Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Blog updates.

Okay yes, the blog is really behind! I plan to bring it up to date in the next couple of weeks! Just a quick update though.

-The bike broke down a couple of times in Kaz and Russia, the last one being pretty major. Which lead me to leave it there as the cost of transport and repairs meant I was better off buying a new one.
-We decided to go to North America rather than SE Asia.
-We are currently in Canada and have a new bike!





Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Toktugal

On our way to Bishkek we once again found beautiful scenery. We came across another couple pushbike riding (cycling), first Christelle (French) and then Dave (Belgium). They were about ready to stop for the night. They have been travelling for 15 months already!! Thoroughly recommend their website. Their photos are worth the visit. Check out Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan!! Catch them at www.ecolesbuissonnieresdasie.com
We went a further 40 kms to a hotel on the GPS at Toktogul. Was a little hard to find but saw the sign гостиница (gastinista) with an arrow pointing behind other buildings, a Shaslik restaurant for one which we ate at later that night ) to a gated set of three little buildings, one which housed four bedrooms. The old lady kept it very tidy and even told Craig off for walking in his socks back and forth from the bike to the room and back, a matter of three or four steps. We had electricity which we were very grateful for and a hole in the floor toilet with an optional extra of a little wooden chair with a hole hanging on the wall.
Three out of four isn't bad - cook and waitress in Shaslik restaurant, friendly; man in a group across the road, friendly;

Location:Toktugal, Kygryzstan

Monday, June 18, 2012

Osh for some more days

Stay in Osh
The Tes Guesthouse was just what the doctor ordered!! And Osh was a n unexpected treat too. Just had to walk back up the stairs to the main road to find many cheap but yummy food in sit down cafes!! And beautiful tea! We tried a few while we were there as the meals were about $1.50 each !!found Osh a very cheap city!
The staff at the guesthouse were very helpful (laundry load, wash, dry and iron ) $3!!! Gulchihra (which means princess with face like a flower in persian) was an awesome receptionist and a busy one yet still had time to assist us with many tourist and cultural questions and peel us potatoes one night to present gorgeous potato cakes as an extra to the breakky!! No wonder we ended up staying three nights!!
For a very reasonable price you could book the hotel driver and we decided to visit the two places Gulchihra had recommended. He disappeared while we ate dinner at this awesome family park with two little fountains, little cars for the kids to ride in (parents controlled the remotes for them), park benches full with people, ice cream vans, food stalls and couches, tables and chairs and bouncing castles, the whole package.
He came back three quarters of an hour later to share a cup of tea with us (didn't take us up on our earlier dinner offer), and shared with us the experience of two wedding parties visiting!! One had the whole works being introduced on the PA and danced in a circle to music, the second looked like the bride and father and flower girl only strolling through.
He then motioned towards the mountains and drove us up to a lookout where we could get a good view of this very green city lined with beautiful trees!! Missed the opening times of the museum at the lookout but would recommend by what we saw through the large decorative glass window.
At breakfast we met quite a few interesting fellow residents of the guesthouse who were there for work commitments and so shared very interesting details of their vocations including two locals from Bishkek; a fruit expert and a vegetable expert, consultants to kyrgyzstan farmers. One spoke a little English and we found out he had introduced the Granny Smith there and in his nursery had 50 kinds of apples and 40 odd types of pears!!
Also on arrival we had met a tour director who lives in Osh and two Swiss motorbike riders who had delivered the bikes from Switzerland through Turkmenistan. He was very helpful and found us another new tyre by the time we left; the kindness of strangers!

Location:Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Osh

Kyrgyzstan border to Osh

We then came across, around and through many beautiful, green, lush tall mountains on really good roads winding around and around. The photos don't reflect how grand and eye catching these huge mountains were to ride through.
It was a real joy. There was quite a bit of roadwork happening but didn't seem to slow anybody down :). No witches hats here just a few rows of rocks on the road about two metres apart to warn you it's a no go on your side of the road before the curve! Hate to be a road worker there! A couple of yurts and Russian style caravans now and then with their big outside pots boiling and sturdy native grazing, all just in view of the roadworks, so much so at firstI thought the first caravan was a catering one for them!! (Craig's phone died at this stage!! Noooooo).

We rode past a couple of police check points, stopped for petrol and met some more locals and took a photo with one and then proceeded to be amazed at how many yurts were along the road and in the distance!!! Twice we came to huge amounts if them, the first with over 50 (yes, I counted them,) and the second about 18. The first had markets set up on both sides of the road!! (Another photo opportunity lost when sharon's iPhone ran out of memory!! Upgrading to a better phone with a lot smaller memory was a bad move!)

At one stage at the bottom of the mountain we came across two german cyclists, a young couple, looking fresh as daisies! All I could think of were the mountains they had yet to come across before they got to Sarytash for the night. We realized we had a friend in common in Sven so hopefully they caught up with him that night :)

We had been treated to a beautiful valley too riding alongside rushing water most of the time!!

Deleted a few applications in time to capture a small bit of the drama that ensued!!

Titled "Mudslide can't stop the big girl!"

Came across a Lada bogged in the middle if the road which was now just a continuing running stream of mud from the high banks to our right and the Lada driver's left.

There were vehicles and crowds of people on both sides of the road and spilling all on the grazed areas on each side on our left. As soon as we got there and pulled up on the side of the road up the front where all the action was happening we were encouraged that the big girl could make it easy!! People motioning towards the other side.

It was running pretty fast. We got off soon after one of the trucks pulled the Lada out towards us. Craig helped push the Lada just that bit further out of the way with a few others as at least one of the Tyres was flat by this stage!! (there was a great feeling of everyone digging in and helping in or encouraging!)

The owner of the Lada chose Craig to give a kiss and a huge and very extended hug of thanks.He then grabbed me and shook my hand and put his hands to face as if they were eye glasses and tried to tell me something. He then dragged me to his wife who made the same motion to me!! I was still trying to make it out when I heard the bike zooming across the mud to encouraging shouts and yahoos from the crowd! (previous to this one truck had gone through and then a huge one with a trailer got stuck right near the bank on the right side if the road so still plenty of room to pass!

He had warned me a lot earlier that he might have to cross on his own so I wasn't totally surprised so said my "I'm sorry I don't understand but better run" and started to cross on foot.

Someone yelled and motioned to the truck driver to take me over with his passenger as he was getting ready to go too but I imagined taking forever to get into the cabin with already muddy feet and quickly declined and immediately regretted it as the truck followed hot on my heels as soon as I walked/waded through the thick mud up to my knees with big loose stones underneath my feet!! People were yelling encouragement or maybe warning re the truck so I picked up my pace nearly falling a couple of times. Pretty sure I heard Craig laughing his head off!!!

Ps I understood a little better why the truck was right behind me when saw him hook up the bogged truck to kindly tow it out!

We zoomed off as the action continued and soon enough cars came passing by as we came to an abrupt stop to give way to two sets of shepherds with their flock coming up the first hill!! Our bike is so loud Craig likes to give way but the trucks coming the other way were blasting their horns as the bullied their way to what? A mass or cars and trucks making their way slowly through the mudslide!!!


We rode on in the hope to make Osh for the night not stopping for lunch. We did not stop again til about half an hour before Osh to stretch our legs and tighten the luggage and happened to stop across the road from a young shepherd boy in the process of opening his gate, releasing about 20 sheep to cross the road directly in front of us and as he crossed he came over, said hello and shook both our hands and went to catch up with his sheep, throwing a couple of rocks at them as he did. A short but sweet gidday :) Very memorable- and no ability to take a photo of the moment!! Aaah!! It was nearly 5 p.m. I think and here he was busy working :)

After a marathon of a day we rode into Osh thinking that was it but were still searching for the Osh Guesthouse and Taj Mahal (knew it was across the road from said guesthouse) and hadn't placed the hotel on the GPS! At last saw the signpost for GPS guesthouse pointing down a small road so we started driving down it but came to concrete steps instead of road. Clearly there was another way down to the guesthouse. I trotted off down the stairs, mud up to my knees to find out at first there were no rooms but one the next night.

I was exhausted and felt near to tears and as it turned out I was speaking to the owner who, as I was leaving, asked me to wait while she checked what she could do for us and returned with an option of staying on mattresses in a conference room and then in an expensive room the next night for two thirds of the price. To make a long story short, Craig jumped at the offer to go no further, one of the staff got on the back of the bike and directed him and we made it our home for three nights!!! Ps the conference room was very adequate with a toilet and shower down the hall. Heaven to wash hair after four days and a proper shower after three.











Location:Osh, Kyrgyzstan

A border crossing and an AK47

We enjoyed another breakfast with Sven and once again he was quicker off the mark and was away 20 mins before us. The scenery once 'again was beautiful though quite sparse at times.On the right was China once again, as the day before, the fence following us a lot of the way.
As we went higher it got freezing cold but thankfully for not as long.
Came across many horsemen herding sheep or cattle on the road.
The border crossing was freezing cold and we felt for the poor soldiers and police. We got invited into the warm tin shed into customs to show our passports. A pleasant surprise indeed :) and then a short but very muddy trek to passport control where two Germans on BMW 1200s said a quick hello and then were choofed off to the tin shed we just left.
This is where it got interesting! They seemed friendly enough but it was pretty unnerving when the officer asked if the helmets were bullet proof. By the time Craig had ascertained what he was asking he had grabbed his offsider's rifle and pointed it at Craig's helmet!! Craig quickly (but surprisingly calmly) let him know No!!!!! The conversation then turned to family funnily enough and it was ascertained he was a family man with five children!!
As we left a poor soldier was struggling to walk back to the office heavily laden with heavy firewood for the fire!!
The 25 kms that ensued till the Kyrgyzstan border was absolutely stunning!!
It was full of rolling green mountains and a beautiful view of mountains coming up of Maroon, green, red and brown, all of them so very high!! Many beautiful green jade colored stones small and large lining the road and the rushing water's edge.
Not far from the Taj side many marmots were playing together on our left but no camera!!
There were two houses in a valley shortly after the Tajik post, buildings on the right side, outhouses on the left.
At last we stopped and got Craig's phone out to take some photos.
The border crossing into Kyrgyzstan was completely painless and vey quick! While we were waiting we noticed a soldier working hard on a Lada four wheel drive without many tools. After we were free to go Craig took over his tool kit and his offer was met with big thankful pat on the back but it was no thanks :)
One of the easiest border crossings yet! On to Osh!

Location:Osh, Kygryzstan

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kara-Kul

Murghab to Kara-Kul
After reaching the top of the pass (have heaps of photos) didn't see much relief from the snow at all. Snow everywhere and the road was very corrugated and very painful once again. For quite awhile we used a lower road more comfortable till it ended and came upon a group of deserted buildings and stopped for a comfort stop. We were actually warmer when we stopped!!! Sooooo cold again! and only snow in sight!! And no sun straight after this pass!!
Couldn't believe the amount of tiny birds flying around where there were no trees or land not covered in snow for as far as we could see!! Bit of a puzzle.
Phones were flat once again due to the excessive amount of photos taken which always shows how interesting the scenery is!!
At last the sun was in view!! We had Kara-Kul marked on the GPS so soldiered on freezing cold, got seem speed up in an effort to get to the homestay as soon as possible to warm up!! So glad we both agreed even though we'd only been riding three hours it was time to stop!
Couldn't imagine going on!! We were both chilled to the bones. We stopped at the first homestay sign about the first house of the village and a fire was started, we were sat in front of it with our hostess till we thawed to warm and then given a beautiful cup of hot tea, biscuits and sweets!
And soon after lunch!! Of chicken and noodles and bread and tea and sweets once again. Tildahan and daughter Jamilla served it to us in the same room as the fire (which we also ended up sleeping in for the same reason. :)
We were so tired!! Couldn't keep our eyes open after filling up! Looked out the window and saw Tildahan and Jamilla spinning yarn together!! Was very much a tourist and asked to take a photo and then a film!
We decided to go for a walk from the homestay through the village to the beautiful lake and on the way there and back got to see so many sights!!
We walked past the village school, then past a group of people setting up a yurt, then past the medical centre, past some outside ovens, saw a well the Japanese had installed, oh and met the village policeman who at first wanted to see our passports (about the only time we hadn't taken them out with us!) but after a chat was quite relaxed, saw a weather station set up, a hug Marco Polo ram's head and horns just sitting there (decided not to leave the walkway for a closer photo in case of any old mines!),
On the way back we met three young boys who asked us to take their photo. They were very intrigued with the iPhone photo and how we could enlarge it and asked in sign language if they could take photos too so it began with photos of us then of each other and a self portrait too I think.
Still returning we got to see the yurt skeleton by that time intact and they motioned for us to take a photo. We then came across a young woman weaving a rug on a horizontal loom. She kindly gave permission to watch and to use our camera. We did a recording and her eyes lit up when we played it back for her. We talked of asking if we could buy it off her for a good price but got side tracked!!
The homestay also had a visit from a tour of three; American, an Aussie and an Irishman with their two drivers on their way to Murghab so Tildahan had catered a big lunch for them in the main eating area. A busy day for her! The children were on holiday too but Jamilla was a very good help!!
Tildahan had let us know what time dinner would be served and that they were off to a village concert straight after dinner. We bought a ticket too and had the time of our lives!!!
The village hall was packed with the whole village!! Eiric, Tildahan's husband had arranged for his friend's daughter to sit with us as she was studying English. She loves America and hopes to move there eventually. It was a great concert even though no English was spoken. It was a famous Kyrgyzstan comedian, another comedian and a singer. They played his three stooges kind of comedy which starred him and the other two as well!! The comedy skits were very funny because of the body language and faces they made. The whole hall were laughing their heads off!! Have some footage as well as photos :). Ps we all paid the same but Eiric made sure we had pretty much front row so we could "take photos".
Another side note; the policeman we met earlier that afternoon was security for the night and was on the stage waiting for it to begin Craig caught his eye and just laughed and smiled and the policeman made a "they are crazy" motion with his finger!!
Tildahan disappeared part way through the concert and we found out later that at last Sven had arrived!! Must have been after 9!!!???? We had let them know he might be coming. We couldn't see where he would have found anywhere suitable to camp!! We were worried again so were very relieved when we got back from the concert with their friend to be told he was safe and sound in bed after a dinner on arrival.
We were invited to have tea and a chat after the concert which was great! We learned that they had 11 yaks and 50 odd sheep!

Location:Kara-Kul, Tadjkistan

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Murghab

After another wonderful breakfast supplied by Lalmore we packed up and set off on our way to Murghab.
We were going to look at the Botanic Gardens and headed that way but Craig wasn't keen to dilly dally seeing we knew we'd be going over snow in the mountains so turned back.
We went through a few more villages and came across some pretty bad road on the way. We met Dave from Mullimbimby, Australia who was on a pushbike. A real Aussie accent, dreadlocks and very friendly.
Came into some soft snow flakes and thought, "Oh, that's cute," but then it got heavier and heavier like sleet and rough road too and wasn't pleasant. It was freezing!!!
Even before that I had thought how bumping away reminded me of when I was pregnant with Amy and on the way to the Mt Alvernia Hospital in Bendigo, with a full bladder for a scan, suffering greatly at each bump in the short five minute journey.
This seemed to be 10 times worse and longer!!!
So here we were going through sleet, could hardly see, freezing cold, bumpy most of the time and dying to go to the toilet - and couldn't take photos!!! That was one of the most frustrating things because it's certainly not every day you're in this situation!!!
At one stage couldn't believe we came across s house!!! Craig saw one with smoke coming out of the chimney.
Blue skies were so welcome after but still couldn't relax as the road was extremely bumpy so pretty painful!! I mentioned to Craig if he can find anything resembling a hidey hole could he stop. He was having the same problem and discomfort so was happy to, as it turns out next to a drain with wings about five foot down the side of the deserted road so that was great. :)
Time to try using Danielle, Lalmore's suggestions and whipped out the long bit of material Sarsinov helped me buy in the markets at Denov in Uzbekistan just in case someone could see me.
The weather behaved itself for awhile and not long after we passed a homestay named Marco Polo we came upon Sven from Germany on a pushbike also, also with some dreadlocks and awfully nice too!
We were a bit worried about him as he asked how many kilometers to Murghab on the GPS, Craig said 95 km and he seemed to be saying that's good and he would still expect to be in Murghab so we gave him the name of Sary Kol Lodge where we were going to stay there. It was already already mid afternoon.
We had another pass before Murghab and so did Sven.
We all clicked two days later when he double checked the kilometres with Craig again. He explained when Craig said 95 he took it as 59 because in Germany you say the second number first. One of those little differences in culture that wouldn't have mattered if Craig had rounded up his answer to 100 :) but made a huge difference to Sven; almost 50 kilometres and maybe three hours!!
We then went through another heavy rain/snow and it was extremely cold. After that I didn't get to take many more photos as didn't want to get it wet and the time I risked it had problems.
Somewhere on the journey once again I did not capture the images of the cute little bright yellow marmots popping up on the side of the road (as in Kazakhstan).
When I couldn't take photos the scenery changed dramatically! The mountains first changed from brown/red but also there were great crevices in the earth either side. Also so many layers of different scenery. On your left you would see the crevices in the earth in the foreground, mountains of different shapes and sizes and colors all together between you and the snow capped mountains not that far away!!! Should have gone back the next day for photos!!
At the near end of our journey for that day we had a checkpoint with police outside Murgab where you could just see the village in the distance. They took our passports but were friendly. Someone was changing a tyre there and another man was talking to me in sign language (Craig was inside the guard house). He had asked if I was married. When I said yes he motioned slitting someone's throat!!! He was drunk and the second policeman was with me the whole time and was joking around not taking him seriously. He tried to say the same thing to Craig he came out.
We were so relieved to get back on the bike as it was so cold and we could see the town so we were encouraged!! Didn't take too long to find the homestay - near the end of the village.
We were welcomed with a place to put our bike and a hot cup of tea and biscuits and chocolates soon after on some cosy cushions!! ( and some hot water to have a warm wash in lovely new inside bathroom to take the cool chill out of our bones before dinner not too long after!!!). The water is from the well and the women of the family have to draw and carry it so we tried not to use too much.
European toilet! Bonus! (outside in a separate building)
Felt a lot warmer after that but put our thermals back on and still a couple of extra layers(we'd been just sooooo cold)
We were brought a beautiful dinner of small pieces off meat on a bed or rice with small cloves of roasted garlic through it!! (apparently called Plov). Scrumptious! Also as with every meal we were brought a pot of black tea, a pot of green tea, and a pot of not water for coffee!!, some dried apricots and little fish shaped biscuits and lots of bread!!
We had a chat with Jacqueline who helped set up the guesthouse and runs the rebreeding program - reintroduction of kyrgyzstan horses to the Murghab area which are a hardier breed to the introduced Russian horses who have been dying in the extreme minus 50 temperatures the last couple of years and causing a lot of hardship for the farmers.
She also helped set up solar electricity in the hospital and the homestay and village. She is trying to work out how to organize hot water in a way that would not use more water (tourists not always considerate). One tourist who stayed the night before us used 50 litres on their own! Craig told her of a few Australian companies that could help. He also suggested the 20 Lt camping bags that heat up during the day to be used at night. She had concerns tourists would then expect to use a bag each, a whole 20 litres to be collected per person. Craig is working in this problem :)
Jacqueline is based in Bishkek but half the time is in Murghab too.
Nurizat, who did most of the running after us at Sary Kol spoke excellent English and was full of very interesting facts but also was interested in what we were doing too. She spoke regarding having GPS points on their advertising material to Craig and he was able to provide them for her.
We went to bed feeling so much better than when we arrived and heard Sven come in when we thought it was 9. (Nuzilat snd her family had been looking iut for him after we'd said how worried we were when he hadn't arrived).
We found out in the morning that our phones were both one hour behind the correct time when we went out for breakfast at what we thought was 8 and it was actually 9!! So embarrassed!
Sven had breakfast with us and so waited!!! His website is svejnsworld.wordpress.com
Thoroughly recommend catching up with his adventures now and then. The distances he covered in the time he did over the terrain he did in the two days of travel we shared was amazing!!! He is a hardcore pushbike rider for sure!! As they say in the "Stan's", "EXTREME"!!!!
Getting back to our homestay - Nurizat said ,when asked ,that people are usually expected to leave around 9 or 10!! We decided to stay one more night. It ended up being $45 each night which included breakfast and dinner each day which included breakfast and dinner each day and afternoon tea when we arrived and the next afternoon too (lovely surprise of dried mulberries and apricots and biscuits and chocolates )
We'd had a beautiful sleep the first night and after a leisurely (late) breakfast we set off for the Murghab village markets Nurizat had suggested. Just a short walk down the main road where rows of containers stood cold and not so visually appealing the night before were the open containers overflowing with colour, food, clothes, people everywhere filling the gravel roads between them. The men in their white felt hats were particularly interesting. Many women, as we walked towards them would hold their scarves over their faces, something I noticed the afternoon before as we drove thorough but had thought then it was because of the cold whereas it was quite a warm day.
On the walk from Sary Kol Lodge we were heralded by a little boy or girl playing peek a boo with us around the corner if their house saying hello each time until we were quite a distance away. We had many hellos from young people at the markets and smiles from some. (On the way back we heard a faint hello from somewhere and it was a young girl sitting on a porch quite a distance away waving ).
Nurizat had also recommended a cafe called Rahut (Рахат) which is a local favorite. I took some photos but it doesn't really capture the flavor of busyness of the ladies cooking and serving as opposed to the comfort and restfulness experienced by ourselves and other patrons.
There were rooms with curtains through which you could catch glimpses of people enjoying a private meal. We stopped in the main entry and sat at the first table to meet and eat with a young German couple, Moritz and Clare, who are hitch hiking in the same direction for awhile but then China. They were at another homestay starting with E :)! Their website is www.gut-gelaufen.com
They had an appointment with a lift at 2 so we said our goodbyes.
That was the first time we'd been introduced to Shorpo, soup with meat in the bone in the middle and knew from then on if we didn't know what was on the. Eu just to ask for that :) and a coke or and choi (tea). Did us well. Oh and Manty (pronounced Monty), (large filled pasta filled with meat with no sauce- maybe in soup).
We got back and were being lazy when we heard Nurizat out in the common room. She'd set up some afternoon tea for us!!! Saying "thought you might be thirsty". How lovely.
Thank goodness we could recharge our phones and the camera as we had electricity from about 7:30 each night til after breakfast the next day.
While we were staying at the guesthouse Nuzilat's brothers were busy collecting rocks and then beginning the building of another part of the building to annexe a kitchen. Nuzilat's mother and sister-in-law currently cook the meals in the family buildings on either side of the guesthouse.
There was a tourist centre but we didn't get to visit it :) too much other stuff to do. :)
In our chats with Nurizat we discovered a new school will open later in this year for all grades, kids from 7years to 18. She feels they should teach more English than they do as she said they just learn one word or two a week like "bucket" and that she didn't learn that way but through sponsorship to Bishkek university to learn English and living with someone who only spoke English at the same time.
We asked about jobs and she said there are many without jobs. The women certainly look busy enough!!certainly no washing machines, no running water.
We also found out that girls are still being kidnapped as brides by men from other villages and that boys from her village have done the same. This is a constant threat for the girls in these areas.
The reality of it came when Nurizat's sister in law came to check on her after we'd got talking for so long that it was 11:45. Her family were worried about her!! What an eye opener. (Any prayers out there huge prayer points there!!!)
We went to bed with lots on our mind!
Woke up and were on time for a breakfast for the second time of a delicious rice cereal (semolina? Tapioca?) and raisins. We'd been fed up with a lovely dinner of pasta pancake (layers of pasta and meat and potato and onion et cetera rolled like a strudel and sliced in to rings. Mmm,.
We were all a bit tired and not looking forward to the next pass after the previous cold and wet one two days before.
Nuzilat and her family gave us a lovely send off and her little niece had a photo taken on the bike. After a false start past the Chinese truck depot to an airport no longer used we got away on the gravel road and quite awhile later caught up with Sven who left 20 mins before us!

Location:Murghab, Tadjikistan