Kyrgyzstan. The land of redemption. After all our run-ins with police and with desert climates, we do what all the bad guys always do: flee and head for mountains. Since my neck-beard is starting to come on, it’s just a matter of time before you start calling me Osama. No need to smoke us out of our caves though George W., we voluntarily headed for Kazakhstan (no, really, no drones please). It’s the Kyrgyzstan Blog Round-up, Launch Day +19 to Launch Day +21!
Roll the tape!
We really liked Kyrgyzstan. Then again, since we hated Uzbekistan so much, even war-torn Libya may have looked good in comparison. Ha. War jokes. I’m basically a war-joke-jukebox; although it’s quite remarkable that my first two were both non-WWII related. Hardly ever happens. I’ll try to refrain from making one in this blog, but we all know that probably won’t happen. Let’s go!*
* I actually forgot one pretty funny thing in the Uzbekistan blog. I’ll just leave this here.
Hehe. Jizz. Such sophisticated humor.
The border entry customs of Kyrgyzstan were pretty relaxed. No bribing, helpful officers, we just had to pay 20 dollars for an eco-tax for the car. It sounded bribe-y, but with all the paperwork we had to do for it, it honestly would have been one of the most elaborate and intricate bribe programs ever. In which case I could only respect the hustle really. Like we said in the previous blog though, Uzbek exit customs, not so much… Took more than two hours, suckers. But yea, if you want to re-read why we hate Uzbekistan so much, just click click click this link!
We basically drove ~100km through the night before we found our convoy members – who set out a bit before us as we had to get some cash moneys in Osh – setting up their tents on the side of the road. I don’t really have footage because the lighting wasn’t ideal. Actually it was nighttime and basically pitch-black, but I feel like all proper photographers and camera people always use “the lighting” as their catchphrase in response to any question they get. I pretty much consider myself a professional photographer/cameraman at this point, so it’s a good excuse to have. I basically told everyone I couldn’t help with putting the tents up as the lighting wasn’t ideal. Asking me whether I’ve finished my beer? Lighting isn’t ideal, so just get me a new one in any case. If I want to help with the dishes? Lighting. Not ideal. I don’t do 50% jobs. Go big or go home Can I get a press pass now?
I really only had one beer though so I couldn’t even use my lighting excuse. What a pity. The name of the beer? One of the most badass I have ever seen. Bear Beer. Basically just beer, but with a big sign of a bear on the bottle. Their website? Bearbeer.kgz. Is Heineken in on this?
Yeah I forgot to take a picture of the front of the bottle and I actually couldn’t find a picture on Google. Shame.
It could also be the beer of choice for the homosexual community obviously, who knows.
Since we were wild camping alongside one of the main roads, we rose at sunrise to get out of the place area unnoticed. Or so was the plan. I got out of the tent at 8:30. Yikes. People didn’t seem to care though, which was a good omen.
Luca woke up before that though and apparently socialized with some truckers. Since we noticed that most trucks in Kyrgyzstan were still driving western brands, we were wondering what truckers consider as the A-list truck brand. We could have known, but they love their “Man” trucks. The actual brand name is “Man,” you may have seen them around. I don’t think there is anything more manly than a man (manly) driving a big-rig (more manly) across 3.000m+ mountain passes (very manly) in a Man truck (so so manly). The “Man” truck commercials really write themselves. Muscular guy with a torn shirt and grease stains, grabbing a beer from his fridge inside his Man truck (if that exists), smoking a cigar, barely-clad women crawling all over the truck, our protagonist just plowing his Man truck right through some B-list truck brand and then racing it through a huge ring of fire. Maybe drive it through an armored concrete wall as well. AC/DC music.
I think I just redefined the truck marketing scene for years to come. And probably set back feminism 40 years. Alas. Then again, this is Man trucks we are talking about.
How about more marketing advice? “Woman” trucks; the first truck brand truly marketed at women. Foot pedicure right there on the clutch and the gas pedal, bright colors, a lame Ikea-design on the inside (and some other overly sexist prejudices I won’t name. You know what I mean). Sounds like an untapped market.
Back to the trucker though and his manly ways. He actually drove his car all the way to Germany from Kyrgyzstan to buy his Man truck second-hand there, left the car behind as part of the payment, and drove his Man truck back to Kyrgyzstan. Now that right there would actually be an amazing commercial for Man trucks. Probably just have the Man truck drive through a military road block in Turkey as well for added effect. That commercial idea is just a bit better than mine, just a tiny bit.
Sorry for going off-track there for a bit (did I already say that the Man truck should also drive off-road in that commercial? Man stuff). That morning, we started 50km north of Osh and set out for the capital Bishkek in the North, some 600+ km away. In rather mountainous terrain. Quick spoiler, getting out of bed late pretty much guaranteed night time driving. Again.
The sights on the road though? Amazing. Morning view as we were packing up the tents
Actually I didn’t pack up anything but instead took photo and video. You know, the lighting was ideal, couldn’t let that opportunity go to waste. Lighting. You can basically use the excuse for not doing something, and then also whenever it is in the daytime you can just wander off to take pictures. I don’t mind this photography thing.
A bit later, as we were driving northwest, we actually drove right next to the barbed wire that separated Kyrgyzstan from Uzbekistan. As we despised everything and everyone that represents the state of Uzbekistan, we went up to the fence and waved at two unsuspecting soldiers to get some healthy revenge. They didn’t wave back, even when we yelled hello. It’s called manners, come on Uzbekistan.
The roads were really good, and the views amazing. Lakes everywhere, mountains everywhere, no deserts around. Especially the no deserts part we liked. Mild temperatures. Just fantastic. Some quick shots in no particular order.
Luca also made friends with little Kyrgyz kids. Since our convoy members of Team Pandiamoaquelpaese were handing out pencils in bunches, we figured we’d give on the kids an actual notebook to write stuff in. When Luca held up two in front of him so he could choose his preferred color, he wanted to grab both. Ungrateful brat. Kids these days. Insert Clint Eastwood rant.
If that isn’t one of those 3rd or 4th photos on your Tinder profile to show the world you care about others I don’t know what is.
A bit later we started really going up, and even went over two passes of around 3.200 meters. For the exact height, just check the video up top! Our TomTom Bandit Cam actually has a GPS in there so it registers speed, altitude, route, and even G-Force. Hey GoPro, now yis can’t leave.
Alessandro rode a horse. When in Kyrgyzstan.
Moments later, a sheep herd numbering more than a 100 came down from the hills and descended on the gravel. Quite intimidating really. Funniest part? This guy.
Or girl more likely. We eat most of the guy cows I guess. Still though, what is that cow doing there? I had no clue multiculturalism was also a thing in the animal world. The sheep are probably already conspiring to erect borders and make sure he (she?) doesn’t get welfare in the form of food originally meant for the sheep. Go back to your own pastures. And since cows are both black and white at the same time, they’re probably the easiest target for discrimination ever. I’d totally use that if I were the head sheep trying to kick this guy (girl?) out of my herd.
Since it was a long days ride, we unfortunately had to do the last mountain pass in the dark. So no real footage except for the quick shots in the video as proof of our altitude. A pity really, the views must have been amazing!
We got into Bishkek around 1 AM, which looked rather lame from the car. Then again, we were pretty tired, so I guess we were inclined to not like stuff at this point. What we did like was the 2 AM guilty pleasure kebab just before bed.
I think we had 1 beer and were all already tipsy at that point due to the lack of food intake and proper sleep. Quite economical though. And cheap, not bad. The next morning we set off for the Kazakh border, which was literally 20 minutes away, but that’s a whole other blog. Let’s go to the travel advice!
A new recurring feature! Since we’re now coming across countries most of you have never been or may never ever go to, we’re going to hand out travel advice! For free! Lonely Planet we’re coming for that market share! Our travel advice is indexed by 1-5 Shakira’s: 1 being the lowest score, whereas 5 means that you should go Whenever, wherever! (Get it?). We mix in some advice on the when’s (think temperature, tourism seasons etc) as well as the where’s, and we index it all with Shakira’s!
Basically, we only spent one full day in Kyrgyzstan, as we arrived in Osh at night and left Bishkek for Kazakhstan in the morning. All we saw was the western part that takes you from Osh, through several valleys and over multiple mountain passes, towards the capital in the North. It’s only a 600km stretch or so, but we loved it nonetheless. The only knocks that we have is that the food wasn’t spectacular and that the cities/towns seemed pretty lame. The landscape, though: breathtaking. That’s why we’re giving it a grand total of 4 Shakira’s!
If you decide to go, be sure to spend at least 4-5 days there if not more. Oh and it’s visa free, so you can just show up whenever and get stamped in without a problem. Saves you quite some cash as well!
From what we heard and saw, outdoor activities in the mountains such as hiking and horse-riding are a total must. Maybe even go for some kayaking or rafting in the mountain rivers if you can! We already got some amazing views from the road, which usually only take you through the lowest possible parts of the valleys, so actually scaling some of those mountains must be way more impressive. Only go in summer though… Even now it got pretty cold as soon as we got over 3.000 meters. Some of the roads are only open in the summer season, so going to Kyrgyzstan in winter would be even more dumb than going to the Netherlands in the summer to work on your tan.
Anywhere, really. Just don’t consider hanging around the towns or cities too much, as those weren’t that special. Just head for the mountains, and especially some of the higher plateaus in the Northwest or in the East if you really want a challenge! And although I kinda hate horses, I could imagine that horse-lovers would love horse-riding in this place.
After a late night in Bishkek, we set out for glorious nation Kazakhstan the morning after. Quite a bit different than what you’d expect after watching Borat. But that’s for a later blog. But I do think Borat hated the Uzbeks as well, and that’s something we can all get behind.
That’s it for now. Shakira, take us out!
Luca & Abel