Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan

so safely and and prematurely we made it into kyrgzstan, which was a massive relive (especially on my part as i was convince the visa doctoring would leave us stranded in nomans-land). we spent the day in Osh, kyrgys second biggest city, taking in the sights and enjoying being out of Uzbekistan. we hiked to the top of a peak in the middle of city which was a a pilgrimage sight for muslims as Mohamed once prayed there. it gave great views of the city and surroundings and also the road which would take us to china and the mountains in the way. in the morning we cycled out, after i fixed a puncture surrounded by an interested crowd of people. the road was up all day, and not feeling especially in shape, it was tough work. kieth was soon ahead of me and Matt which was frustrating to us both as he had the lunch. the road was gradual and energy sapping for the first 40 miles, the last ten being quite steep and taking us into the real cold (which would be a running theme for the next few weeks). at the top we stopped and ate a few celebratory biscuits (all we had) and donned some warm cloths for the long decent, which was bloody freezing. i had to stop half way down and stick my hands under my armpits to warm them up. as we came close to the bottom it started to rain, so when we reached the next town we look for somewhere to stay. we found a homestay, where they offered a room for the night. it was in a house of a family of 4, 2 parents and 2 young daughters. the parents were just about to leave to go to Osh for a party so left us in charge of thier young kids and house (more like the kids in charge of us, but it felt alittle strange).

in the morning whilst cycling out of the town we bumped into kieth, turns out we just missed each other the previous day. so back as a 3 some we headed for the mountains…again. after about 30km we were back in the mountains proper, the scenery was amazing but the cycling wasnt such fun. the road in alot of places was covered in a thick layer of ice which is ok to cycle on as long as you dont turn or shift your weight or diviate off a dead straight line. towards the end of the day we came close to the bottom of the pass we had to climb. kieth and matt wanted to hitch with a truck and i was up for camping (not really because i wanted to, more to see if i could and if i would still have my fingers and toes by morning). but when a willing truck came by and the others started to load their stuff on i did the same, not really liking the idea of spending the night there alone. the truck took us over the pass and stopped about 1km outside the town where we planned to spend the night. when we unloaded i realised my de-railier was frozen solid with about an inch of muddy ice, which ment i had to push my bike and watch the others cycle off towards a warm room and hot tea.

by the morning we hadnt decided what to do (cycle or hitch again), and whilst looking at my fronzen bike a strange machine came into view… an Australian couple on a kind of double recumbant bike. if you can imagen a old-school car (pre model T) that was kind of what they looked like. the were ‘cycling’ from Kazakhstan to Mongolia in the depths of winter… we all decided they had more money than sense (but bloody good luck to them). as we were chatting to them a German fellow (Christian..who we later cycled with for a while) rolled up. he was also cycling to china, so with the pressure of 2 separate groups cycling we decide we had to give it a bash. which left the problem of the frozen bike. i decide petrol was the best idea so covered my chain and de-railier, which did absolutly nothing. we couldnt really think what to do, until i had the bright idea to douse the problem area in petrol and then light it (excuse the stupidity..i put it down to the cold slowing vital synapses), Matt said it was a foolish thing to do and kieth was up for watching the show. so petol bottle in hand and lighter ready i was about to set my bike on fire when the man who we were staying with came out with a kettle of hot water and gestured to me. yep i felt pretty stupid, 3 fairly intelligent people and we couldn’t think of hot water. the water did the trick but would soon freeze again if it wasnt fully dried (just to give you an idea of the temperature). so bikes in order we started to cycle. the road again was completly covered in ice and snow, infact the whole place was completly blanketed in snow. after about 3 km the road bent to the left and straight into a strong head wind, at which point we had mutually but without words decide it was too dangerous to continue. we shared our concerns and then swiftly turned around back to the town, where we had to take in turns standing in the cold to try and flag down a truck. after a few hours one agreed to take us, and thank god we did get a truck as the weather conditions deteriorated rapidly, the wind picked up and it was pretty much a white out for a while and snow drifts up to a couple of meters. towards the end of the day we arrived at the first chinese check point, and 10km down the way was the Kyrgyzstan border. we unloaded our bikes and all got stamped out of kyrgys (without any problems… we were leaving the country on the day we were ment to enter, but they didnt seem to notice or care). we had to cycle 7 km to the first entry point into China, and when we got there it was manned by two teenage boys, who first asked us for money and then made us wait, in the freezing cold, for an hour while they decided if they would let us through without a bribe. as it was getting dark they let us cycle on, another 4 km to the official border, by the time we got there it was pitch black and even colder. we cyled past a long line of trucks waiting to enter ( the border was closed for the night) to a large iron gate with no signs of live around. (forgot to mention the reason the border was closed was for a simple yet stupid reason. the whole of China, which spans 3 time zones,  goes by (officialy) Beijing time, which is 2 hours ahead of the local time in the west. So although it was only 4 local time it was 6 Beijing…closing hours. this wouldnt be the last time it would cause us problems). after 10 minutes of shouting and banging the gates, with no joy, i decided to take a walk around and try and attract attention. by shinning my torch into some offical looking buildings i managed to get someone out and unlock the gates (never before have i been so desperate to get into a country). they took our passports, which we assumed we could collect in the morning and guided us to a ‘hotel’, which shouldnt be thought of as a hotel more a collection of beds in a room. but warm and not covered in snow, so we were very happy. it was such an annoying way to enter a country and had us all cursing the Chinese (probably mostly me really) for running such a haphazard border, but thats what happens when you have  children incharge.

the computers werent working in the morning so we had to hang around until they were fixed which took a couple of hours. when we were aloud to officially enter the country we saw Christian aswell, which was a relief as we hoped he wasnt caught in the previous bad weather. it turned out he had also managed to catch ride. so now as a group of four we cycled on through stunning mountains and on a good road for the first time in a while. we came to a town after about 50km and looked for somewhere to stay. as me and kieth split up and asked around for a place to stay Matt and Christina stayed with the bikes outside a police check point. one guy wanted a ridiculous price for  room but i managed to find the only other accommodation which was asking a much more reasonable $2. happy with my find we went to fetch Matt and Christian who we warming themselves over the fire inside the check point. After telling the police our plans on staying in the village the police told them it was illegal for foreigners to stay here and that we would have to cycle another 100km to the next town, which now that it was dark was not possible. after a bit of negotiating we were forced to go to the first place we found but thanks to some bargaining by the police it was now a more reasonable 3$.

in the morning we had the idea of getting a truck, but as the sun was shinning and it felt warmish we decided to try and cycle. we had 2 passes to do before the next town, and the road climbed steeply. the scenery was stunning, the road was flanked by snow covered mountains  on either side. unfortunatly the road wasnt as impressive as the views, mostly covered in ice and if not a brown slusshy stuff which was even more slippy. i fell off going up hill, the first time since serbia, not spectacularly more a slowmation decent to the ground. by around 3 pm we had done both passes but still had 40 km to do. and around then Matts gear cable broke leaving him with only his hardest gear, not ideal for the mountains. so not too reluctantly we flagged down a truck which took us all the way to Kashgar (about 150km). the scenery on the ride was incredible mountains all around..plenty of entertainment for the 4 hour ride. we got to Kashgar in the evening found a hotel and crashed out after sampling the delights of the culture box (TV).we moved the next day into a great youth hostel which is were we met up again with Kieth and Christian who had cycled the whole way but spent alot of the time sliding across the ground.

Kashgar was a really interesting place it had two areas, the old town where most of the Urgur people lived and the new town where most of the Han Chinese lived. there was still alot of military presence around after the Urgur uprising, we would constantly pass army patrols  (again teenage boys) with full riot gear, but thankfully it seemed to be peaceful while we were there and if it werent im sure the Chinese government would quash any protests with the unsubtle violence and brutality they used previously. it was defiantly a slight culture shock being in a place that is so foreign, faces where completely different and as for the language…well its impossible to know what anyone is saying but fun to try and guess.

the buss across the Kunjerab pass into Pakistan only went if there were more than ten people waiting which ment we had to load up our bikes and head to the bus station a few mornings in a row just to be told we were the only ones waiting, the next time we went we were told the road was broken, which we took to mean a landslide was blocking it. on one trip to the bus station we met Rob, who we hadnt seen since Baku. we all went back to the hostel together and descussed our plans. after a while the plan was formed, we would try the bus in the moring and if it wasnt going we would hire a private truck to take the 5 of us. the plans were some what scuppered by a german guy who had just come over the pass and said that the road wasn’t frozen over and in pretty good nick. which made us all think weather we should give it a try. Matt was against it and i wasnt sure but the others were going to give it a go. in the morning i woke up with a bit of a cold a cough so my body had made the decision for me and i had to watch, a bit disappointed, as the others rode out. after 2 days of resting me and Matt hired a truck, after messing around at the bus station with no success, to Tashgurgan the border town at the base of the Kunjerab. the ride was great really amazing views, and we didnt pass the others cycling which we knew ment the had resorted to a truck too, which made us feel beter…not that they didn’t make it more that it wasnt really possible. we found out that the bus that would take us to Pakistan left a 9am, and foolishly we forgot to ask wether that was local or Beijing time. so we woke up before light just incase it was Beijing.  we ended up standing around for 2 hours in the bitter cold (maybe -15, being conservative) until it was 9 local time. Unfortunately the bus  wasnt much warmer and i spent the whole journey in all my cloths with my feet stuffed into some army issue mittens i bought in kashgar. the cold was momentarily broken up with a stop in a small mountain hut where they gave us salted milky tea (i know whats wrong with a bit a sugar..but when in rome…) which tasted pretty foul but was warm so we didnt complain. And from there it was about another 2 hours until we reached Sost the border town on the Pakistan side, where we got our 30 day visa. which seems like an appropriate place to leave this blog post. the next will follow soon and hopefully we will be able to put up some pictures of the stunning scenery we have been banging on about.

thanks for all the messages, and a very merry christmas to you all

love jack xx

2 Comments »

  1. mum and marg said,

    It seems like this adventure just gets better and better
    Has been almost as cold here as it has been with you but at least we are not cycling and sleeping in a tent!!

    Hope you spend a memorable christmas day we will be thinking of you and raising a glass to toast you
    photos are incredible as are the blogs
    we miss you
    lots of love to you both
    mum and marg xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. polly said,

    hey jack
    again another great blog, you shoud give writing a book a go when (if) you ever return from all your travels but if you do i think you might need spell check!
    hope you had a good and as mum put memorable christmas, i am sure you did. we all thought of u here and we (ok maybe me) have decided that i want a big christmas for next year so ya better be about!!!!
    sounds like your weather is similar to ours (yours obviously a bit colder!) it is snowing now and the snow from 2 weeks ago is still frozen solid on the ground, getting a little fed up of it now!
    anyway jack and matt hope you have a lovely and gonna have to copy again memorable new year
    lots of love polly xxxx


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