As I peaked over the top of the final Pamir mountain pass, everything was awash with green. It was one of the only things I had come to expect from Kyrgyzstan.
Not long ago, I read a post/picture caption / article – one of those; about a trip to India. The author stood excitedly infront of one of the world’s most iconic sites, The Taj Mahal. But something was wrong. All the excitement vanished when they realised, it looked just like the hundreds of pictures they had seen before.
I actively avoid looking at pictures or reading too deeply into a country or region. I like the idea that I will be seeing everything there, for the first time. Limited preconceptions and maximum discovery. Well if I’m honest 95% is rooted in this concept, and the remaining 5%, laziness.
Although I was officially out of Tajikistan – money hungry boarder guards behind me; I wouldn’t reach the Kyrgyz boarder control for 20km. I flew down the valley, alongside blue then green, then brown water, until it opened up in a vast expanse. The horizon was littered with hundreds of yurts, cattle and horses.
The wind punished me as I made my final push to Sary Tash. Arriving for the night, I couldn’t translate my expectations from the map into what stood before me. Unfortunately, this would be the theme throughout my journey in Kyrgyzstan.
I had foolishly thought that the agony of mountain passes, were joyously left at the Tajik boarder. What followed was a gruelling several days to Osh.
Reality, I thought had kicked my arse, and I couldn’t be happier to roll into Osh, the official end to the Pamirs highway – perhaps why I thought the mountains were done.
Nothing could alter my mood, I was ecstatic, after dreaming of pizza for the last three weeks, spread on the walls of the hostel, an advert for Italian pie. Who’s company should I have to enjoy such a craftsmanship of edible delight? None other than the Norweigan Actionman himself. The return of Amund.
So at ten to eleven, we smashed a large pizza each!! It was amazing to be back in his company, after enjoying my own time away from a large group. More over, it was like we had never parted at all. There’s an incredible warmness with Amunds presence, I was excited to travel with him again.
As the universe does so often, it decided to rebalance the scales, against our favour. We opted to avoid taking the M41 to Bishkek, after hearing and reading that the road was sketchy, traffic crazy, and there were long tunnels with no ventaliation or light. The scenic route – an understatement of epic proportions; would take a few days longer.
With Visa preparations underway for China – negotiating the complexity of emailing documents without data coverage and freak wifi spots; I was keen to arrive in Almaty in good time. The Pamirs has nothing on the passes that followed. The climbs never ended, and on one occassion, forced us to make camp 4km from the summit. It was hard going to say the least.
A stark realisation slapped us in the face. Kyrgyzstan had us in its grip and it wasn’t about to let go. Then one morning, camped in a stunning valley, before yet another climb, Amund said he was staying put for the day. I asked, quizzed, questioned and checked, he was healthy, not upset or down. He didn’t had the energy, he said, for the climb that morning and beckoned me on, to follow behind the next day.
I felt awful parting so soon, but visa plans awaited me, and he’s a big boy. I then made a huge decision, I would avoid the Jewel of Kyrgyzstan, Sara Kol Lake. Instead head to Nayrn, where there is a rumour of Chinese built roads, stretching to Bishkek.
So far, it wasn’t only the climbs that surpassed the Pamir experience, I couldn’t understand why no one mentioned the road? Utter even the first word Pamir, 90% of people begin describing the worst road in the world. Silence falls upon the lips of Kyrgyzstan.
It appeared that the Gods of Adventure favoured this young warrior, that and the Chinese did a bloody amazing job laying miles of smooth black tarmac. I even saw a team of workers frantically climbing over each other, to lay wooden planks infront of JCB tracks, so as not to cause impressions in the surface.
I made record time, picked up a Spanish guy at the top of the final Kyrgyz pass, and flew into Bishkek. But I didnt hang about. The following day after 9 or so days nonstop without a rest day, I headed out to the Kazak steppe once more. Kyrgyzstan was left hanging, a mere inbetween, an obstacle between my end point.
But that wasn’t the case at all. I did harbour a small amount of frustration that the terrain hadn’t eased, but I got over that pretty fast. Its a metaphor for life and the trip on the whole. As if you can be stupid enough to think the road ahead was easy? The people were friendly, although not as much as Tajikistan I felt, The views were stunning and it was refreshing to see green. To know that life does flourish somewhere!