Kyrgyzstan (click here for an interactive map of our route)
What to start with writing about this country hhmmm.....? Should it be the dire roads, ignorant drivers, bugs, tough tough tough kilometers? No!
Whilst at the time these things, when mixed with tiredness, were aggrevating, they are now far outweighed by the beauty of the country and its people (when not in the drivers seat of a Minibus or Germany saloon car.)
Kyrgyzstan Part 1 video
This country shot up to within my top 3 countries visited within a few days and I'm nearly at 70 countries. The other two are also mountainous which I find always gives an air of mystique, a feeling of how insignificant we are and an visual impression etched in ones mind of beguiling beauty.
On a push bike though one would think that the challenge and pain might outweigh the glimpsed views. It didn't here. The air is so clear, and the land is sparsely populated with more horses and sheep than people.
Kyrgyzstan Part 2 video
We experienced a range of emotions - elation, misery, confusion and isolation. Some physical pain- back problems, breathlessness over 3500m passes, sores, aches and a hangover or two. But in hindsight, crossing the country from southwest to northeast on 80% unsurfaced and/or corrugated roads was never going to be a stroll in the park.
I would absolutely recommend a visit to Kyrgyzstan and for keen cyclists this is one hell of a great country to tour if you have the time. By this I mean time enough to be flexible and buffer in days when you may only manage half the distance you were expecting. There are plenty of things to see and do along the way which should be given the importance they deserve on any itinerary. Crystal clear waterfalls, family yurt stays, alpine lakes, thermal springs and simply taking time to admire the view when summiting another 3000m pass.
What will I remember most about Kyrgyzstan when I'm transported back in a day dream years from now? The freedom. Especially in the mountains. It feels like time has stood still. There is no hustle bustle of modern life nagging at you. Just the greenest hillsides, pure white snow even in August and now the calm that comes with the knowledge that Kyrgyzstan welcomes you- no visas for most visitors- 60 days to do as you please.
Kyrgyzstan Part 3 video
We spent a month cycling and resting (see the clickable map linked). Highlights along the way include-
1. The back road from Jalal-abad to Kazarman and then on to Song-kul. You need to be self sufficient for this week long journey. Very few places to stock up on provisions or stay along the way. Good technical riding especially fully loaded.
2. Rural border crossing to Kazakhstan in the Karkara valley. The minor road east from Karakol over a pass is best for cyclists. The border is in a stunning location and proves just how arbitrary some borders are.
3. Wild camping. It is so easy and hassle free. Plenty of private space, little in the way to bother you other than intrigue.
4. The lakes. Both Song-kul and Issy-kul were just what we were hoping for. Song-kul is a peaceful place and at 3067m it feels other worldly. We were there for the national horse games which was a result. Issy-kul was more like the ocean with beaches and waves. Clear warm water for swimming and washing.
All in all a truly special country.
Kyrgyzstan Part 4 video
Kyrgyzstan crossing to Kazakhstan video
Click here for an interactive map of our route.