Kyrgyzstan – a little detour to a big mountain

Kyrgyzstan – a little detour to a big mountain

As soon as we crossed the border into Kyrgyzstan, it seemed the landscape changed immediately. Green rolling hills started to appear, and trees!! We hadn’t really realised quite how much we had missed seeing trees! It was as if the simple image of a tree in our minds brought a comforting feeling.

We zoomed down towards the border excited with the new landscapes and the immense number of running horses and yurts. The postcard image of Kyrgyzstan came true. We headed to Sary-Tash, longing for food, leaving the amazing snowy peaks behind us, unfortunately half covered in clouds.

The idea of making a detour to peak Lenin had been in our heads ever since we met this amazing family in Murghab who recommend it to us. However, when we looked at the actual distance and the gradient of the track and knowing we would be again on gravel, me and Sarah started to have our doubts.. When we added up what we would have to pay for a taxi there and back, on top of the price of the yurt to stay in, we made the conclusion it was just beyond our budget. Mari and Eva were keen on the idea nonetheless.

After cycling together for more than 2 weeks, all the way from Khorog in Tajikistan, it seemed we would break apart at last. We found a place to spend the night all the same and as we settled in, Eva exclaims, they are here! Their friends they had met back in Georgia were also in Sary-Tash, with their van! This meant we could go with them in their van and then cycle still together all the way to Osh, till the end of the Pamir, the slow-pace-poo-fires-extravagant-dinners duos!

The next day we met at last Andreas, Michelle and the epic Selma, an old German police van, amazingly converted into a super comfortable and cosy campervan. It felt being in a small appartment and it reminded us of the guys back at the wind expedition (link!).

As we drove towards Peak Lenin, and as we still processed how great the campervan was, Andreas and Michelle stated that they needed someone to drive it across Russia back to Europe! For a short while we were out of ourselves as we contemplated the possibility of the four of us using the van to go back home, driving the van across Russia. At the end of the blistering cold winter… In the end, the plan didn’t go ahead, but nonetheless it was a beautiful exciting dream we were allowed to have for a short while.

The road towards the Peak Lenin base camp was just as we feared, sandy and gravely and it would have been a bit torturous to cycle along, so we were very happy to be inside Selma. When the road became m even worse, we parked Selma and covered the remaining distance on foot, with a dip in a lake along the way.

We soon had upclose views to the Peak, and were mesmerised with the colours of the blue lakes, contrasting against the yellow and green of the hills and the snow-white of the peak behind. Indescribable…

The yurts were laid in a row of white, with a few strips of traditional symbols in red, in a very ideallic scenario. After we settled in one of the yurts, there was a funny moment, as us and the girls were happy just to sit on the ground, whereas Andreas and Michelle, as Swiss as they were, were much more eager to go climb up to the mountains, their faces a bit speechless when we tired cyclists said we would rather just stay and maybe do some watercolours…

They climbed up a massive hill as we sat on the nearby short hill, which although quite small proved itself enough of a challenge for four tired-legged cyclists. They returned as the sun set, painting the landscape in amazing colours of orange. We then proceeded to the canteen to a quite an impressive home made meal.

After dinner we went to our yurt wondering how warm the wood (poo…) stove was making it inside. It was like a sauna!! The stove was so warm that it’s outside walls were amber orange and we had to keep the door open for most of the early night, as we played Brandy Dog, the board game they wanted to introduce to us, in the corner of the yurt opposite the stove.

Then, yet again, in the middle of the night, a clench in the stomach and I exit the yurt and run to the toilet. Oh no, not again! It seemed somehow I managed to make myself sick again, although I couldn’t understand why I was the only one?! I started to question if I would be able to make the hike we had planned to do, but I was determined to get closer to this massive white peak, no matter how many poos I had to leave along the way….

In the morning, we started to head towards it and the closer we got the better the views became, the more amazing this enormous mass of white snow. The hike was quite easy, until that is, the very end, where to reach the pass we had to climb a super steep gravely hill. As we went up we had to make space for two locals to pass with their horses, dangling away on a super narrow steep path. On the way we giggled at the sight of wild onions, giving the name to place, the onion field.

Once on the top of the pass, we had lunch contemplating up close the massive 7000m peak and the glaciers below. It was like something we had never seen before and we were very happy we had done the hike after all. I hadn’t even suffered much, although having had to leave my mark buried in a corner of the pass….

As we started to descent, we met along the way a German couple, fully packed with what seemed backpacks weighing 100kg each. They were, to our admiration, going to take around 3 weeks, between camp bases and acclimatisation, to attempt to reach the 7000m summit!

As we continued back and approached the yurt camp, it becomes apparent I am not the only who is sick. Two others, Sarah and Eva, together with me, form what we called at the time, the poo team. Although they don’t seem to be as severely affected as me, we all unfortunately have to leave small traces of our presence along the way. It was very strange that Mari was not sick as well, not Michelle or Andreas. Nonetheless, we make it back to the yurt camp, and shortly after that, (the poo team taking a helpful ride) to Selma!

The next morning we make the way back to Sary-Tash to prepare ourselves to head to Osh in what we hope to be 2-3 days time. We had left our bikes and bags in the hostel we had stayed at and went there to get our belongings back. Once there the sickness riddle was uncovered. In the water container the owners of the hostel used to serve us tea, lay a dead floating pigeon! Our stomachs contracted with the idea… We had been having the night we stayed, pidgeon soup, as we later called it! I had had a big portion of tea, Sarah and Eva only some, and Mari had skipped it. Bed & Breakfast, pigeon soup included….

We said farewell to Andreas, Michelle and Selma, and left towards Osh, our stomachs still twitching a bit at the thought. On the way, as Mari and Eva held on to the back of a van for a short ride up the hill, me and Sarah reached out 15000km mark! It seemed a bit unreal… We felt as we had only just celebrated the 10000km mark back in Turkey…

Two days later we were wooshing down to Osh, having completed the Pamir Highway, that had been in our dreams for so long…

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