Mar 18

Incredible views (Destination: Western Kyrgyzstan)

Wed, Oct 23, 2013

Another nice breakfast and 8:00 departure from Bishkek. It was a LONG day of driving and I think the extremely long walking in flip flops on cement yesterday meant I felt very achy all day. The views were good but it was cloudy most of the day. The most interesting things that happened all day is that we stopped at a gas station where we prepared and made our lunch while a few locals watched.

We passed thru a 2 Km long one-way tunnel. This tunnel is famous due to an accident that happened a few years ago. A car crashed in the tunnel and blocked traffic. The truck drivers kept their trucks idling and several people died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
In the afternoon, we stopped for a toilet break (in the bushes) and 3 generations of Kyrgyz men came by (Grandpa, 2 sons, and a grandson). They saw us searching for campfire wood and joined it. We took pictures of the family and especially grandpa who was wearing one of the traditional hats.

We got into a so-so campsite just before dark. It was next to a river but it was very used and very littered. It was very windy and just slightly sprinkling. I was still on cook group so we made a spicy chicken curry and rice. As we prepared the dinner, there was a wild jackal hanging around the campsite and I wanted a photo but I didn’t see him again after he was shoed away from the camp. After dinner, there were lots of leftovers – like I’ve hypothesized, we are getting more and more food the longer the trip goes on. In the early days, there was barely enough for seconds and now everyone has seconds plus there’s loads of leftovers. Since it was too windy to have a campfire so some of us sat in the truck to stay warm before bed.

Steps: 5,908 (the least of the trip – result of riding in the truck and cook group which keeps me too busy.)

Thurs, Oct 24

It was surprisingly warm (48 degrees) and not windy at all this morning – great camping/sleeping weather. I slept close to 10 hours last night! I wasn’t particularly looking forward to today after yesterday’s long drive but today ended up being one of the best days of the trip so far.
The morning drive was spectacular. We were driving along the Naryn river – the longest river in Kyrgyzstan. This particular river was dammed and the bright greenish blue water filled a canyon as the walls of the canyon reflected in the beautifully clean water. I couldn’t stop taking pictures from the truck as we drove along.

We stopped at the dam to take pictures and buy treats. A picture of the dam appears on the 100 som currency note here.

We needed bread for our lunch so we stopped in a town near the Uzbek border in the western part of the country. We only spent about 20 minutes here but people were so friendly here – encouraging that we take their picture and buy their goodies and we did – we tried the local ice cream, sour cheese balls, fried bread filled with onions or potatoes, etc.

We stopped for lunch in the fields shortly after. There was a cotton field nearby and harvest was going on. We went to have a look and the owner of the field was there and spoke English so he told us a bit about the process. He said he got about $1 for a kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of raw cotton. Ladies were picking out the seeds – such as laborious process.

We stopped for a bush camp by midafternoon. We were trying to camp as close to the Uzbek border in the city of Osh without having to stay in a hotel in Osh. We found a nice place in an open flood plain over a river. We stayed just about the flood line. Below the flood plain was some amazing, varied cracked earth.

In the far distance, I could see a lake so I decided to have a walk to see sunset at the lake. I first walked over to the river to walk along the banks. The earth was cracked all the way to the banks of the river. There were lots of birds around but they seemed to all fly away before I could get close. As I got closer to the lake, I could see the river cut across into the hill. I went over to go around the river but there was a stream going into the river. I could see the earth was cracked here but it looked a little wetter. A few steps on was a little spongy. The next two steps put me deep in the mud. I tried to get my feet out and discovered I was in quicksand! I remembered my survival skills and laid over the prior steps with my body to spread my weight.  I pulled my right foot out of the mud and tried to do the same with my left but it was stuck. I had to take my shoe off to get my foot out. I had to save the shoe because it was my only pair of closed toe shoes for hiking so I pried the shoe out. There was about 3 inches of mud on the outer sides of the shoe but none on the top. I hurried away from the spot and abandoned my effort to make it to the lake. Near the quick sand, I discovered some dead, dried shrimp. I think they were lake shrimp that got trapped in the flood. Shortly thereafter, I noticed the first of a couple dozen bubbling mud springs. I don’t think these were hot boiling mud pots. They were very picturesque and there were some strange tiny pink plants near the mud pots. I stopped by some small ponds to photograph the sunset which was nice.

We started the birthday celebration for Barb a day early. Barb is my daytime seatmate and often we do sightseeing and hiking together.  Her birthday is tomorrow. Tomorrow we’d be crossing the border and staying in a hotel – it will be a long day and difficult to celebrate a birthday. Our drivers will need to leave overnight to drive our truck to Tashkent. Apparently, there is a mountain pass in Uzbekistan that is too dangerous/heavy to take the truck with the passengers. Instead the truck will be empty and we will be in taxi cabs for that portion.

Before dinner, I made some hot apple cider for the group. I had some leftover money so I bought 2 large jars of cider in town today. Since I’m missing a whole season in the US, I’m reminiscing for things I will miss in autumn and hot apple cider is one of them. We’ve driven past several turkeys in the Kyrgyz countryside and every time I think of Thanksgiving which I’ll miss.
We had a awesome dinner of lasagna and salad. We followed this by birthday cake and a fireworks show in the desert!

Steps: 18,305



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