Day 69: Good-Bye Tajikistan, Hello Kyrgyzstan
After spending yesterday the whole day at Karakul due to the miserable weather, I started today another attempt to cross the pass to Kyrgyzstan. The weather at the Kizil Art Pass (4336 m) looked much better as compared to yesterday so I left the homestay. In the evening I arrived in Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan, but the ride was everything but smooth and pleasant.
Good weather in the morning
Everything looked perfect in the morning. Blue sky, magnificent view on Lake Karakul and the mountains that surround it, and a slight tail wind at the homestay. The temperatures were quite chilly, but that’s why I carried all the necessary gear up there.
Crossing the “valley of death”
After 20 km easy cycling, things changed quite quickly. I had to climb a first pass named “Uy Buloq Pass” in order to reach what the locals call the “valley of death”. A local told me yesterday that there is always strong wind in this valley, and that there is no shelter from the wind and no civilization at all. I thought yesterday that he might be exaggerating a bit, but unfortunately every word was true. For almost 30 km I had a very strong head wind that was blowing constantly sand into my face, and as if the wind and the thin air at this altitude were not enough, the road conditions got awful as well, making the climb to the Kizil Art Pass, the border between the two countries, a nightmare. Luckily nobody could hear me, but I used some bad language every now and then.
In the past 31 days, I was cycling through Tajikistan and I enjoyed every moment of it. The landscape is just fantastic with all those mountains, valleys, lakes, and also flatter parts. The Tajiks are also very hospitable people and at no time I felt unsafe anywhere. I could very well imagine going back to Tajikistan, maybe not for cycling, but for trekking or paragliding.
When I reached the border post 100 m below the pass, the two friendly soldiers were very efficient so I did not have to wait long in the chilly wind. The whole process took at most 10 minutes.
Lunch in No-Man’s Land
The Tajik border post is very close to the border, but the border post of Kyrgyzstan is 20 km down from the pass at a much more pleasant altitude. This however means, that I was cycling 20 km without officially being in a country. I was very surprised to meet a farmer around 3 km after the pass who was actually living there. Because I have not eaten a lot during the day, I wanted to cook some lunch for me, but the farmer insisted that I come into his house, so I had lunch there.
The farmer’s life up there must be quite lonely, at an altitude of more than 4000 m between two countries. That’s probably why he asked me if I had a computer with me and if I could copy images and music on one of his memory cards. Once inside his house, I discovered that he had a small media player device. After copying some files, he was looking at pictures from me paragliding in Switzerland and to some of the newly copied music. It was very touching to see how little made this guy happy. He also wanted to invite me to stay overnight, but I wanted to reach Sary Tash tonight, and this was still 45 km away. Luckily downhill.
After going downhill through deep mud for 20 km, I finally reached the Kyrgyz border post. The officers were equally friendly and efficient as the Tajiks. After around 15 minutes I was officially cycling in Kyrgyzstan.
The weather in Kyrgyzstan however did not welcome me in a friendly way. There were rainstorms in the whole valley. At first I thought I could avoid them, but then I had to unpack my rain gear and cycle for the last hour through hail and heavy rain before I reached the homestay in Sary Tash. The positive aspect of this shower was that the mud on my bike from the descent partially got cleaned off automatically.
Max elevation: 4295 m
Min elevation: 3155 m
Total climbing: 1440 m
Total descent: -2184 m
Total time: 10:05:57