I have made it to Bishkek the capital of Kyrgyzstan after a harrowing two day drive from Osh over some amazing mountains and passes.
I am pleased to have made it as there were warnings of avalanches (and possible closing of the road) but more importantly was my driver, was a former KGB man, a former motorcycle racer and a Sport Grand Master (a title given to excelling athletes in the former Soviet Union and a man who blamed the CIA for the disintegration of the Soviet Union) and I think he thought he was going to get even with the West by driving the vehicle as if he was racing his old motorcycle and scaring me to death.
My last update was from the “grand” city of Samarkand. As we all know there are several ways to skin a cat and there are several roads that one could take from Samarkand to our next major destination Khodjand in Tajikistan. My plan, and the plan for the Tour, was to take the most direct route. There was one hitch, the border crossing on this route was closed to foreigners several years ago.
My contacts in Uzbekistan said that this was no longer so. My contact in Tajikistan said he was not aware the the ban has been lifted.
So there was only one thing to do…find out by myself.
It turned out that this flat and boring/unattractive route with many checkpoints is still not open to foreigners. This required a detour of a 90 km, the last 60 of them parallel to a road that has been under construction for the three years and looks like it will take another three to finish.
This means that the Silk Route bikers will now take a different route to Khodjand; a route that will be stupendous in every sense of the word and will take us through a 3,360 meter pass. The road maybe terrible but the view, ah the view!!
Tajikistan is the poorest of the former Soviet Union Republics and this is quite visible. The country is slowly recovering from a civil war but it will take lot of effort to get it back on its feet.
From Tajikistan, it was back to Uzbekistan a quick and simple crossing (for which I would pay later) into the famed Ferghana valley.
The valley is very fertile, heavily populated and quite flat with good roads. I was through the valley in 24 hours and all went well at the border until the Uzbeki custom man asked me for my custom declaration slip that was given to me at my first entry into Uzbekistan, taken away when I left and entered into Tajikistan. Some heavy and prolong negotiations eventually solved the problem.
I write this simply to announce (first warning!) to all of our participants that you must ask and fill the declaration papers on each entry into the country.
Otherwise you will pay.
If you plan come to Kyrgyzstan, you better enjoy high mountains. At least a third of the country is above 3000 meters high. Our route goes through the southern part of the country into China through a 3,600 meters pass which was completely covered by snow. Besides being stopped for a few minutes by a crew that was trying to straighten up an overturned truck we had no difficulties crossing the pass and driving to about 80 km from the border, or as far as I was allowed to go without the special entry pass.
From the pass, it was back to Osh and then the drive to Bishkek.
Today is the 2nd anniversary of the overthrow of the government that has ruled since the break up of the Soviet Union.
There are celebration planned, but also quite bit of tension in the air as there are still many unhappy campers in this country – so I am off to take a look.