After spending the night with nomads, I continued today on my path to Lake Song Kol. After a short descent in the early morning, I had to climb 1000 m on a difficult road. After briefly enjoying the view on the top of the pass on 2800 m, I started to descend again. I did not descend for long though because I was invited to tea by some nomads that had their yurt set up close to the pass. After a full lunch in the end, I continued my descent and after a very bumpy ride (that also broke my camera unfortunately), I arrived at a small village in the evening. From there, it should be a 1300 m ascent to Lake Song Kol.
Another big pass
It is now the third day in a row where I have to climb a high pass, and also the third time in a row that the road was unpaved and in a very bad condition. Climbing a pass on loose gravel roads costs a lot more energy than on a paved road, because often when pedaling the rear wheel just spins, but the bicycle does not move an inch. So the key is to “read” the road and try to cycle where the rear wheel is most unlikely to spin. Cycling through central Kyrgyzstan really is not easy. And tomorrow when climbing to Song Kul, it will be another pass with I guess the same conditions.
Nevertheless, I did not surrender (I got more than one offer today to load my bicycle on a car) and after climbing steadily for three hours, I reached the top of the pass.
Tea at nomads’ yurt
It is really not difficult in Kyrgyzstan to get in touch with people, especially with nomads that live in their yurts along the road. Usually, the kids come running when I pass by and shout one of their English phrases “Hello”, “How are you”, “What is your name”, “What is your name”, etc. If I stop and enter the conversation, it is only a short step that one of the elderly people signals that I shall come for tea. Today it was actually even the kids who invited me to the tea. And as it was lunch time anyway, I accepted.
As yesterday evening, the menu up here is very limited. There is Kumin (fermented horse milk), tea, fresh baked bread, butter, and other fresh products from their animals. As the bread was really fresh from the oven and tasted fantastic, this was also my lunch.
After lunch we had a short photo session inside the yurt and also outside with the family. I usually don’t push locals so I can take pictures, but in this case they were constantly asking me to take pictures, so I took advantage of it.
Descent to small village
When I entered the yurt, the sky was blue with some small clouds. When I left the yurt one hour later, the sky was dark and rain was about to start any second, and I could also hear some thunders. So I started the 1100 m descent and cycled as fast as the road conditions allowed down the mountain, always having the rain in my back. But I managed to keep a short advantage over the rain until I was in the flat where I still had to cycle 20 km on horrible roads. On these roads, the average speed is below 10 km/h, making these 20 km quite long.
The rain finally caught up with me. It was not raining for long, but short and partially intensively again and again. After about the third time the rain started, I put on my rain gear. Of course the rain stopped soon after, and the remaining 10 km were quite warm under the rain clothes. However, I did not want to take them off, because once I take it off, I can be sure the rain comes back.
Too much for my camera
While I survived the bumpy roads one more time, unfortunately my Sony camera did not. Due to the immense vibrations on such roads, the sensor of the camera somehow broke off the camera case, making it hanging more or less loose in the camera body. Interestingly, the camera is still taking pictures. And the photos with a loose sensor are also interesting, because now there is a black border on the pictures on two edges, and the image is not horizontal anymore. I can crop the image and correct the tilted image in Lightroom, but it means extra work and loss of resolution. And honestly, I don’t think a loose sensor will survive another 2 weeks of bumpy roads, but let’s keep the fingers crossed.
Even though the conditions are tough on the roads, from a professional camera such as the Sony A7R II (list price around CHF 3200 for the body), I expected more robustness. I could fully understand if the camera broke because I dropped it or hit it against an object, but in this case the camera just broke while being transported in the camera bag. I am curious how Sony will react to this, because the camera is still under warranty.
Should the camera break completely, I will have no other choice than using my Smartphone for the remaining 2 weeks here in Central Asia.
Night at a homestay
Kyrgyzstan has an excellent network of homestays (i.e. guest houses). In most villages, there is at least one family offering space in their home for travelers like me. I was really happy today after the bad weather and tough ride to easily find a homestay, because sleeping in a house is more relaxing than outside in a tent (on an inflatable mattress that loses air during the night). Sometimes these homestays are also quite simple. Today’s homestay for instance had an outdoor shower in a corner of the farm. While showering, chicken were running around. But still, there was hot water, so I did not mind.
I am not sure yet whether I will continue tomorrow to Song Kul or take a day break. The weather forecast for tomorrow is really bad, so I will check the situation in the morning.
Max elevation: 2758 m
Min elevation: 1655 m
Total climbing: 1603 m
Total descent: -1891 m
Total time: 09:17:58