Karakol to Jeti Oghuz, Kyrgyzstan

Distance: 20 miles
Time on bikes: 0.75 hours

This morning we take a walk around town to eventually get around to seeing the Chinese Mosque and the wooden Church. They’re both at opposite ends of Karakol so we’re a bit worn out when we eventually get finished with the sightseeing.

We also pop into the post office to again check on emails. It’s a bit of a tense time at the moment as there is a great deal of uncertainty as to whether we can get through the Karakoram Highway in northern Pakistan due to flood water blocking sections of the road and also destroying several bridges. We exchange a few emails with the rest of the group we’re crossing China with and arrange to meet in Bishkek next Monday.

We’ve also called upon the help of our friends Carolyn and Hubi as the Cardo intercoms are in their final throes of packing in. They’ve only lasted four months and one now only remains on for two minutes before switching itself off. This has become really annoying.  We’ve ordered a set of the new version and will send the old set back to Cardo with a letter of thanks. Carolyn has kindly helped to order the new set for delivery in London, where Hubi will collect and we’ll meet up in Delhi in September to get them fitted to the helmets.

It takes us a while to get packed up as all our luggage was completely disrupted in the mayhem to get ready for trekking the other day. As usual, the sun is out and it’s the hottest it’s been for days as we get ready to set off on the bikes. Our destination for today however is not too far – only about twenty miles away in the village of Jeti Oghuz. We’d been told about a Sanatorium there which has some history as it was built in 1932 and Yuri Gegaran decompressed here and also Boris Yeltsin first met the then Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev here in 1991.

We arrive at about 3.30 pm and are looking forward to a nice relaxing afternoon and evening around the sanatorium. We’ve no idea what we’re letting ourselves in for, but we’re willing to give it a go.

The drive to Jeti Oghuz is really nice and there are some spectacular red rock formations in the land surrounding the village. They carry legends about broken hearts and bulls due to their appearance and are impressiveto see. It’s not hard to spot the sanatorium; a huge concrete building standing in a parkland area, looking tired and slightly sorry for itself. We manage to get into the grounds after using hand signals to the ladies at the gate that we’re looking for somewhere to sleep and get refreshed.

Carl goes in to see what the score is and it’s a bit of an eye opener. The place is a real throwback to old Soviet times and if it wasn’t in such a dilapidated state, you could literally be back in the 1950’s when it was probably the pride of the area. Inside it feels more like a hospital and there are about six women dressed in white outfits who look like they run the place. One takes Carl into her office and with the aid of a translation book, the keys words being flagged with bookmarks, we arrange for a room and access to the swimming pool.

We get checked into the room, which is a bit of a shock – it looks more like a hospital room with half tiled walls and a very clinical feel. Actually, the place feels more like a lunatic asylum and we’re wondering what we’ve got ourselves into. We decide to stick with it – this is something completely new for both of us. We get ready to head to the pool and wander along the empty corridors to the reception area. We gesture that we’re ready for a swim but one of the ladies tells us that we’ve been allocated 6 pm for a swim. We’re not really in a position to discuss as they don’t speak any English and all the signage is in Russian.

So we have nearly two hours to kill and that is largely taken up with a stroll around the gardens and doing a bit of updating the diary next to an old, disused fountain near to the entrance of the sanatorium. 5.45 pm soon arrives and we head back inside to get ready for the pool. Again, we head down to reception and are gestured to go upstairs and wait outside a door. This feels really weird. We can see through the slightly open door that a couple of guys are just finishing off and soon appear through the door.

The lady then tells us to get inside and into the pool. When we walk inside we’re a bit knocked back. It looks like it probably did back in 1932, but the ceiling tiles are all corroded and misshaped; the wall tiles are discoloured, cracked and hanging off in places; and the metal work is rusting. The pool is a brown colour and the tiles look original. It doesn’t look very appealing. Just as we’re contemplating what to do, the lady appears again and beckons us to get in the water and tells us we have fifteen minutes for our ‘session’.

We slowly get into the luke warm water and stand there, assuming that whatever is in the water must be good for us. People do pay for this after all, and we’re guessing it must have curative properties. We’re just hoping that we’re not bathing in a few decades worth of warts and other skin conditions. Both of us again contemplate how this must be right up there as one of the weirdest experiences either of us have ever been through.

Soon enough our fifteen minutes are over and the lady appears to tell us to get out. We’ve no towel as we assumed this would be given to us, so we dry ourselves as best we can and get back into our clothes. Actually we’re quite thankful that we’ve got the bathing out of the way, so we can now just concentrate on getting through the rest of the evening.

We head out for a longer walk to the village and through the parkland surrounding the sanatorium. There are a few people walking around and it seems quite a harmonious place. We decide to stop in a small cafe for something to eat, but feel a bit awkward when we realise we’re interrupting the family that run the place just as they’re finishing their dinner. Of course, business is business though, and they are immediately rushing around to clear the table for us to sit down.

It’s getting dark now and we’ve realised throughout the afternoon and evening that we’ve seen no signs of electricity in the village or sanatorium. Surely there must be power?

It appears not, and we have dinner by candlelight after the sun has gone down. We have a torch with us, but as we get back to the sanatorium, conspicuous by its darkness, Carl decides to turn out the torch to see what happens. Do they expect us to negotiate the empty corridors of this place in the pitch black? We enter the main doors and Carl says ‘hello’ into the pitch black. A lady appears behind us who must have been sat outside and she scuttles off into the darkness to rummage through a cupboard to get some candles.

You really couldn’t make this up. We’ve checked into an eighty year old dilapidated sanatorium, which has the appearance of a mental institution. Bar a couple of Kyrgyz families we appear to be the only guests. There’s no electricity, and it’s Friday the 13th. The lady walks us to our room with the candle and also places one outside the common toilets in the corridor opposite our room.

We get inside and head straight to bed, keeping a candle burning in the room to act as a nightlight. Neither of us are looking forward to a night run to the toilet! We think we’re settled, but about thirty minutes after going to bed we get a rap at the door. What now? Carl opens the door to be greeted by a woman’s face illuminated by the candle she’s holding in front of her. Spooky! She tells us to come and get the motorbikes as they’re not safe outside.

We get ready and bring the bikes to the front of the sanatorium, however the lady still wants us to bring them inside. Normally we’d welcome such an invitation, however there are four huge steps leading up the entrance and it takes a few times to explain to the lady there’s no way we’ll get the bikes up there. We settle for a little area near to the entrance and head back into the sanatorium and to bed.

Jour 117 – Vendredi 13 Aout 2010. De Karakol a Jeti Oguz, Kyrgyzstan

Distance: 30 km – Temps a moto: 0.75 heures

Ce matin nous visitons Karakol, la mosquee chinoise, l’église en bois que nous pensions voir il y a 2 jours. Ensuite nous verifions nos emails avant de reprendre la route. Nous avons demande a une amie de nous commander de nouveaux intercoms comme les notres  ne marchent pas trop bien, et nous essayons de nous informer par rapport aux innondations du Pakistan. Nous décidons de retrouver le reste du groupe a Bishkek Lundi soir..

Le rangement de nos affaires a l’hôtel prends un peu plus longtemps que d’habitude comme nous avons sorti toutes nos affaires pour les jours de marche, et comme d’habitude, nous partons au moment le plus chaud de la journée. Nous allons a Jeti Oghuz, ou il y a un sanatorium et des collines rouges. Le sanatorium a été construit en 1932 et Yuri Gagarin et Boris Yeltsin y sont restes, ainsi que le president du Kyrgyzstan.

Nous arrivons au sanatorium vers 3h30 et passons les montagnes rouges dont une partie est en forme de cœur brise et pour laquelle il y a une legende que parle du cœur brise d’une femme pour qui deux hommes se sont battus a mort, etune autre partie qui est nommee les 9 torreaux a cause de leur forme. Les roches sont spectabulaires et valent bien le detour. Nous nous arrêtons au sanatorium et il semble en très mauvais etat, ca que le guide touristique mentionne, mais les bains fonctionnent encore. Carl va se renseigner et ressort après 5 minutes, les batiments n’ont pas été entretenus depuis la periode Sovietique, mais ils ont des chambres et nous pouvons profiter de la piscine. Comme nous avons chaud, nous décidons d’accepter sans verifier l’etat des chambres.

La femme nous guide jusqu’à notre chambre, ce sont comme des chambre d’hospital et il y a 6 femmes en blouse blanche qui s’occupe des lieux, et elles ne parlent pas anglais, mais elles nous font comprendre que notre cession de piscine est a 6 heures…nous sommes un peu surpris, et un peu decus par l’etat de la chambre, mais bon, ca fait partie de l’experience !

Nous passons le temps a faire le tour des jardins et a ecrire le journal en attendant notre tour a la piscine. A six heures, nous demandons aux dames ou aller, et elles nous disent d’attendre devant une porte bleue. Quelques minutes plus tard deux hommes sortent de la salle et la dame nous dit d’y entrer et que nous avons 15 minutes…La salle est assez grande, et il y a une piscine  de 3 x 5 metres au milieu, l’est est brunne-verte et ne nous attire pas trop, mais une des femme viens voir ou nous en sommes et nous fait signe d’entrer dans l’eau. Nous décidons que ca doit être une eau de source avec des elements naturels bon pour la sante et nous y baignons. L’eau est a peine tiede et nous avons un peu froid, et nous n’y restons pas longtemps. Nous discutons de la possibilite de partir de ce lieu etrange et de trouver un autre endroit ou passer la nuit, mais décidons que ca sera une experience interessante…

Après 15 minutes nous sortons et c’est le tour des suivants. Nous retournons dans la chambre, mais il ne semble pas y avoir d’electricite. Nous sortons a nouveau faire un tour dans les jardins et y trouvons un petit café qui semble ouvert. Quand nous entrons, il n’y a que 2 tables et il y fait sombre, mais la femme se leve et debarasse vite une table pour nous et nous porpose une soupe. Nous acceptons, la nuit tombe et il n’y a toujours pas d’electricite, nous mangeons donc a la bougie. Quand nous retournons au sanitarium, il fait nuit noire et il n’y a pas une lumiere, Carl refuse d’utiliser sa torche pour voir si les femmes vont faire quelque chose pour nous aider a trouver notre route dans le batiment. Elles se dirigent dans le noir et vont nous chercher une bougie, et en mettent une devant la porte des toilettes pour la nuit. Carl n’est pas rassure, et quand il se rend compte que c’est vendredi 13, il s’inquiete un peu. Nous nous couchons  et Carl est persuade de nous sommes dans un film d’orreur quandquelqu’un vien frapper a la porte. Quand il ouvre, il y a une femme avec une bougie a la main qui dit ‘motorcycle, motorcycle !’ et nous dit de la suive, elle nous fait comprendre que nous devons bouger les motos.

Il s’est mis a pleuvoir et les femmes pensent que nous devons mettre les motos a l’abris, nous essayons de leur faire comprendre que ca n’est pas un problème, mais comme elles insistent, nous les mettons plus prêt du batiment un peu a l’abris.

Quel vendredi 13 ! Aucun de nous n’en a eu un comme ca !