Bishkek - a trumpet ride in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan is written by Line Hansen
The usual airport crowds, loud-mouthed taxi drivers and the hunt for local currency from a functioning ATM meets me at. 5 in the morning in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Then I'm off, I thought, excited about what awaits the other side. What do people look like? Are they friendly? What do they eat? How are the houses? The streets? Since street lighting is'a town in Russia', there were not many impressions I could manage to make on the trip into the city.
The driver stops in front of a dark building on a semi-paved road. Nothing I can see looks like a hostel and I most want to stay in the taxi rather than head out onto the underlit street. As I get very close to the building, I see a small sign indicating that here is a hostel. Hooray! THANK YOU taxi man and sorry I did not take your words for good goods.
Soviet times have left their mark on Bishkek and its people
Bishkek is a dull colorless city. No doubt the Soviet era has left its mark. One gray concrete building after another forms the busy roads. The signage is of course written in Cyrillic, which puts me and my Latin-written card to the test.
After getting lost 3 times in half an hour, I finally lurk a suitable system: If there are about the same number of letters and at least two of the vowels look alike, then there is a high probability that the road and the map match.
The population is a mix of people with Russian and Chinese / Mongolian traits, and you have to smile quite persistently to get a smile back. At first glance, people seem a little indifferent to one, and one can move more or less anonymously on the street.
A month's journey in Stan-landing
The following days are spent preparing for next month's trip to the Stan countries: Kyrgyzstan, Kasakhstan, Uzbekistan og Turkmenistan. It quickly dawns on me that my non-existent preparation for the Stanners hits like a nemesis.
Visas, Letter-Of-Invitation, forms, applications, extra copies of passports, employment contracts, passport photos, insurance papers, one registration after another, as well as a lot of dollars to be paid for the respective affairs. A major logistical work awaits, as I have to decide here and now what exactly I want next month's time. Where can I apply for a visa to the countries in question, and where can I cross the borders between the countries?
In some countries it takes up to 3-4 weeks to get a visa approved - if you get your visa! So the process should start right away. I get to plan my trip and initiate some of the lengthy bureaucratic formality processes. Gab, gab. It's probably called planning. Not my kind of traveling! But in particular a necessity here if I want the optimum out of Central Asia.
At my hostel, I can quickly sense that other travelers are also frustrated with this visa circus. A German backpacker is waiting for the 12th day on his Uzbek visa. He says that a directly unfriendly and authoritarian approach to tourists at embassies and consulates certainly awaits me. Super! We are probably a little spoiled in reality as Danes. With our Schengen passport it is piece of cake to move around in more or less most of the world without the big problems.
When my mumbling over the bureaucracy had subsided, I tried to turn things upside down a bit. Ok, I'm a tourist here in their country. I do not speak Russian. And on the whole, I'm pretty much on the road. They have their system, their rules, their squareness. I think; accept it and give them an extra smile when they look at you with a "step-tourist look" at the embassies - maybe it's a little easier then.
Somehow it helped and I have gained more peace of mind as far as their systems are concerned. Once again, I have been confirmed that preparation can occasionally have its benefits.
Right-hand steering wheel and right-hand drive
Charlotte encountered a few days later and the plan was to drive around the large mountain lake Issyk-Köl. The car was handed over by two broken English-speaking Russians, who, of course, demanded the signing of the Russian lease. They explained that we could max lose the $ 300 deposit if the car broke down. Well then! We will probably add it in English in the contract, if it should get there. We got the car cheaply due to the right-hand steering wheel - despite right-hand driving. A Honda Fit, it turned out. 7000 Kyrgyz pennies, equivalent to DKK 750 for 8 days car rental. A coup without equal.
Off it goes the next morning in our little push. That with scale was not something we attached much value to. It's right there on the map. We are fairly sure of where we would drive, however, we have not calculated either my or Charlotte's relentless urge to take pictures of the scenic surroundings for every mile we move forward. Coffee / pee breaks and 2 x meeting with the Kyrgyz police have also not been taken into account.
The first time we are stopped by militia we run Plan A, which proves to be extremely effective. I have obviously (!) Driven too fast, and the officer shows an old, worn camera that shows me in the Honda with a speed of 74 km / h, where you have to drive 60. Oops! Plan A simply consists of playing stupid blonde tourist who understands nothing (and not at all the word PUNISHMENT), which he mentions several times. In best dog eye style followed by “sorry, do not understand”, a little blink and smile finally gives the officer up and waves us away. YES man, now we know how to pretzel!
A meeting in Bishkek with the authorities
Less than an hour later, we are again waved to the side. No problem - we have Plan A! This time, Plan A does not work. Not at all. The very insistent officer orders me out of the car and into a police car further down the road. In the car sits a +100 kg. Russian-looking officer who has apparently been given the honor of performing his duty from inside the hot car rather than out on the road in 8 degree cold. He looks at me angrily and almost shouts into my head: “ME! HEAD! POLICE! OFFICER! KYRGYZSTAN! ” After which there is silence.
Even though I'm on the road again, the situation in my head is a bit semi-comical. I consider for a brief second to respond with “ME! HEAD! PHYSIO! DENMARK! ”, But fortunately regrets it. His welcome in the police car is followed by “YOU! PAY! PUNISHMENT!". Oh well, calm down buffs. We can probably talk about that. He writes on a small piece of paper 500, which is equivalent to 60 Danish kroner. Hmm, I chew on it a bit, take the pen and write 300. He nods approvingly, I pay my penalty and am allowed to leave the car. Ok, then we have Plan B in house: Negotiate the price and cutlery!
The clock ends up being barely 21 before we hit our destination. There has been a bit of laissez-faire travel in it, and on closer inspection it dawns on us that it would have been smart to book a place to sleep in advance. It's not because it's full of hostels in this lamppost-abandoned city. My outdated version of Lonely Planet turns out to come to our rescue when one of our many phone calls to various accommodations (with invalid phone numbers) finally pays off: “Go to the supermarket, someone will pick you up”.
Homestay and food custom in Bishkek
We then stay in a wonderful homestay with a friendly and welcoming family with a mother who possesses the most beautiful nice face, scarf around her head in the traditional way and in perpetually healthy trot. No doubt she wants us well! A homestay is a great way to experience how a family on these edges works. In addition, you are served local food and get insider knowledge of the area. It was absolutely perfect, and just as it should be.
We are served hot soup, sheep fat lumps, tea and also 3 bowls with different jam. A little fun composition I think, but you do not go out of your way for a jam food after a long day on the go. I get run down a lot of snacks and can sense that the sister in the family is looking at me a little strangely. The jam is obviously meant to get into the tea, and hardly anything you spread in thick layers on the bread. Yep yep, we learn every day.
The next few days are with visits to eagle hunters, horseback riding, accommodation in a yurt (nomad tent), and various detour trips up into the huge snow-capped mountains, which, everywhere you look, form the background.
Fantastic freedom in Bishkek and the rest of Kyrgyzstan
We are completely lost to the beautiful nature. The warm colors of autumn have already made their entrance, and the green summer colors have in many places been replaced by brownish, reddish and yellowish shades. At night the temperature is below freezing and the investment in hats and gloves in Bishkek proves to be a wise move.
We drive by small winding mountain roads, and often we stop for a herd of horses, goats, sheep or cows crossing the road. The small Honda Fit feels albeit even smaller, trapped between 50 bull calves each with a combat weight of 1 ton.
However, we must recognize that the little Honda Fit is not a super off-road machine. No matter how much we believe in it, we have to turn around several times because of Honda's (un) ability. However, we agree that it is a great way to experience, and it gives a great freedom to have your own car (although a 4WD probably would have been a better offer) bud.
Charlotte and I got to know each other through DBK - The Travelers' Club. Charlotte is such a girl who immediately captures one’s attention. A girl who has something on her mind.
The value of a good travel buddy
In the combination of a little too much wine, the song “Volvo B18” and good company for a DBK party this summer, the idea of driving around Kyrgyzstan arose in a rented car. That's how it turned out, and how happy I am! In addition to some amazingly eventful days, our relationship developed from a good acquaintance to a deeper friendship.
It was more the rule than the exception that breakfast took a few hours because our long talks could not come to an end. Everything from the Palestine conflict, family, travel talk to relationships (or lack thereof) was talked about, discussed, turned around. We have the same approach to experience and travel, both share a great curiosity, and we both refuse to miss anything in our path. By and large, we just work well together as travel companions.
We also quickly got a handle on the distribution of roles in the car - Charlotte is the driver and I am the GPS / DJ. (Charlotte also made me aware that the light for the car should not be confused with the fan, and that the catastrophic flash is the huge red button, which quickly disappears in the crowd among all the little black buttons!)
I am absolutely convinced that this is not the last time the two Medina-singing trunts here have been on tour together. Looking forward to new adventures.
Really good trip to Bishkek and the rest of Kyrgyzstan!