thank you for bringing out this Jewel. Your pictures are just stunning.
Thanks buddy. The region does have resemblance to Ladakh both in terms of landscape and culture. Actually the entire region of Central Asia is very similar whether it be Xinjiang, Mongolia, and the stans (Kazkha, Kyrgyz and others). All pretty much Nomadic.
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Old 13th November 2013, 16:20   #127
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Default Re: Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

great guys , another thread on central asia ,kazakhstan seems to be favorite among the indians
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Old 15th November 2013, 18:08   #128
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Default Re: Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

hi , did you guys manage to get any veg foods , seems that your wife is a vegetarian.
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Old 18th November 2013, 09:00   #129
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Default Re: Day 15: Around Song Kul - Bishkek (Part 1 of 2)

Quote:
Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post
Soon we caught the western dirt track out of the Song Kul lake marshland, a track which was much better and with no marshes. Little did we know that within the hour we would be towing!


And finally, we are out of the Song Kul bowl, headed west towards Bishkek.
Attachment 1159336
Phir kya hua? Come on guys, please continue.

Regards
RoS
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Old 27th November 2013, 17:58   #130
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Default Day 15: Around Song Kul - Bishkek (Part 2 of 2)

Road trip Karma built


A slight hail bid us adieu from Song Kul
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0315.jpg

Free spirited eagles are so much better to look and shoot
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0317c.jpg

Aah, those country roads.
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Through the Song Kul bowl, through a vast meadow of green
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Some streams are passed by
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As we were driving outside the bowl, on what was now a comfortable dirt track, we came upon a mini-truck which was parked below the hill we were on. There were no visible dirt tracks either before or after the spot where the vehicle was standing. Three men and a boy were waving their hands wildly in the distance. We stopped and as soon as we did, the boy started running towards us. He was out of breath by the time he reached us and started asking for help. We tried hard to communicate but he was simply not able to explain on the nature of assistance he required. Soon an elder came panting up and with gestures he explained what had happened and what kind of help he wanted. The mini-truck engine had died and they had been stuck there since morning. He wanted us to tow them out using our car. He mentioned that he had a tow rope with him. I was not enthused with his request for multiple reasons:

a) There was no road leading up to the truck that I could see.
b) I was in a rented vehicle, and was unsure if towing a mini-truck was a good idea even for a TLC, specially up a slippery incline.
c) It was already 4 pm and Bishkek was still 300 km away!

However, in order to ensure good road karma and remembering the giant Russian who had helped us in our time of need at Kumtor, we decided to help the mini-truck people.

The elder guided us towards his mini-truck by running forward and pointing the spot on which they had off-roaded. There were no tracks but a simple off-road through a meadow which went straight down the hill! Wondering why a mini-truck would attempt such a shortcut, we took the off-road, and reached the truck. He then requested me to attach the tow rope and tow him further down through a stream and then back up an incline. I refused flatly, as the route he was suggesting seemed to be one on which I would probably not even venture on my own. And to even think of towing a mini-truck on that path was an utterly butterly nonsense idea. I convinced him to take a U-turn and climb the path on which we had descended.

Once the U-turn was achieved on a somewhat level ground, the actual task of towing uphill started. I had been unsure about this entire exercise but my skepticism was soon converted to respect for the TLC. I could hardly feel any power loss while inching up! This vehicle was worth every penny in terms of its off-roading capability and to think it was more than 3,00,000 km old! I would be lying if I say to you that I even felt the load on me while pressing the pedal. Slowly and steadily we marched up.

As we approached the crest, the track became slippery and the TLC started losing traction and it was not long before we ground to a halt. All of us dismounted and figured out a revised strategy to tackle this last bit of ascent. We rolled back a bit on the incline, gained some momentum and increased traction by rocking the steering left and right in quick succession.

Once we were back on level ground, we jump started his vehicle by giving it some momentum and in a puff of black smoke the truck was alive again! The entire drama had held us back by about half an hour, but it was some experience! As we bid adieu hurriedly to the mini-truck gang, I saw THE Kyrgyz thank you gesture for the first time in two weeks, something that I had only read about. The elder held his hand to his heart and another palm over it with a slight bow and spaseeba on his lips. I was deeply touched by his gesture and replied pazhalusta with a smile.


Waiting for Godot?
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0327a.jpg

No - actually waiting for someone to town him out
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0329.jpg

The final push to the top, and the truck is out.


Aah success! And we're out!
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0331.jpg

It was now quarter past 4 by the clock and our tummies were growling. We were out of our supplies which we had donated to our hosts at Song Kul, and were practically starving. We were still in the general Song Kul nature reserve. There were some river crossings before we reached the ‘highway’ but nothing that the TLC could not take. We finally managed to get some chips, cookies and coke by 6 pm at a village once we hit the highway, if one can call it a highway. It was untarred and was sparsely populated. It finally joined the main highway headed towards Bishkek around 9 pm or so. The drive was beautiful though, through a narrow canyon and next to a raging river. However, we were too tired and just wanted to reach Bishkek and end this day which had unexpectedly turned out to be much longer than we had hoped for.


Twisties to descent from the Song Kul bowl
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0336.jpg

Red rock country
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0338.jpg

The Lada on the left was afraid to take a plunge in this one. Although not deep, it had momentum
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0344.jpg

Approaching the highway, finally
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0346.jpg

Crazy landscape, a river, a village, some green, some red, some brown.
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0347.jpg

The last evening in the countryside
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0352.jpg

TWisties to cross the final pass towards Bishkek
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0354.jpg

Lest we meet again, good bye Kyrgyz countryside.
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day15_0355.jpg

Bishkek was still a good 150km away which we eventually reached at about 12:30am, after stopping for a hurried dinner enroute. The highway was nice but was through a long twisting descent, which kept our average speed low. Zoya, our hostess for the first two nights at Bishkek, had promised that she would be awake to welcome us and she truly lived up to her promise. We crashed almost immediately after a nice hot shower. The road trip had come to an end, and now, only the logistics of winding off the trip remained.
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Old 27th November 2013, 18:04   #131
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Default Day 16, Day 17, Epilogue

Winding off the trip

Day 16 & 17: Bishkek - Almaty - Delhi
We were not completely rested from yesterday’s but nevertheless had to move quickly. We got up at 7 and while Aarti repacked our luggage to make it compact and “public mode of travel friendly”, I went and searched for a garage to get the car cleaned. At least this way, we would be spending less time at car rental agency and inspection would be a breeze. Once at the rental company the manager was pleasantly surprised to see an immaculately clean car. He was not used to his customers returning his car in such a condition, despite the clause in the contract bounding the customers to do so. We explained him about the lost tire and he eventually charged us 9,000 INR for his loss over and above the usual rental cost. We also had to pay him for an additional 350 odd kms over our agreed mileage.

After a quick lunch in the heart of the town, we headed back to bid adieu to Zoya for the last time and hailed a taxi for the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border. Immigration was a very simple procedure and we negotiated our fare all the way to our hotel (Sarai Shik) at Almaty in a shared taxi. The drive back was a bit hot and both of us caught a nap and rested.


The Land rover in front belong to a family based out of Sweden and were on a world trip. Came to Kyrgyzstan after doing Pakistan and Xinjiang.
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day16_0001_stitch.jpg

The TLC gets a well deserved bath
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day16_0007.jpg

Lunch time at a nice place in Bishkek
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day16_0018_stitch.jpg

Zoya and us. A picture to take back home
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day16_0022.jpg

This is Spiderman's half brother who is an alcholic and out of job now, settled in Kazakhstan, near the border
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day16_0031.jpg

The drive back to Almaty
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day16_0033.jpg

We reached our hotel by about 6pm, checked in, said hello to the hot receptionist and immediately went out to the center to have one last meal in a nice swanky restaurant to celebrate our safe return and reminisce the last two weeks. The meal had to have besbarmak, the national dish of Kazakhstan. It consisted of horse meat which we had not sampled yet (at least not knowingly) and were eagerly looking forward for it. It turned out to be a bummer though and to be quite frank - horrible. Don’t get me wrong, the horse meat was actually nice to taste and soft as well but the preparation really did not suit our palette. It was practically boiled meat, in a broth devoid of salt or any spice, served with bland flat noodles also devoid of any salt or spice. I did try to add some salt and pepper but the taste hardly improved. It was definitely not befitting end to what had been otherwise a wonderful trip.

We bid adieu to Madina over the phone, a person instrumental in making this trip happen. We were wondering if we would ever see her again during this lifetime.


The swanky restaurant in Almaty
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day16_0035.jpg

Besbarmak
Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan-day16_0041.jpg

Day 17: Almaty - Delhi
The flight was early the next morning and we were at the airport much before our scheduled time. The last thing that we did before flying out was to buy a packet of kyzyl, which are essentially horse meat sausages. Once back home, I did offer my dad some - and his reaction was priceless. Needless to say, he did not take the offer.

Epilogue

The trip had been just amazing. At the end of it, we knew that the bug of international trips had bitten us and that we would be spending a lot more on vacations going forward than our usual fare! But hey, it’s just one life we get and it would be a waste not to make the best of it. As far as I know we are not allowed to transfer the money in either heaven or hell wherever our next destination be.

We had met some amazingly warm Kazakh and Kyrgyz people, people who we thought we might never meet again. But as it turns out, Madina would be visiting us in January we get to return the favor by taking her out in Delhi soon. Maybe one day, Zoya too decides to visit Delhi and if she does it would be amazing. Hopefully I get to meet that burly dozer guy too who helped us in the plains of Kumtor, although I can hardly remember his face now. We were also introduced to a nation which primarily Islamic and yet did not wear its religion on it sleeve despite being devout.

A bad thing that was the outcome of this trip was our newly found admiration for the TLC. Ever since we’ve come back, we letch at each one of those beauties which cross us. I wonder if any one of those poor souls ever get to leave tarmac! I know I wont be able to buy a new one in my lifetime, but Harjeev/Sanjay if you are reading and ever think of disposing your vehicle, do think of me before selling it to anyone else.

And by the way those Kyzyl (horse meat sausages) were just about ok and is not a dish I’ll probably have again. It was too salty for my taste.

THE END
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Old 27th November 2013, 19:21   #132
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Default Re: Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

Dear Harsh,
So, the epic has finally ended. I have been waiting for all these days for the last few posts to come up. Man, o Man, You just added one more place (couple of countries rather) to my dream list.

It has been a pleasure reading your log all the way through.

Thanks for sharing with all of us.
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Old 2nd December 2013, 10:48   #133
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Default Re: Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

Dear Aarti & Harsh,

Thanks a ton for taking us for this unique trail. Each and every posts were well narrated with adequate pictures and to the point details. Really enjoyed this TL. You should convert this to a travel guide hard copy


So whats next?
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Old 2nd December 2013, 14:15   #134
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Default Re: Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

Quote:
Originally Posted by jacs View Post
So whats next?
Hoping to go to Nepal during Christmas - New year time frame. This time will take own car.
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Old 2nd December 2013, 14:49   #135
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Default Re: Central Asian Diaries - Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

Quote:
Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post
Hoping to go to Nepal during Christmas - New year time frame. This time will take own car.
Hello Harsh,

Thank you for this amazing travelogue.

You took us to almost unknown places which probably nobody here wondered will be so beautiful & green. Your pictures are spectacular & the story narration has been perfect.

Can you kindly provide the cost break up of the trip? Also wish you all the very best for your road trip to Nepal over the new year.


Thanks,
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