We managed to leave Bishkek and explore Kyrgyzstan for a bit. Finally!
- Two weeks in Bishkek in January.
- Nine weeks in Bishkek in June / July for the Land Cruiser overhaul #4
It WAS time to leave, wasn’t it?
Was the Land Cruiser Ready for the Trip?
More or less. It was good to have had a deadline to work to (the arrival of my niece who flew in from the Netherlands for her first trip outside Europe). It was all about setting priorities. Easy:
- The woodwork had to be back in place inside.
- The water system had to work
- The electric system had to work.
Bugger! Two days before leaving Coen was installing the water system and discovered the water tank was leaking! Out of the window went his last day of doing all kinds of little things he wanted to finish. Back to Nicolai’s workshop, once more. Six rounds of welding and testing it took them to get the tiny fissure fixed, plus the full day. But the work paid off and the water tank was good to go.
A more detailed write up will follow on the overhaul – we simply haven’t had time.
Our heads still spinning with the never-ending to-do list for the Land Cruiser and our work, we were excited about exploring Kyrgyzstan at its best. We had done a quick visa run to Kazakhstan to renew our two-month visa and so no pressure on that side.
However, we did have only twelve days before we had to be back in Bishkek (for my niece to fly back to Amsterdam), but it was a start. A time to get that tingling feeling again of being on the road, surrounded by wilderness and beauty. We couldn’t wait!
How much can you see in twelve days? In our normal travel mode, we wouldn’t have gotten beyond the north side of Issyk Kul lake, probably. But with a visitor who, of course, wanted to see a variety of things, we traveled incredibly fast.
Get in the Land Cruiser and Go!
We drove around most of Issyk Kul Lake, the second-largest alpine lake in the world. It is mesmerizingly beautiful and we most certainly will go back. It has a nice combination of driving, views, and sightseeing (although the towns aren’t particularly enticing).
Unfortunately, bad weather did spoil a couple of days of camping and so we headed for Karakol. Here we waited out the bad weather, playing the board game Settlers of Catan (to which we got my niece addicted during our stay in the Netherlands) and going to a hot bath in the mountains nearby.
Meeting Overlanders in Karakol
Staying at the Riverside Hostel, run by a Dutch guy Andre (who wasn’t there) and his incredibly kind Kyrgyz wife Gulhan, we met several overlanders. The Riverside Hostel has a parking lot big enough for a couple of cars/motorcycles. Most overlanders we were Dutch, among whom Karlijn and Maarten who had visited us as our Airbnb a week earlier, and Sem, a 19-year-old Dutch who decided to explore a bit of the world in his Land Cruiser.
On arrival a man peeked out of his truck and said, “Hello Karin-Marijke!”
I quickly scanned the truck and answered, “Hello, Ton!” as his name was written on it, as was his wife’s Anneke, but I had no clue who he was.
Apparently we had tried to meet on the Paraguayan border in 2007 but that hadn’t worked out. I’d love to blame my age for this failure in memory, but Ton and Anneke are older so that I can’t do. So, you see, in the overlanding world, a meeting may take twelve years before it takes place 🙂 They were leaving the next morning but we got to catch up that evening, after all.
It was great meeting you Ton and Anneke. We’ll be following your travels!
Into the Wilderness
At Riverside Hostel we got more details about driving to Song Kol Lake from Karlijn and Maarten, via the (in)famous Tosor Pass. This will only ring an “Oh yes!” or “Oh, no!” to the overlanders who’ve driven here. Let me summarize by saying that the trip was fun, spectacular, with a sip of vodka along the way, and incredibly beautiful.
Not having driven in Kyrgyzstan’s mountains yet we underestimated the time needed to get from A and B. On the map distances looks like nothing. Blame us being Dutch, coming from the flat country, to misinterpret it – sixteen years of overland experience hasn’t taught us one bit in this respect.
And so a couple of long days driving followed. The long days were compensate by gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous (!) countryside. At last we were back in Bishkek – exhausted but happy about the trip.
No more Airbnb, but at Tunduk Hostel. A nice, friendly hostel with space for a couple of cars, and with a swimming pool! What’s there not to like? Even more when in the good company of fellow overlanders. Sem, whom we met in Karakol, is back too and we have had the company of Ruben and Nadie, owners of an awesome Volkswagen Combi from 1969 and Dennis and Mijke in their Nisson Patrol.
All this Dutch company balances the overwhelming presence of French here. Oh, and another good reason to stay here? A multitude of Korean restaurants across the road!
Why Back in Bishkek?
Haven’t we spent enough time here? I hear you ask.
Oh, those to-do lists! And again, priorities. Such as the leaking of oil due to a broken bearing, which we discovered near Song Kol Lake. The two king-pins have been replaced this week and all is well again.
While Coen is at Nicolai’s workshop to wrap the job up of installing a new box under the carriage, on a bazaar looking for whatever last thing we need, I’m reading up on our next phase.
Next year we’ll return to explore Kyrgyzstan in more detail. We now have to leave the country (car papers expiring).
So Tajikistan it is! September is a perfect month for traveling the Pamir with glorious autumn colors so we will work hard to get the very best of that. Now we need to get visas, permits, and what have you.
More on all that in our next Where Are We update. Stay tuned!
If you have any tips about driving the Pamir Highway or visiting other places in Tajikistan, we’d love to hear about them!
Update: Here’s the story on Driving the Pamir Highway
Karin-Marijke & Coen
Thank you to those who bought us a couple of liters of diesel to support our journey and/or website.
Would you like to do the same?