2 Ride the World - the epic journey continues 2RTW

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by simon thomas, Aug 26, 2006.

  1. IdeaWife

    IdeaWife Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2008
    Oddometer:
    441
    Location:
    Central Coast
    Thank you sooooo much for posting this amazing RR!:clap I love it!

    The website seems to be doing some maintenance but I will be checking back. I want one of those calendars so I can dream over the pics.... :D
  2. lisa thomas

    lisa thomas www.2ridetheworld.com

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Oddometer:
    151
    Location:
    10 years on the road and still going..back in USA!
    thanks IdeaWife!
    yep - all is fine and up and running at http://stores.lulu.com/2ridetheworld
    now...check it out!

    every one we sell puts gas in the tanks and means we can get closer to achieving our goal of 122 countries.
  3. richnyc

    richnyc Vagabond on a bike

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    40
    Location:
    Around NYC
    Mindblowingly amazing photos. You guys have make me go visit Central Asia again... This time on a motorbike. I cycled in Western China and Pakistan before;)
  4. MJS

    MJS Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,313
    Location:
    Off grid in San Felipe, Baja
    Wow, Great stuff. Where do you plan to go after Iran?
  5. ATAK

    ATAK Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    212
    Location:
    arnhem, netherlands
    You are so right to take time to see and drive in mongolia and so on. I did mongolia also but now I am home and think I did it to fast.

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    Enjoy the trip, Ad
  6. simon thomas

    simon thomas www.2ridetheworld.com

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2002
    Oddometer:
    512
    Location:
    ...on the road to everywhere
    Hi MJC

    Well, hopefully after Iran we'll be heading into Pakistan and then into India and hen Nepal. From there...mmmm? We cant ride across Burma, we can get in but you have to exit at the same border you entered so transit is out.:huh

    Any way we'll somehow get into the Far East and from there make our way down to Australia.

    Right now we've got our visa's for Turkmenistan Normally bloody tough) and Iran but there's new concerns over Pakistan. Especially now with the increased threat of kidnappings and Taliban issues. The Pakistani embassy in Dushanbe wouldn't issue us Visa's so we'll head in Tehran Iran's capital and apply there and keep our fingers crossed. We've just picked up a letter 'of no objection' from the British Embassy here in Tajikistan. We don't know if it will help but we know it wont hurt.

    .................

    ATAK, nice looking KTM, where did you get to in Mongolia? Yeah we can't speak highly enough of the hole experience there...incredible!!!

    Here's a preview of the calendar we put together...one of the months is just an encounter we had with some Mongolian herdsmen and a women, all they wanted was to sit on the bike, check it over and wear and riding gear. have a look at the bottom right image. Anyone who's ridden through Mongolia will know exactly what this is about.

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    On a different note, and yeah I'm shameless...I got to bed this morning at 2:30am after uploading a new calendar to the publishers. Called "Legendary Landscapes' check it our and let us know your thoughts. Make a nice X-mas pressie:evil :freaky :lol3

    Cheers
    Simon T
  7. simon thomas

    simon thomas www.2ridetheworld.com

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2002
    Oddometer:
    512
    Location:
    ...on the road to everywhere
    After being stunned by the people, landscape and riding in Mongolia we set about heading back into Mother Russia, well, Novosibirsk to be exact to pick up the first of our visa for the 'The Stans'.

    Our plan; to skirt the Chinese and Afghan border and ride the famous 'Silk Route' through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and finally Turkmenistan before gambling that we'd get through Iran.

    It was a hell of a ride so buckle up and hang on.

    28-09-2009

    The short 25-miles ride down to the border took longer than it should.

    It took us 30 minutes to find the road which eventually wound its way back into the center of town, through a industrial zone and then out the other side. The road sign that read A349 in Cyrillic were reassuring.

    The morning was dark and cold. South of town the land looked bleak, a lonely railway line runs in parallel to the road on the right. Exiting Russia was surprisingly easy if not time consuming. We’d filled out 3 duplicates of our departure declaration, two of which got handed back to us. The cursory bike and kit inspection was fueled more by curiosity than suspicion. In no mans land things were going slow up as we waited for 3-hours in the pouring rain. We’d handed over our passports for inspection at the small hut and been handed them back with a small piece of paper that we would get stamped multiple times and then we'd hand over when we finally exit.

    Eventually, we were waived through and into the new looking immigration building where we handed our passports over to the polite English speaking inspection guard. Past him we filled in entry declaration papers and then handed those to the guy outside who’d been inspecting our bikes. With that we were done.

    It had taken a bloody age but pretty easy.

    And so here we are in country 61, Kazakhstan.

    Rough asphalt lead us all the way down to the city of Semey, where we easily found the hotel Semey that we’d been told about by other travelers. This will be home for a few nights, whilst we get more Visa’s

    The Hotel cemey is clean with secure parking and cost us $30 for a private room for two with a bathroom. For a hotel inside a major city, we figure that’s pretty cheap.

    Now, nice as Semey is we’re not going to linger and for good reason. Back in the Soviet days Russia figured the landscape and it’s people were disposable and so chose it as a testing ground for the Nuclear development program. To that end they let off 498 nuclear detonations. The radiation fallout effects the whole area to date. Every book we read suggest 'strongly that we don’t eat locally grown produce and drinking the water is a bad idea. Bloody hell, a couple of nukes is awful, but c’mon…498 separate nuclear detonations. Good God! Yeah we’ll be leaving pretty soon.

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    29-09-2009

    We’d planned to head off today, but by last night it was clear that we outstanding jobs that couldn’t wait.

    Up early we’ve spent the entire day working, sending out 57 separate emails, finishing writings that need to be sent and compiling and sending the report to BMW Motorrad on the Trail guard bike suit we’d been sponsored with.

    It took an age to update our own website and then post our Mongolian experiences on a number of biker forums. It all just takes us much time.

    30-09-2009

    We left Semey around 11:00am after downing breakfast and coffee picked up the southerly route easily. Out of town the the good tar steadily deteriorated until the holes became so frequent and deep that we’re forced to stand on the pegs, frequently switching from one side of the road to the other to ovoid crashing into the crazily deep potholes. We’ve not seen potholes like these since Mozambique.

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    We stopped for gas in a small town and then kept a steady pace heading south.

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    We’d hoped to stop early in daylight, find a nice little camp spot, get out the Kermit chairs and enjoy a quite night. As dusk set in we’d seen no camping possibilities. I’d already taken half a dozen small tracks off into the surrounding landscape in the hope of finding somewhere out of sight. Each track either lead to a small holding or simply didn’t give us shelter from the eyes on the road.

    Both Lisa and I were now taking our frustrations out on one another. Tired bitter words were hurled and stung.

    Finally we’d pulled off the road and rode around 2-miles down a track, several gullies and even a riverbed and pulled up in the dark behind a small knoll. We’d unloaded the bikes and set up the tent when out of the hills a silhouetted walking figure walked down towards us. In my head I was thinking “shit, here we go, he’s going to ask us to pay something or tell us to leave”.

    I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Our new friend came down and after confirming that camping on his land was absolutely no problem, he shook my hand firmly and kissed Lisa on both cheeks. Our companion was all of 5ft 5 with dark swarthy skin and forearms like Popeye. “chi, chi” he asked keenly. This was an invitation to his home for tea. We had no idea where he’d walked from but accepting seemed like the right thing to do. Leaving our belongings behind us the three of us walked into the black night, round a small hill and quickly found ourselves amongst ancient but huge farming equipment. 3 large dogs launched themselves at us, from the shadows created by the half moon. Lisa and I are taken by surprise and jumped back. Each of the dogs aggressively yanked backwards as the chains around their necks reach their full length. Fanged teeth still snap the air as we pass, our new friend doesn’t try to hide his amusement at our startled reaction.

    Inside the tiny mud brick hut we are met by his young looking wife and his 3-year old son. Sat at a wooden hand cut table the straw rood almost touches my head. The log roof beams bow in the centre under the weight of the rotten and stinking straw roof. The dark room is lit by a single storm light, holding a small wax candle. The warmth is surprising. In the corner the mud brick stove glows red inside as timber crackles and burns. His wife looks no more than about 15-19. His young son is fascinated by Lisa.

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    The invitation of Chi is repeated. A tall blue plastic oil sized drum sits against the wall. At the drum our new friend grabs the wooden paddle and pumps and stirs the liquid inside vigorously. I already knew what was to come. A small plastic tap is turned and the white liquid is poured into small cute white bowls, which are then laid on the table. He gesture us to drink. We both already know what this is, the smell is unmistakable…fermented camels milk. Lisa’s already tucking in as I lift the bowl to my mouth and sip gently. “Oh my God, this is fucking awful, OK, don’t gag, don’t gag, oh the smell. I can’t finish this”. This is what went through my head. The fizzy sour taste is absolutely foul. Lisa’s still sipping. “Can you drink it” I asked Lisa. To my horror and even disgust she replies…”yeah, I actually quite like it”!

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    I make a few noises suggesting that I’m loving it and make sure our host can hear me. I force a smile and go back for a second sip. I am genuinely convinced that I’ve as little chance of finishing the foul liquid as ‘Torvile and Dean’ making a comeback. My gag reflex is working over time. All the while our hosts are watching me smiling through the struggle and are looking for signs of my approval. I find it rather ironic that I make it through Mongolia without tasting the milk only to be drinking it in Kazakhstan.

    By some miracle I downed the lot and politely declined the offer of a fill up.

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    From the corner fire the young women brings a small rusting and chipped enamel tea pot and pours hot dark liquid into 4 small cups. Again in my head…”thank god”, this actually is tea. On her second trip back to the table she places a dark and heavy pan filled to the brim with rice that has been cooked in mutton fat. The gestures to eat are emphatic. Both the tea and the rice taste bloody fantastic and the four of us talk with words and hand movement well into the night as the small room gets warmer and warmer. I'm truly not sure who was more fascinated with who. By the nights end, our tired eyes were getting the better of us and saying our good nights felt a little sad, in this intimate and friendly atmosphere. Outside the nights air felt bitter cold, in comparison to the warmth we'd left. Our new friend walked us all the way back to our tent. Lisa had already made it clear that we had a gift for his wife and using the torch she’d routed around in one of the panniers and found one of her south American hand made necklaces. Our new friend received it with surprise and obvious excitement. We’re pretty sure his wife will enjoy wearing it. I thought it was a great gesture on Lisa’s behalf.

    We’re now inside the tent and marveling at what had been a completely suprising but wonderful evening, when Lisa mentions her concern regarding being trampled to death by the cows. The following conversation has me seriously wondering about her mental health. Here goes…

    “Lisa, it’s fine, they’re just cows”. “SIMON!…more people die in England from cows than anything else”!!!!! I look at Lisa and tilt my head as say “what”. I can already feel a smile make its way across my face and I’m not going to try and hide it. “WHAT”! Lisa demands. Bloody hell, where do I begin?

    I continue, because I have too. “So you’re telling me that you think that cows kill more people in the UK than anything else”? Now at this point Lisa probably knows she’s misspoken, but she’s sure as hell not going to admit it. I continue. “Hang on, I can believe that there are more deaths from cows than say, lightening strikes, but I’m pretty sure that If cows were the number 1 cause of death in the UK, not only would I have heard about it, but we’d all be bloody vegetarians.


    “No it’s true”, Lisa barks, digging her heels in and making the hole she’s now in just ever so much slightly deeper. I’m now giggling. I’ve already got a Monty Python news sketch running through my head, as John Cleese looks into the camera in a news flash kinda way and states…”today's breaking news….36 people were wildly savaged and killed today in the sleepy town of Windsor bringing this months death toll to 525. The highest toll in 3-months. The government has gone into emergency session hoping to find a way of controlling the gorilla style attacks of the freshens, their black and white camouflage making them bloody hard to spot. You get the idea and you can see how my mind works.

    Eventually even Lisa’s smiling, especially when I’ve told her what’s in my head. Bloody hell she can be so blond sometimes. If we don’t make too the morning and someone finds our trampled bodies and this journal, it’ll just prove Lisa right, how ironic would that be?

    OK, enough typing, sat up in my bag my back is now killing me.

    Night, night.

    01-10-2009

    With our kit already away the silhouetted figure on horse back was riding closer, our friend from last night came to bid us farewell and make sure we didn’t go hungry, as he reached down from his horse and handed us a bottle of fermented camel milk, and a plastic bag of the sour tasting curd balls? With a few photos taken of our generous host we made ourselves ready to leave.

    The click, click…click sound sent my heart plummeting. “Fuck no”, I uttered to myself. Lisa had heard the same soul destroying noise. “How can your battery be flat?” she asked “It’s brand new”. All I could do was shrug my shoulders. Without the clever little adaptions we’d made to the power harness which allowed us to jump start easily, we had to strip both bikes to get to the batteries. After 45 minutes of prating around the big GS barked to life, a thick belch of gas shooting out from the exhaust into the cold morning air. We think we have a problem with the rinky-dink electrical switch that turns on the Xenon lights. I’ll have to check it later.

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    The day has been longer than we’d thought -a mixture of good and down right horrible tar made the going slow. By late evening we’d hit the outskirts of the regional capital of Taldyqorghan, which we affectionately renamed ‘Tadpole’….well its a little easier isn’t it? Well at least we’re 300 miles closer to Almaty than we were this morning.

    02-10-2009

    We joined the Almaty traffic right on rush hour and played dodgems with the insane traffic for the next hour riding around in search of our chosen stopping point, the illustriously named 3rd Dorm’. Almaty seemed at odds with the Kazakhstan we’d seen so far. Gone were the Ladas’ and heaps, every other car was now a Mercedes or Lexus. The occasional Porsche zoomed by seemingly above the normal rules of the road.

    At a set of lights we’d crossed twice already we pulled over and checked the LP maps again. “Can I help you” asked John in his good but heavily accented English. He knew the 3rd Dorm and after some chat arranged to guide us. “how fast can you peddle that thing” I asked, pointing at his bycicle. “The returned grin seemed confident enough. “I wait for you, yes, but keep up” John joked. He was no more than 20.

    A few blocks farther North and we’d parked in the car park of a local supermarket and were inside the 3rd Dorm. A somber, if not creepy looking building with dimly lit halls and 20 years of grizzly green gloss leaded paint peeling from the walls. The metal gates that ran floor to ceiling and sealed one floor from the next were also a bit disconcerting. 1000 Kazah Som per person for a shared dorm on the 4th floor or a private room for two people for 2,500. We just have too much gear to bring off the bikes to risk leaving amongst a bunch of back packers we don’t know.

    With our bags now in the room and legs tired from climbing 4 floors, 5 times we sat on the edge of the sagging bed and looked about. We’d initially thought It not so bad. Who were we kidding! Now alone we could see this place for what it really was…’a shit hole”. John had kept saying “are you sure? Its not a nice place”….we had assured him we had had worse….but now looking around…had we..Im sure we had but this place in this moment was getting to us. The bed and sad blanket stank, there was old food and matted hair on the floor and a thick layer of bird shit and cigeratte butts on the window sill, inside and out. The shared toilet at the end of the hall was like a set from the Texas Chainsaw massacre. Old dark brown tiles on the wall and nicotine yellow paint on the roof and door. Broken mirror pieces were scattered on the floor, ruby red rust stains dripped down both sides of the only sink in the room, and as for the ‘bog’ in the corner. “Oh Christ’ I said out loud. Someone had recently rushed to the loo, ‘dropped trous’s’ and let go before actually getting their arse on the porcelain. It was like a shit gun had been fired across the back wall. The only thing worse than the sight was contemplating how ill this poor bastard must have felt before he let rip. Lisa’s toilet was worse she stated pretty firmly with a horrified look on her face.

    By late afternoon neither of us was feeling good and a dark mood had taken us both. Lisa just lay on the bed and closed her eyes hoping it would all go away. I needed to leave ths depressing place and so jumping on the bike I sped off to get my bearings and find the Kyrgyzstan Embassy.

    We ended up eating at a small but clean cafeteria used by the students of the local university.

    The 3rd dorm has a weird atmosphere and is giving us both the spooks.

    03-10-2009

    Let’s face it the maps in the Lonely Planet are a frigin' joke, they’re fucking awful. No scale whatsoever and a few of the locations are simply dead wrong. It took us two hours of walking to find Coffedilla, a trendy upmarket coffee-hole with wi-fi where Alamtys new money comes to rub shoulders and compare their latest purchases. We were both more than a little nervous about how many emails had built up.

    We’d been in contact with Kazak Dan, an English lad with a passion for bikes who posted a few times on Horizons Unlimited and who we’d arranged to meet at 7:00pm for coffee.

    After an entire day of web work, checking photos, writing diary and prepping for the next leg. Meeting up with Dan was breath of fresh air. Dan’s cheerful outlook and easy going nature was just what the doctor had ordered. Dan had picked up a teaching contract in Almaty whilst his fiancé worked a high powered job dealing with property. Conversation soon turned to bike trips and adventures and before we knew it we were chatting like old friends.

    As the evening darkened and the Almaty lights twinkled to life we saw out the evening at one of Dan’s favorite eateries, the 3 of us chugging ice cold beers in tall elegant glasses and slurping delicious bowls of spaghetti Cabanara. We wanted to carry on talking as much because of how much we were enjoying Dan’s company as putting off going back to the 3rd Dorm.

    We climbed into bed with our thermals still on as much for protection from the cold air as from whatever else was occupying the bed with us.
    4 to 5-10-2009
    Back at Coffeedilia, for work, internet, Visa prep and emails.

    06-10-2009

    I’d headed down int town and easily found the BMW dealer in Almatay and by mid-day I was shaking hands with Dennis (after sales manager) and Sergie (General Manager) and been escorted around the back to the workshop. I was in for a full day and BMW Almaty moved heaven and earth to help out and support us.

    The biggest job ahead was fixing Lisa’s F650’s cockpit frame which had badly cracked and needed welding. We’d had the same problem with her old cockpit which had simply cracked and fallen off whilst riding out of the Amazon I disassembled the screen and electrics and easily found the complete break in the metal frame that holds the entire cockpit and instrument cluster together.

    To my delight and complete surprise, Dennis ordered one of his tech’s to drop what he was doing, grab the welding gear and then he repaired and strengthened the frame. It was all done in two hours. I then spent the rest of the day servicing and sorting Lisa’s bike. Light bulbs, oil change and trying to fix Lisa’s headlight in place. It had fallen out weeks ago.

    By 5pm I’d got to most of the jobs but hadn’t touched the 1100 at all.

    Before leaving we were introduced to Patryk the regional boss from Germany BMW who looks after Central Asia and East Africa. We felt it best to turn down the kind invite to dinner as we wanted to spend time with good friends with whom we were staying. No names…;-)

    07-10-2009

    I left Lisa at our friends and headed back down to BMW where I changed the rear tyre and brake pads on the 1100GS. Headed back up to Lisa ready to meet John at 1:30pm at Moronno Ross café, he didn’t show. Back at our friends we just crashed for the night.
  8. simon thomas

    simon thomas www.2ridetheworld.com

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2002
    Oddometer:
    512
    Location:
    ...on the road to everywhere
    Kyrgyzstan

    08-10-2009

    We’d heard a plethora of horror stories about leaving Kazakhstan and entering Kyrgyzstan. Heavy rain provided us a wet and cold start to our day, although getting out of Almatay had been easier than we’d thought. Mind you we’d hit the street by 6:00am.

    Well, we’re literally breezed out of Kazakhstan and only barely got off the bikes to get into Kyrgyzstan. We’d been tense and concerned about crap at he border unnecessarily.

    We were in Bishkek by 2pm and had even dumped our bags in a hotel Baytor. The chances of camping were slim to none. Hotel Baytor can be found at GPS: N42 51.049 E74 36.900

    09-10-2009

    Lisa writes:

    Still in Bishkek in the Hotel Baytor.We found the Tajikistan Embassy at GPS: N42 50.861 E74 37.752. What a hassle. No one knew where the embassy was. It's actually in a residential area down half a dozen back streets.

    It's Friday and the young girl at the embassy was very polite and the paper work all very straight forward. We were told we could collect it on Monday. $50 USD + 50 som. (44 =$1)

    With that little job sorted we headed (as that was all so quick)into the centre of town. The pouring rain made for a somber entrance into the city.

    We've needed for some weeks now to arrange to get some passport photos taken, especially for me, as I need to be covered for the photos that I'll hand to the Iranian Embassy. We found a great photo shop where we could get some more passport photos done.

    Photos in hand we then wandered around the big department store TSum. Loads and loads of mobile phones. And pirate copies of DVDs! Decided to buy a couple (few dollars each).

    Went to the café Fatboys (at GPS: N42 52.544 E74 36.567) and bumped into the two New Zealanders that we met in Almaty outside the Kyrg embassy. We stayed and chatted with them for a while before then going back to the room to work on diary and photos etc. nice room. Food is good and cheap.
    Taxis are cheap. Weather is still atrocious.

    10-10-2009

    Baytor. Saturday – so we had a lie in. breakfast delivered to the room. Went to the beta-store and picked up a cooked chicken and some nibbles to eat in the room. Today was a day for watching DVDs!

    11-10-2009

    Lisa Writes:

    Baytor.

    We had planned on exploring the Osh bazaar but changed our minds at the last minute and headed back into town and back to Fatboys – not because its that good but we'd hoped to be able to get some wi-fi connection there. We've been having lots of problems with the connection at the hotel. As we were just ordering our coffee how should walk in but the Canadians that we had stayed with in Almaty! We had thought they would have already have been and gone – but after hearing their tales of woe – we all had a cooked breakfast (their treat!) and together headed on out to the Osh bazaar.

    They had a driver and guide so we all went in their car. Great market place! Spent the afternoon at their guest house and then all went out to the Metro for dinner. It was great to see them again! .
    12-10-2009

    Lisa Writes:

    Baytor.

    We had to be at the embassy for 10am. The ten minute walk gave us chance to stretch our legs. However after knocking on the door repeatedly and ringing the bell with out success we finally gt seen by a somewhat annoyed official and are told that no – not 10am but 2pm! Good job that we had decided to stay on another day as we had contemplated checking out and turning up fully loaded to them get on the road straight away. Typical!

    So – had a walk back through the local shops and found a great little café before heading back to the hotel.

    Went back to the embassy on the bike and collected them at 2:30pm. The girl we'd seen on Friday even apologized for not being there this morning!

    13-10-2009

    Wow!

    We’d switched from rough track to potholed tar and then to silky smooth asphalt. All in all it had been a long day and we’d not made the distance we’d hoped.

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    We’d managed to cover 348 bumpy pot-holed miles and by nightfall things were getting dangerous as we passed into the small town of Kockkor-Ata. Drivers in beaten up Ladas were swerving over the road, mostly drunk we guessed. Livestock was meandering along the edge of the road and could have walked across our paths at any time. This was silly.

    With a decision made we u-turned and headed back into the small town we’d left just a mile back. With the help of some overly enthusiastic kids I’d found a hotel, well that’s a polite way of calling it. Tired as I was, the small room and the decay was too much. I’d rather be in my tent. Lisa and her bike had already gathered a small crowd. 4 policemen were taking it it turns to hug her, sit on her bike and swap their over sized police hats for her helmet. She seemed to be enjoying the madness of the situation.

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    Speaking to a local builder, I’d hopped in his car and we’d found the “Richman Hotel’. A square unimpressive and somewhat depressing building built in soviet style. “Yeah, it’ll do”, I thought. Asking the price I braced myself for what I’d guessed was going to be $30-40. It was only worth $10-20. When the disinterested girl behind the counter told me $90 I actually burst out laughing. That didn’t endear me further. I explained in English that this must be a joke. She wasn’t laughing. “Impossible, impossible” I said out loud, signaling to my new friend that we should go. Back in his car we both had a laugh at the optimistic price they’d asked.

    With broken English of around ten words and hand gestures our new friend came to the rescue. He was a local foremen on a construction sight, building a lavish new home for a wealthy Russian business man. The work was still underway but one of the rooms had a floor and windows and we were invited to use it as a base for the night. It seemed an utterly bizarre scenario and fitted perfectly with what we’ve now come to consider ‘our norm’. I ran the idea past Lisa before accepting.

    Two large metal gates swung open and I parked both our bikes between a huge pile of sand and the concrete mixer to the right. I barely managed the feat, it was tight. 9 men all covered in building dust, paint and concrete came out to inspect us; the odd looking guests.They were all Muslim and so not a beer in sight. ? Sat around a red rug laid out on a bare concrete platform we tucked into a communal bowl of rice and small pieces of…nope, I’ve not got a clue what kind of meat it was. The sweet tea washed it all down perfectly.

    Conversation for a good hour centred around the fact that Lisa is older than me by 8-years, which in their world just didn’t seem possible. Not one of them could understand why a man would marry an older woman.

    All these hard men couldn’t have been sweeter or more gracious if they’d tried, even going as far as running a long electrical extension cable and new light bulb into the room when they’d seen there was no light.

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    The room had simple white wash on the walls and the wooden floor just sanded that night, so everything we owned was covered in ultra fine sawdust in seconds. It didn’t matter. Once again we were at the receiving end of the most wonderful and spontaneous type of hospitality. Not given for any kind of gain, other than they simply could! A bizarre scenario based on the most humbling of situations. We couldn’t have imagined our day ending like this, when we set out this morning, but then again that’s why we’re still traveling, every day is an adventure.

    Sleep came all too easily.
  9. redpillar

    redpillar Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    902
    Location:
    Vancouver Island
    Beautiful photos!!
  10. simon thomas

    simon thomas www.2ridetheworld.com

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2002
    Oddometer:
    512
    Location:
    ...on the road to everywhere
    14-10-2009

    We sat crossed legged around a huge and tattered Persian rug, sipping on hot sweet coffee and eating the nan style bread that had been laid out for us. I was loving this madness, here we are with a bunch of builders, inside a locked building site, not understanding a word and munching down stale bread and pieces of fruit, all the while the strong smell of concrete hanging in the air.

    Before we headed off we paid our thanks and feeling indebted we wanting to show our gratitude we handed over the two pirate DVD’s we’d bought earlier. Transformers II and Crank 2 seemed to go down well. We took half a dozen photos of our new friends around the bikes. We both felt a little sad as we pulled away. Yet again we’d expected nothing and received everything. We would have loved to have got to know them better.

    By mid-day we’d ridden a strange route south east around the low lying Fergana mountains and then south west and had entered the city of Osh. Market stalls selling all manner of items from flash lights to goat heads. This felt so familiar and so very Moroccan. A few domed mosques dotted the city’s skyline and gone were the flashy cars of Almaty. Now we were back to lada’s and a few newer Daewoos. People were stopping to stare as we passed; our cheerful waves of greeting were received without a response. The blank looks were making me feel uneasy, I’ve no idea why. Pulling up on the side of the road we’d spotted a small café and 20 minutes later were tucking into a bowl of rice flavored with mutton fat. The fruit at the end of the meal was the highlight. We’d watched dozens of locals simply stop and stare and then crack open a huge smile when they’d passed the bikes, all unaware that we were watching their reactions.

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    We needed to get a move on if we were to cross the 3615m high Taldyk pass before reaching Sary Tash before nightfall. Out of Osh the rough tar picked up where we’d left it. That was to change just an hour on and at the start of the major road works. With Chinese money and support the length of the lower M41 is being torn up and replaced. It’ll be great in a year but right now it’s nightmare. As we ride into the mountains proper the gigantic earth moving trucks send up huge plumes of impenetrable dust clouds from the immense wheels. Overtaking is a pure gamble but staying behind them is choking. Tall craggy peaks hemm us in from both sides. We ride towards sheer orange cliff faces; seemingly the route leads nowhere, only to turn 90 degrees at the last moment leading us into another gorge that funnels us deeper and deeper into this remarkable landscape. Occasionally we see small wooden hand built bridges that led across the fast running water of Kizil-Suu to our left. Each bridge leading in turn to a tiny footpath no more than 2 feet wide that then vanishes into the rocks.

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    Out of the claustrophobic gorge we rode the wider valley floor into the late afternoon. Stood up on the pegs doing our best to ride the mixture of tumbling large rocks and loose soil we rounded a large bend and our progress was brought to a sudden halt as workers flagged us down. We parked behind the two now familiar Russian jeeps in front. Off the bikes the scene down in the lower valley in which we were about to cross was biblical. We simply hadn’t imagined the scale of the earth moving works being carried out. Dozens of huge trucks and JCB’s cut, tore and then moved mountainsides. Where the trucks couldn’t drive the JCB’s simply pushed the earth 200 feet over and down the mountain where a truck on the temporary road would scoop it up. The combination of black belching fumes and dust made the view post appocolyptic.

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    The half-hearted flag bearer gave us the sign to move on, our mouths still wide open as we carefully negotiated our route around these massive machines.

    Past the dust clouds and debris we were suddenly transported back to northern Argentina, the rugged landscape turning orange, yellow and blood tangerine. The tall peaks of the ‘not so’ distant Pamirs brought out in sharp relief by the royal blue sky. We’d stopped to grab a few photos by the side of the road but rushed them knowing full well that we needed to get to Sarry Tash and our time was running out. The idea of riding down to ST from 14,400 feet at night was concerning and simply terrifying Lisa.

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    Concerning or not as we started the ascent we knew we’d lost, although neither of us admitted it to each other. Snow was now packed down either side of the road and the tight muddy switch backs required all our concentration. Each time we thought we’d reached the summit we’d realize it was a false summit and have to push on. Miles down below we could see the small lights of distant villages sparkle to life as their small generators were kicked into nightly action. The temperature had plummeted and was now -9. It wasn’t even dark yet. Towards the top I looked left to see the last glimpse of what was an incredible view of the serpentine track we’d just ridden. The mountains around us were now turning a soft pink in the last moments before the sun set.


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    Our first glimpse of Sary Tash in the daylight.

    Beautiful as this was, we knew this was bad. We were at the top of the pass and night was descending fast. We rode as quickly as we could, fully aware that one mistake or lapse in concentration would have severe consequences that we would with no doubt be considering for a full 3-4,000 feet as we plummeted through thin air before being smashed into the rocks below. Mmm, nice!

    Lisa was battling; her eyes have never been good at night and at dusk her eyesight almost fails her completely. The biting cold air made it harder to relax and stay loose on the bikes. The trucks still on the road hadn’t slowed their pace and their headlights blinded us as each approached. Lisa pulled up beside me and I could see the real terror in her eyes. As many of you know Lisa doesn’t scare easily but she was beginning to freak and I wasn’t far behind her.

    Stopping again, we pulled up short of a huge JCB and next to a vast pile of earth. There was no way past! Had we taken a wrong turn? Had we missed a detour sign? Had they closed the road and we’d not known? Trucks were now lining up behind us and wailing their huge air horns and flashing their lights. It was pitch black and I could see no solution and/or route. After another long blast of a horn, I shouted ‘yeah, yeah, so your bloody horn works well done, what d’ya want a medal”. This was getting me frustrated as much because of the predicament as because I could see Lisa’s anxiety increasing.

    The JCB swung into action again, but this time scooping tons of earth and depositing it elsewhere. As I ran back to my bike it reversed several times flattening the pile of rock and road material still left. We’d not gone wrong, not missed detour, this is simply how it’s done here. They work on the road when it’s in use, simple as that. Day or night! We scrambled over the rough track and carried on into the dark.

    7-miles down in the distance we could see the faint lights of tiny Sarry Tash and the end of today's ride. By the time we reached the first of it’s buildings we were freezing - literally.

    With a few directions asked we lucked out and by some miracle found a small home stay, at the end of an unlit mud and rock track and past two water crossings that I’d gone barreling into and not seen until it was too late. The GPS for the home stay is N39 43.348 E73 15.157. You won’t find it without it.

    Without electricity we greeted our host and painfully peeled our stiff bodies from the frozen bikes. We were exhausted and now frozen and wet. The small white washed walls of the room looked like a heavenly sanctuary lit only by candlight. Against one wall our host pulled down half a dozen old rugs on which we’d sleep. We’d already pulled our sleeping bags from the bikes.

    The two voices coming from the adjacent room sounded English but turned out to be Israeli guys. We washed down boiled rice with mutton fat sauce and the last of the cheap vodka we’d bought two days prior.

    OK, that’s enough. Lisa’s fast asleep beside me, wow she’s done brilliantly. My eyes are closing and sat against the wall my back is now in knots. I’m sure there’s a gazillion spelling mistakes in this, especially as I can’t see the keyboard. The candle’s not that big.

    Night, night.

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  11. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    64,881
    :clap

    Thanks for the detailed report...:thumb it seems we're seeing more and more riders exploring central Asia... Let's sticky this thread for a bit to give it the exposure it deserves.
  12. One Less Harley

    One Less Harley OH.THAT'S GONNA HURT

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2006
    Oddometer:
    5,646
    Location:
    Bowling Green, Ky
    Simon great writing. BTW it was great to hear of your travels at Bloodworth BMW in Nashville, Tennessee, this past fall.

    Be safe in your travels!
  13. KOTH

    KOTH Falco Peregrinus

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Oddometer:
    8
    Great report! Thanks for the wonderful photos.
  14. simon thomas

    simon thomas www.2ridetheworld.com

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2002
    Oddometer:
    512
    Location:
    ...on the road to everywhere
    15-10-2009

    I’d left Lisa battling to escape from the 20 blankets that she’d covered herself with last night. A bright shard of yellow light that had split the shabby curtains had woken me at 6:00am. I knew what I wanted; 30 minutes with my own company and my camera. Everyone we’d met who traveled this way had given us the same description. ‘A wall of mountain seemingly without end. I wanted to see this ‘wall’.

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    The cold air stung my face the moment I stood outside and the bouncing black mutt that had greeted us last night was around my feet. Across the roof tops of the low white washed buildings, I cold see the jagged peaks of the heavily glaciated Pamir Alay Range.

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    “This is it” I said to myself “this is the Alay Valley. I’d been reading about this wide expanse of valley and of it’s beauty for years. We’d always known that this was one of our few choices for entering Tajikistan from the North. Now that I was actually here the location was suddenly quite over whelming. Daft as it sounds, the solitude and beauty of this place really hit me full force.

    I walked for a 20 minutes towards this wall of vertical rock, all the while looking for any signs of a track or a road through and over them. My hands were numb with cold as I fiddled with the camera. My lungs took in a full measure of the cold air. I could feel the smile I wore. The Alay range is a 500km long seam of mountains that separate Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and apart from a few nutty bikers is normally the exclusive turf of trekkers and mountaineers. Getting to here is a feat, let alone mountaineering in this giants playground.

    I took as many photos as I could, changing the settings from time to time and hoping that just one of them would do this incredible sight justice, but in truth I knew none would.

    I tried to lye on the ground and shoot the golden grass as a forefront to the mountains, the black dog thought it was a game and started biting my arms and trying to play. I spent as much time trying to push the playful mutt off me as I did take photos. Great fun and 10 minutes I’ll treasure for a while to come.

    Back at the home-stay Lisa was already deep in conversation with the two guys from Israel. The warm tea and fried eggs a great way to start what we knew was going to be a long day.

    With the bikes loaded up we headed back up the track we’d ridden last night and filled up both bikes with as much fuel as we could. The bikes felt heavy as we trundled the 3 km down to the easily seen left hand turn, that would lead us to the Kyrgyzstan immigration compound. We were literally riding towards the Pamirs, the 90 degree angle making our route seem utterly impossible. The route vanishing into rock and thin air.

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    Inside the compound we easily found the porta cabins and dealt with the exit stamps in the passports and the usual custom nonsense.

    The thick covering of ground snow had me concerned. We had the Taldyk pass ahead to cross at 3,651metres (14,000 feet plus) and we still had to clear Tajikistan immigration that was somewhere ahead and at altitude. We read countless stories of the severe weather in the region even in summer, and here we are with winter closing in around us, literally. Traffic is scarce along this route and year round the track can be closed down due to snow or heavy rain storms, which can appear without warning. You can tell that we were giving this range the full respect it’s due. Two tired Brits without cell or Sat’ phones could easily get in trouble up here. I’d read the the lonely Planet chapter on this region last night after typing the diary. Now as we rode higher one paragraph kept coming back to me. “The Pamir Alay Range is one of the most remote and rugged parts of central Asia – this is one place where you can’t just head off with a 1970’s soviet map and a handful of snickers bars.

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    The Tajikistan compound came into sight as did half a dozen young bored soldiers. Not my personal favorite, they’re unpredictable. Each of them with the mandatory Kalashnikov slung over the backs. I couldn’t feel my hands as I dismounted the bikes and searched for my papers. Two large oval fuel containers had been re-welded and were now in active duty as the passport offices. A rusting metal containers, this time the usual oblong shape acted as the customs office. We were beckoned inside the cramped quarters. A small tv hissed and buzzed in the corner. The roof was 8 foot tall and they’d somehow squeezed a set of bunk beds and a desk in here. These guys work and live in this tiny space for 8-months of the year and are then cycled out to active duty somewhere else. The small iron furnace was belting out heat from behind the door. This was weird. I was sat on the lower bunk bed with one of the customs guys who was still wearing just his thermals…”OK… god! They’re going to cavity search us I thought”. We trapped in here and we can’t get out. I couldn’t help but stare at the longest set of yellow toe nails I’d ever seen. They belonged to the soldier who was siting on the bed and to my right and sticking out of the holes in his woolen socks. “Don’t stare, don’t stare” I told myself. It was too late.

    All in all it took us 2-hours to clear the border. As usual a waive of excitement over took us both at the prospect of a new country. Round a long low set of mountains in late afternoon, the view ahead had left us dumb struck. The scene, a ‘white-out’ except for the vast icey blue lake lay before us: Lake Kaorkol.. Our route was ahead but how could it be? As far as we could see the land was covered in snow. Check out the photo and you’ll see what I mean.

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    We skirted lake Karokal (the highest lake in Central Asia ) as the afternoon came to an end. Unbelievably the tar road had stayed clear of snow. As we approached the town of Karokal I knew I needed to stop, even with all the heated gear we have on full bast we were freezing and our concentration was now suspect.

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    The sight of a lone cyclist coming towards us was reason enough to stop. Ben from the UK looked as sorry for himself and cold as we felt and after a brief chat about the conditions ahead we called it a day. With the conditions ahead described by Ben, we knew we weren’t going to cross the pass before night fall.

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    A quick scan of the small dusty town revealed a hand painted sign, which simply read ‘home stay’, and 20 minutes later we were parked up in the yard having slipped our way across deep snow and hard packed ice.

    The rest of the evening was spent in the main room, with easy conversation we sat crossed legged around a low table and swapped information about each others upcoming journey.

    The home stay cost us $12 and you can find it at GPS: N39 00.650 E73 33.57
  15. Bowes

    Bowes Oman Dirty Biker

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2008
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Sultanate of Oman
    Awesome:thumb
  16. simon thomas

    simon thomas www.2ridetheworld.com

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2002
    Oddometer:
    512
    Location:
    ...on the road to everywhere
    thanks for the kind words, this was a spectacular section of our ride to date and although painfully cold, worth every minute. The landscape was 'over whelming' in the best possible way.

    I'll put some more photos together and post soon.

    All the best
    Simon
  17. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Oddometer:
    3,555
    Location:
    Jennings, Louisiana
    Amazing! Thanks for all the work of sharing your journey.
  18. 5er

    5er Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    Location:
    +46° 31' 47.10", +15° 34' 14.43"
    wauuuuuu:clap
  19. Wildman

    Wildman In my castle

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2007
    Oddometer:
    19,654
    Location:
    The Kingdom of Kent
    In. :lurk
  20. naradalast

    naradalast n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9
    Location:
    Ankara Turkiye
    Very good place.

    Thanks