'Smarting Arse' Robert (a name given by Gabor in conversation to distinguish him from 'Worrisome' Robert) has done a short trip to Arslanbob and back while we've been hanging out at the guesthouse and he's convinced we're all frauds. "Cycling round the world, my arse."
Our new cycling buddies have come from Brighton by bike and boat only in about 10 months. No wonder they needed a rest. As it is we needn't worry. After about two hours of cycling on new tarmac, just as the sun is starting to cook, we stop for a roadside watermelon. The die is cast. We're gonna be alright.
We are heading towards Song Kol - a jewel of a lake in the centre of the country - before continuing on to Bishkek to apply for a China visa. Once we pass through Jalalabad we leave the good roads and head into the mountains once more. The heatwave we had in Osh continues until we begin to climb out of the east end of the Fergana valley and gain some altitude. The first two days we need to take long siestas in the shade to escape the heat. This part of the country is full of fertile irrigated land - wheat and corn fields sweep over the foothills. The camping is good if you're prepared to get away from the road. By the third day we find ourselves heading up a valley on a dirt road when Gayle spots a road high up on the mountainside ahead. "At least we're not going up there!". Er, yes we are. Dino plays sweeper at the back making sure no-one is left behind. He is irrepressible - always quick with a smile and a positive word. "Only five more hairpins to go and we'll get a great view". The pass is about 2900m and it's blowing a hooley at the top. After plodding up the long switchbacks Gayle has got ahead along the final approach to the pass. When I almost catch up with her she looks over her shoulder and starts sprinting. Bugger. I start sprinting too. This is what comes of watching too much Tour de France.
The reward for slogging up a big climb is the views from the top followed by a free rolling descent down the other side and a camp by the river. Suzy and Gayle are always quick to get in any water for a swim and a wash. The next day takes us through rolling fields full of wild flowers. Up on the mountain there were yurts with families and their animals but down here the valley is dry so there's no-one around until we come to another river. After loading up with food in a village we take the easier (?) but longer (!) route to Song Kol, thus missing the charming mining town of Kazarman. There's a surprising stretch of tarmac and a very long pull uphill which ends in dirt road switchbacks leading to a fabulous high valley full of wild flowers and horses.
|are you looking at me?|
|when a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do|
|easy camping in Kyrgyzstan|
The cycling is superb - the countryside is stunning and each day we ride through valleys and over hills with new views of the mountains on the Chinese border. We also have a laugh because Suzy and Dino turn out to be a good double act - Suzy does the jokes and Dino gurns like a pro. Or is that just trapped wind? The roads make the cycling harder work than it should be but it gives us more time to enjoy the views.
|wot, no cars?|