Almaty, Kazakhstan to Issik Kol, Kyrgyzstan

Distance: 280 miles
Time on bikes: 7 hours

There’s a sense of familiarity as we head down for breakfast again with Fabian. It’s been really good to be able to meet up, but today we’re heading south into Kyrgyzstan as our Kazakhstan visa expires tomorrow.

We take a relaxed approach to packing the bikes and don’t get going until about 11.15 am. Before leaving Almaty we decide to try the hardware store in town in case they have some bolts that we can take as spares for Carl’s panniers. Unfortunately they don’t, but we should be ok. Because of the detour, we don’t end up getting out of Almaty until mid-day.

Although our destination for today is only about fifty miles directly south of us, we need to do a big loop around the mountains to get into Kyrgyzstan and cross the border just north of Bishkek. The road there is good and after stopping a few times to get a break from the heat of the sun, we arrive at the border at 4.15 pm. There’s a queue of only about eight cars on the Kazakh side so we just wait at the end of the line and hope we’ll get through quick.

The only problem with proceedings is that the cars try to jump ahead of us when the barrier raises to let a few through, and despite pushing the bikes past the cars again they still try to get ahead. After about fifteen minutes we’re through and exiting Kazakhstan was quite painless. They didn’t ask to see Carl’s stamped immigration card or any paperwork for the bike. Just a stamp in the passport and Carl’s through. As usual, Béné takes a bit longer and despite going first, Carl is in familiar territory. It’s not long before the border guards tell Carl to move on as his papers have been stamped for him to leave the country. Thankfully, Béné is only a few minutes behind and we’re then at the border of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The entry procedure was incredibly quick and Béné helped the guys type out the entry details into the computer from her passport. Carl’s just needed to be scanned and we’re now realising that border crossings may have been a bit slower because of Béné’s passport older French style passport. Also, living in England tends to confuse them for some reason.

It’s only taken an hour from start to finish which is a refreshing change. After entering the country we look out for a kiosk dealing with the green card insurance, but there doesn’t appear to be one. When we see an official looking building we pull over and are greeted by a policeman. He’s tells us there is no insurance available for Kyrgyzstan, so we feel like at least we tried. He asks where we’re going and after giving quite simple instructions to head down the road and turn left at the traffic lights, he insists on escorting us to show us the way.

Now I’ve heard a few people complain about getting police escorts, but I’ve never understood why. We follow the policeman at about 50 mph through a couple of towns for about ten miles before we get to the traffic lights. The best bit was that no cars overtook us and it was a really nice gesture to help us on our way. We give him a wave of thanks at the lights and head off.

Unfortunately in all the excitement we completely forgot to change our Kazakh Tenge money into Kyrgyz cash, so we have no local currency. We could backtrack to Bishkek, but decide to just crack on and see if we have any luck finding a cash machine in one of the towns and villages we’ll pass through on the way to the lake.

Despite looking we can’t find any. On entrance to the National Park where the lake is situated we were able to use Kazakh Tenge to pay for entry, although we were probably stiffed on the exchange rate. We keep riding, however the sun set is at 8.12 pm and we’re soon in the dark with no money and no idea where we’ll find accommodation.

At about 9.10 pm we pass through a small town and notice signs by the side of the road. These look like the home-stay signs that Baka had told us about and we pull over to see what the score is. We’re soon welcomed by a nice chap who show’s Carl the room they have available. This is great and they’re also happy to accept Kazakh Tenge for payment – 900, which is about £4. That’ll do nicely.

After giving the bike chains a bit of oil we sit down for some tea with bread and homemade apricot jam. We’re both really tired and soon head to our little room for the night.

Jour 112 – Dimanche 8 Aout 2010. D’Almaty a Issik Kol, Kyrgyzstan

Distance: 448 km – Temps a moto: 7 heures

Nous sommes contents de retouver Fabian avant notre départ pour le Kyrgyzstan, c’est agréable de discuter avec quelqu’un qui fait une viree similaire a la notre. Il resta au Kazakhstan un peu plus longtemps comme il a  encore quelques choses a organiser et il devrai nous retrouver au Kyrgyzstan plus tard si il decide de ne pas envoyer sa moto par cargo a Delhi pour eviter le Kyrgyzstan, la chine et le Pakistan.

Nous ne nous pressons pas trop et partons vers 11 heures. Avant de quitter Almaty nous décidons d’essayer de trouver quelques boulons pour les saccoches a Carl, mais pas de bol, nous n’en trouvons pas et nous retrouvons dans une partie de la ville pleine de bouchons.

Nous pensons aller jusqu’au bord du lac d’Issik Kol, qui n’est qu’a 80 km a vol d’oiseau d’Almaty, mais il faut contourner les montagnes pour passer la frontière qui est juste au nord de Bishkek. La route est bonne mais il fait très chaud et nous faisons quelques pauses a l’ombre.

Nous arrivons a la frontière a 4h15, la queue n’est pas longue, seulement 8 voitures, nous attendons au soleil dans l’espoir que ca ne dure pas trop.

Le passage est bien plus rapide que nous le pensions, surtout pour Carl car son passport est un model qui est scanne par les douannes, le mien est un peu plus lent, mais je le rejoins rapidement et la procedure ne nous prend qu’une heure au total.

En arrivant de l’autre cote, alors que nous demandons a un policier si il y a un kioske pour les papiers d’assurance, le policier nous fait signe qu’il n’y en a pas, et nous propose de nous escorter juquau carrefour pour prende la direction du lac. Tout se passe si vite que nous oublions de prendre des sous et prenons la direction du lac sans aucune monaie du Kyrgyzstan. Il nous reste de la monaie du Kazakhstan et espérons que ca sera suffisant.

Nous arrivons vers le lac ou nous devons payer pour l’entree du parc national, heureusement ils prennent la monaie du Kazakhstan. Nous sommes persuades de trouver une banque dans la premiere petite ville, mais pas de bol : pas de banque, et pas d’hôtel non plus.

Nous continuons donc alors que la nuit tombe. Heureusement, la veille nous avions demande quelques mots de vocabulaire en Russe a Baka et Galinka, et nous reconaissons le panneau qui indique la possibilite de dormir chez l’habitant. Nous verifions et ils acceptent aussi la monaie du Kazakhstan, ouf ! La nuit ne nous coute que 4 euros, et ils nous servent un bon The avec du pain et de la confiture d’abricots. J’avais lu que le Kyrgysztan était repute pour ses abricots sauvages.