Ala Archa to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Distance: 38 miles
Time on bikes: 1.25 hours

After a light breakfast of eggs with bread we head out for another walk, this time down the valley and in the opposite direction to tackle a six kilometre circular walk.

This starts slightly badly as we manage to find ‘a’ bridge across the river, however it was seriously dilapidated and wobbly. But still, it was a bridge and we both managed to make it across and find the path leading up the valley. It’s only when we get higher up do we see a bridge in slightly better and useable condition further down the river. Oh well.

We continue to walk up the valley, following the signs and the river. The path however seems to get narrower and narrower, as the river begins to get steeper towards the gorge it’s running through. We see another destroyed bridge and the signs for the circular walk on the other side, however there’s no safe way of getting across. There are still signs on this side of the river, so we continue up. About 200 m later however, after a bit of debate, we decide to turn around. It’s never easy to give in, but the path is very steep and narrow. If we slip, we’re straight into a raging river.

One of the things we had wanted to see was a cemetery for fallen Soviet and Kyrgyz climbers which is apparently on the circular walk. We’ve not seen anything, but if we continue there’s a good chance we could end up in it!

Back down in the valley, we cross the ‘good’ bridge and have another look at the map for the route. It looks like we may have missed a turning at some point, so maybe the Kyrgyz authorities aren’t totally to blame for the condition of the track we were trying to navigate…

After another little debate, we decide to head back up the valley and have another go at finding the cemetery. It doesn’t take too long and after fifteen minutes we spot the turn off that we’d walked past on the first attempt. About thirty minutes after setting off, we manage to find the cemetery. It’s quite a moving place and after signing the book, we have a look around. There are pictures of the climbers and the book has articles telling about the people who are here, but that’s all in Russian.

It’s amazing to see that many of the people who have died in the mountains are so young, with the majority probably being under the age of 35. One of the most impressive graves is that of a helicopter pilot who died in a crash in 2004 – there’s a blade from the helicopter mounted next to the headstone and a part of the blade mount showing the bent metal where the blade sheared off in the crash. All quite sobering. Oh, can can anybody spot the Orb in the photograph of the cemetery?

We then head back down, quite carefully, to the hotel where we get packed up and on our way. We’re heading back to Bishkek as we need to get some more cash, but on the way stop off in the village of Chong Tash, which is the location where nearly 140 members of the then Soviet Kyrgz Government were assassinated in 1938. Nobody knew of the atrocity until the 1980’s and there is now a memorial to the victims.

We get back to Bishkek at about 5.30 pm and after topping up with cash, we head back to the old guest house. We’re in luck and they have our old room available, in fact they’re really quiet. We text Stephano and Marcella to see if they’re around and meet up with them at about 8.30 pm at a nice little restaurant to have a catch up chat and discuss the road ahead.