Bishkek to 20 miles east of Song Kol, Kyrgyzstan

Distance: 166 miles
Time on bikes: 4.75 hours

It’s our last day in the guesthouse so we make the best use of the internet connection to get all the photos and diary updates loaded onto the website before leaving. As usual, this takes a bit longer than expected as the speed of the connection speeds up and slows down as the other residents download stuff from the internet.

We don’t feel in too much of a hurry and get packed up, showered and shaved (Carl) and on our way just after midday. We retrace our steps out of Bishkek heading east towards Kant (great name for a town) and Issik Kol, before taking the road south towards Naryn and the main road heading to China. We’ve been told by Christiane about a turn off to take up to the lake, but before we ride over the Dolon Pass, which rises to 3,030 m. This is probably the highest either of us have ridden the bikes so far, and it would have been really good had it not been completely covered in gravel.

The road is quite busy with trucks coming the other way from China – they’re crawling up the steep gradient at about 5 mph with their engine covers propped open for extra ventilation. Families living in yurts nearby to the road have stalls set up selling bottles of fuel and water to assist any vehicles that run dry of essential fluids. It’s a relief to get to the top and we can at least now coast a bit and give the engines a bit of a break. Towards the end of the descent we see many cars and trucks stopped to fill bottles of water from the river, getting ready for the uphill and anticipated overheating problems.

After the pass, the road turns back to tarmac for a while until we see the turn off that Christiane had told us about. It’s near to a line of yurts and consists of a hardpacked gravel track. Compared to the road over the pass however, it’s smooth and we can travel at about 20 mph with no problems. The ascent however is steep, and although we started at 2,500 m, within a few miles we’re getting to the top of the first hill at over 3,000 m. It’s now about 7 pm and fifty minutes before sunset; the view is fantastic and we’re in a good position to get the best of the remaining daylight if we set up camp now.

We give the chains a quick oil as they’re dry and covered with dust from the gravel roads we’ve been on, before riding off into the nearby grass to find somewhere flat to set the tent. It’s only when putting Carl’s bike on the centre stand do we realise that one of the pannier ‘door hinge’ mounts has sheered off from its weld joint. This means the right hand pannier is now only held on in three locations, but a temporary repair should be possible with a few cable ties. At least door hinges should be readily available we hope, so we’ll now be on the lookout for a replacement and a man handy with a welding torch.

As the sun sets we make a quick pan of rice, accompanied with a packet of carrot and coriander powder soup which has come all the way from Royston. Despite being about one year out of date it makes for a lovely dinner. We needed to eat something hot as the temperature is quickly falling and we’re camping at the highest altitude we’ve ever done. We’ve even put the tarpaulin over the top of the tent to give us another layer of insulation. We should be fine though.

Jour 126 – Dimanche 22 Aout 2010. De Bishkek a 35 km a l’Est de Song Kol, Kyrgyzstan

Distance: 266 km – Temps a moto: 4.75 heures

C’est notre dernier jour avec Internet et nous décidons de mettre le journal le plus a jour possible avant de partir. Ca prends un peu de temps comme la connection n’est pas très rapide et nous ne sommes prets a partir qu’après midi, le temps de tout ranger. Nous repartons vers l’Est pour aller vers Naryn, la route principale vers la Chine.

C’est la même route que pour aller a Issik Kol au départ, puis nous partons vers le sud. Nous voulons aller a Song Kol, et Christiane, que nous avions rencontre a Karakol nous a conseille de prendre la route vers l’ouuest après le col de Doloon (qui monte a 3030metres), après le village, en tournant a droite après les vendeurs de Kumis qui sont dans des Yourtes au bord de la route. Le col est plus lent que nous ne pensions comme la route est mauvaise, c’est du gravier, et il y a beaucoup de poussiere comme il y a beaucoup de camions qui montent au pas.

Le paysage est fantastique, de grandes vallees vertes avec ici et la des yourtes entourees de betail. Quand nous tournons vers Song Kol, la route n’est plus qu’un sentier, mais il est en bon etat et des voitures normales (pas des 4×4) y passent. Nous nous arrêtons un peu plus loin comme il est 7 heures et que la nuit tombe a 8 heures. Le temps de planter la tente et de cuisiner et nous mangeons une soupe en paquet que nous avions ramennee de Royston en profitant du coucher de soleil. Nous sommes bien places, a 3030 metres, avec une vue sur les montagnes tout autours. Comme la nuit nous semble fraiche nous prenons toutes nos epaisseurs dans la tente et mettons la bâche sur la tente pour ajouter un peu d’isolation.