Tired from 60 kilometers of bumpy gravel in the heat, we pulled over to the first little shop we could find to buy a cold Coke. The woman in the shop handed us apricots as we left and while we sat outside gnawing on our juicy treat, a man in a beat up old car swerved from the opposite side of the road and skidded to a stop in front of us.
This stout man in dark sunglasses jumped out of the car and started gesticulating wildly while shouting to us in Russian. Not understanding a word and a little shocked, we just sat there and stared back. He finally gave up and walked inside the store as we headed towards our bikes.
Just as we were about to pull away, he came running after at us with liters of cold Cokes in hand. We thanked him profusely then once again headed for our bikes as he ran back into the store. Suddenly, he was back again but this time with bottles of vodka and pulled us over into the shade of a tree where two of his buddies joined to help pour shots of vodka while continuing to shout at us in Russian and sing.
Welcome to Kyrgyzstan.
Earlier that morning we had arrived at the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border outside Kegen marked by nothing other than a few buildings and sign that said “Good Luck.” While we waited for the border to officially open and get our passports stamped, one guard offered us a bag of fried whole fish while another took a blow torch to a sheep’s head in preparation for boiling.
This was only day three of the Mountains and Meadows section of TDA Global Cycling’s Silk Route expedition. Over the course of two weeks, we would ride 1221 kilometers across the Tien Shan mountain range, climbing close to 14,000 meters or 46,000 feet — most of it on gravel.
The route started in Almaty, Kazakhstan and finished in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, roughly following the ancient Silk Road along the way. We would roll through the fruit- and nut-tree filled valleys, take a dip in lake Issyk Kul– the second largest salt lake in the world — before heading up into the high meadows of the Tien Shan where nomads with their horses try to make a living off of honey and fermented mare’s milk or kumis.
I have put together a gallery above for you to get a better sense of the ride. To read all about the event-filled next stage of my bike tour through Central Asia — The Pamir Highway — head on over to The Radavist.