Into The World - 2Up around Africa, 2 bikes along the Silk Road

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by mrwwwhite, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. mightymatt43

    mightymatt43 URALiNEED

    Joined:
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    Texas, USA
    Without a doubt, this is the best Ride Report on ADVRider. It perfectly embodies what this site stands for - adventure, a zest for discovery, and finding community wherever your motorcycles take you.

    I'm so proud of you both. Well done. Can't wait to read more.
  2. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Bucharest, Rallying or RTW
    great pictorial, thanks, loved to see some of the dishes we enjoyed, like enjeera or ugali and loved to see the ingredients displayed before like those magots neatly set in rows by the photographer :) it's also a lovely panorama of the beauty of women around the world and it hints to the very different lifestyles better than anything, as we can guess the ages at which these ladies have become grandmas. cheers!

    cheers Matt, do tune in as we will continue to post updates Here are some more panoramas from the Pamir:

    Riding to Ronkul lake to pay a visit to Janna's folks

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    Alongside the fence that separates Tajikistan from China

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    The crater left behind by a fat meteorite.

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    Turquoise lake in the Pamir.

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    We keep peeking at China from behind the fence. In the distance a snow-capped mountain hovers at more than 7500 meters.

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  3. terpaksangaskus

    terpaksangaskus Lonerider

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    superb couple gone wild :clap:clap:clap
    i'm very impressive anna learn her riding skill just a few moment of this expedition
    quiet sure her riding experience growth very fast in this trip :freaky
  4. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    yes, it was a proper crash course in motorcycling and it kicked her ass big time, but now she's hooked on this
  5. dave6253

    dave6253 GCBAR Explorer

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    You two are awesome! Thanks for being so adventurous and sharing your travels with the rest of us. I'm a big fan of your exceptional photography.
  6. Paulie

    Paulie Been here awhile

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    Wow! Add me to the long line of adv readers that appreciate yer *superb* pix & writeups. Outstanding, please keep posting when ya can.

    If y'all come over to South Florida, I'd be happy to put ya up. We have lousy riding...but decent weather.
  7. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    thanks thanks, we are happy to be able to share :)

    Thanks a lot for the offer, perhaps one day. We are still eyeing to do the complete loop RTW, so you never know. Fingers crossed!

    Now back to the RR from Tajikistan:
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    Adıl

    So let's head towards China. We've got a visa, all we need is balls. As to take our motorbikes inside is way beyond our budget, we are going to simply ride along the semi-clandestine fence that the Chinese have recently installed into the Tajik territory. The day is fiercely bright.

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    East off Murghab we find ourselves into our prime territory yet again. A vast network of gravel roads and trails where the only signs of life are the remains of an almost mythical creature. The Marco Polo gazelles, endemic to the region, are at the same time an endangered species protected by the law and worshiped by the shamanic traditions, and a highly appreciated source of proteins for certain Kyrgyz, or of virility for wealthier Chinese.

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    We picnic on the edge of a meteorite crash site. While munching on eggs and cucumber, we meet a group of miners who are digging in the area for silver.

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    The silver will be exported to China. Soon we are meters from this country. The place is infested with cute golden marmots, but the trails are sandy, until all we see is desert among cliffs.

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    We must look kind of tired, as Adil, a local yak herder insists we should come to his place for a good night rest. I have fresh all natural yak dairy, he says, and who are we to argue with such an offer?

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    Beyond a stream we reach Adil's mountain cabin. It's a two room mud-and-dung hut where this nomad family is just about to relocate for the rest of the summer. Their cattle has been moved on this jailoo, to enjoy the rich pastures where the yaks will feel and fatten until winter. Behind the house is the fenced area where the cows are resting until the elder sun arrives with the rest of the herd. The boy is not even 13 years old, but already a proper cowboy.

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    The Uluu-Ruslan family is sharing the jailoo and the cabin with Janna, Adil's sister in law. Janna has the hands of a piano player, that thread and bake two ovens of fresh bread. The fuel for their tandoori is (of course) yak dung.

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    Adil gives instructions that we should be treated as family. Warm bread is torn to pieces and laid before us in a gesture of hospitality that has become so dear to us. Yak kefir, butter and cream are set aside, followed by a steaming teapot. We grab a delicious bite, then we join the family at their evening activities. The yak herd is to be set for the night. Calves must be separated from their mothers so the cows can be milked. Bulls are tied far from the cows. Milk is to be poured into different recipients, according to how it will be later processed. Dung is to be collected and set out to dry for later use as fuel. There's plenty of work to be done, and Adil sorts everything out with joy and swagger.

    Inside, the women are reorganizing their belongings. A few cardboard boxes become furniture, teapots, a DVD player, even a puzzle are ranged neatly to their place. Already it no longer looks like a deserted refuge but like a proper home. But what brings the whole place alive is the children's energy.

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    Adil's youngest seems to enjoy spending time in Ana's lap.

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    Janna's youngest is a boy

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    Madina, demure, in spite of her accidentally punk haircut

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    Adil's oldest daughter loves to play with her siblings

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    The eldest of the gang. He teaches us so much: from what kind of plants to use to prevent excessive perspiration and such, to how to say some essentials in kyrgyz language.

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    Dinner is ready. We feast again on kefir, next to a melt in your mouth yak steak, with roasted potatoes and buttered buckwheat. Unbelievably good!

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    As sun sets the temperature drops severely. Janna folds out fresh pillows and new bed sheets for us. I don't know what we did to ever deserve such generous hospitality. We sleep like babies in a mother's womb.
    The next day we are already settled in the family. Ana helps with bread baking and children rearing, I entertain the older kids with sketches and games. In the afternoon I decide ti unload the KTM and ride into China, through a hole in the fence. It's all good, until I spot watchful binoculars in the distance. Time to head back to safety, back at the house, where the ladies are waiting for me with yet another yummy meal.

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    While I was away Ana has been persuaded by Janna to pay a visit to the old folks, who live in Ronkhul. Janna writes a letter for her mum and dad, which will also serve us to find the address.

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    When it's time to say our good-byes, the women are in tears. Frankly, my eyes are also far from dry.

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    Luckily the trails back to the main road are what the doctor has ordered.

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    After we arrive back in Murghab we take the next turn right, and we hit another fine gravel road that will take us to Ronkhul. We pass by a string of lakes that mirror the eerie landscape, but impossibly infested with mosquitoes.

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    Ronkhul feels like from another planet. Compared to this remote village, Murghab was a busy metropolis.

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    Janna's note in hand, we navigate our way to her family compound. A 65 old lady opens the door: when she sees her daughter's handwriting, her eyes wet. We make her even happier with the photo of her youngest nephew, whom she sees for the very first time. Of course we are again treated with immense hospitality. The spread: choromo, a special kyrgyz bread baked in butter, kefir, fruits, tea.

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    Janna's father, Tahtaul, tells that that he has actually seen us two days ago, while strolling around Murghab. It's a small world, isn't it.

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    The elder soon retreat, allowing us to socialize with the younger members of the family. As always, the women are busy to serve us, and only the men join us for dinner and tea. We spend all day with Muhammat and Osor, Janna's brothers.

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    The Kyrgyz zodiac is similar to the Chinese.

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    The next day we are set to go. It's a pleasant ride back to the tarmac, but before hitting tar my side stand gives up. I hop onto Ana's DRZ and head to Murghab to weld the cracked plate. One hour later I'm back and the KTM re-assumes vertical position.

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    The road ahead cuts across more amazing Pamiri domes, until we arrive at the highest point of our Central Asia journey, the Ak-Baytal pass, at over 4600meters.

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    But we will not leave the Pamir mountains behind without reuniting with our cyclists friends, even if that'll costs us a fine layer of snow on our tent...

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  8. cengiz64

    cengiz64 Foreigner

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    Nizhny Novgorod Russia
    No comments, But :clap:clap:clap
  9. Ironzie

    Ironzie Adventurer

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    27
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    Norn Iron
    Hey! Guys where are ya? Am missing you,it's lunchtime here in this miserable factory and no Romanian couple yet again
    Have really enjoyed your journey so far ,DRC OMG!!
  10. TwilightZone

    TwilightZone Long timer

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    Everything ok ???
  11. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Bucharest, Rallying or RTW
    Hi all, thanks for giving us the thumb-up! We are doing well, just dealing with the usual ups and downs of life on the road and with the challenges of a quite different set-up and trip for the moment. We have managed to replace our broken laptop with a second hand in good condition and we are slowly building our reports from the past months. Keep tuning, we've got more hot stuff to share, even if some of it it's from very cold places. We are also working on side-projects, perhaps a calendar for 2014… We also owe a few more panoramas from the stunning Pamir.

    Riding to Ronkul lake to pay a visit to Janna’s folks

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    Alongside the fence that separates Tajikistan from China

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    The crater left behind by a fat meteorite.

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    Turquoise lake in the Pamir.

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    Peeking at China from behind the fence. In the distance a snow-capped mountain hovers at more than 7500 meters.

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  12. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    940
    Location:
    Bucharest, Rallying or RTW
    White Frost

    After my little illegal detour on Chinese territory - where we aim to be since the start – we return to the charming M41.

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    The final kilometers piercing the Pamir mountains are scarcely tarred, as if to test our 908s and our lucky star. But our karma contains bicycles as well. Once our eyes soak into the surreal turquoise of lake Karakul, we know we chances are we’ll bump again into our French buddies, JP si Jacques.

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    We’ve left them behind in Murghab, where we dined and chatted until midnight. Indeed, we soon spot their bikes parked in the courtyard of a lovely guesthouse by the lake. This time they have more company: Peter, an Irish doctor cycling from Istabul, and Dave with Rich, a laid-back couple of friends from the UK. After we hud, JP tells us that we are about to feast on the best yak butter and kefir. Soon enough the host starts hoisting freshly baked bread to the table, along with the aforementioned dairy delights. The butter has the colour of honey and it tastes divine. I look at Ana, she looks back. Guys, I say, why don’t we camp together tonight? We decide on a markpoint on the GPS according to their estimated mileage for the rest of the day, and we set off.

    The air is brisk in the Pamir. The red clay carpeting the road, the greyish mountain hovering in the horizon, the soft blue freckled with cloud – all colours burn like in a Gaspar Noé movie.

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    Our motorbikes grant the luxury of arriving to our designated campsite hours ahead our cyclist friends. And we didn’t even have to push. We take our luggage off, and I go about exploring the surroundings, while Ana strips to her jogging gear for a very demanding if brief routine. We are at 4200 meters altitude, sharp, so an hour later I see her struggling against the slopes, her head all wrapped up in scarves for wind and cold protection. In the meantime I found a tree trunk laying not far from our spot. In this treeless place all wood has been used to build the new fence separating Tajikistan from China, and this trunk is a lucky leftover. I figure we could later harvest it for a nice camp fire. But as the night settles in we lose hope that our friends will ever catch up. We resort to a cold can dinner and we tuck into our sleeping bag. It’s so cold. As we’re about to fall asleep we hear a ruffling noise. It’s the cycling pack. Happy to reunite, we all set to work. The tree trunk is carried to camp, the wood is chopped, the pile is built, food is cooked and hi-tech down jackets weighing less than my keychain are pulled from the cyclists’ bags while everybody settles by the glimmering fire. The sky is beautiful. We’ll have a good rest up here.

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    In the morning everything is covered in white frost and the tent is soaked in condensation, even under the sleeping mats. But nobody is in a hurry, so we lay our stuff in the sun and we fix our breakfasts.

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    Inevitably we’ll go our separate ways again. After the first river crossing we wave good bye, at least until Bishkek, China or Laos. That’s where we are heading to, we would never leave the Silk Road unfinished, so one way or another we’ll make it there.

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    After two hours of riding we reach the border post to Kyrgyzstan. We turn heads for a last glimpse upon some of the most beautiful mountains on the planet, the forbidden Pamir, inaccessible to its very inhabitants.

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    We are leaving behind one of the most complicated borders, traced by Stalin to control the most incontrollable provinces of the Soviet Empire: passes so narrow that can only be crossed at the peak of summer, baffling minority villages deported on the bottom of remote valleys that can only be reached on a mule after a long and difficult journey. We leave behind the mythical river Panj, yet untouched by the Taliban, a border ridden with holes contiguous to Afghanistan. But even the border we are about to cross isn’t more lucky. Three countries meet in this point pinned on the roof of the world, united by a common geographic destiny, divided by politics and religion.
    Tajikistan is the poorest country of Central Asia, one that lingers still in the memories of a long civil war: half of its population survives on aid, and the last three generations have lived on cabbage and cotton. But now many NGOs are working to push out of the desperation of one culture, by returning to the most simple things: traditional agricultural techniques, the reactivation of long forgotten water networks, and the precious forgotten manual art of weaving. China is a vulture standing by the side, ready to take advantage of a moment of weakness. The proof: the newly border fence erected overnight, that exists on no official map. To the north, USSR has left behind a Kyrgyzstan in search of a cohesive national identity. But the country moves faster than its poorer neighbour: it is rapidly replacing the wrecks of kolkhoz with yurt camps ready to welcome visitors. It has already build a sustainable network of tourist infrastructure and implemented winning visa regulations. Residents from almost all countries – sadly Romania is excluded – can stay on the Kyrgyz territory for 3 months without a visa. We had to pay a hefty amount for a 30 days stay. Border crossing is painless. Do we need any papers for the bikes? I ask. But all they reply is: “welcome to Kyrgyzstan!”

    The roots of this new country aren’t turkic, but Persian. The landscape is just as stunning.

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    First town we cross is Sari Tash. A sad accumulation of shacks and skeletal people. We need to insist to get the generator working at the gas station.

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    Then we struggle to get a bite to eat. A confused woman serves us fried eggs with cheap salami. It tastes bad and it is expensive. A tour the rest of the places – this is a depressing town to linger. So we move on.

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    Brandy from Mare’s Milk

    After Sari Tash the road is very good: tarred, smooth, traced in fast hairpins. Unfortunately we ride under relentless rain. Only hours later we reach lower altitude and clement weather. We quench our thirst at a fountain – a man on horse stops by to stare. Gradually we start meeting more people and seeing quite a few houses and yurts. So the first opportunity for a bush camp , we take it.

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    Even our sketchy Russian comes in handy. Next to the spot we chose for pitching, there’s are horses and people rambling about, so we pay a visit to the owner’s place to ask permission to camp. The lady of the house is again quite confused about our ‘mission’, but she gladly agrees and invites us over for tea. But after we pitch we are so tired that we decide to do that the next day.

    In the morning we are treated to a nice domestic show: the mares are milked and the milk left to ferment in a sheep’s skin. In one or two days it will become kumuz, a slightly alcoholic beverage that is considered like a national treasure in Kyrgyzstan.

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    Ana likes it, but then again, she seems to like everything; I confess: I am not a fan.

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    Meder (29) is the only adult in the compound,; his nephew Mohammet Ali (14) is watching Tom & Jerry on TV. We suggest a tea, they boil the water, we bring the leaves. Then Meder spreads bread, butter and cream (kaymak he says).

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    Meder tests Ana’s DRZ:)

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    Even if today is the first day of the Ramadan, we see many shepherds celebrating with vodka and mare’s milk brandy. When we make the mistake to allow ourselves to be lured into the party, a dude plants noisy smooches on Ana’s cheeks and hugs her. All for a litre of kumuz.

    By noon we reach Osh. A town sitting for millennia at a major Silk Road junction. Nothing betrays the conflicts from 2010, we are moved to be here so soon. In the lively Central market it’s business as usual: Uzbek and Kyrgyz vendors and shoppers live side by side, as if nothing happened. But not long ago this was a battle ground. Streets were burnt, people died, families were broken. It’s all gone now; we sit down for a juicy kebab and yet another variant of a Silk Road staple: manti (meat dumplings).

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    As our laptop is not working, we also stop for a few hours in an Internet cafe; so when we finally leave town we have only a few hours left before dark. We scramble up the hills in search of a campsite, and we settle for a spot by a river where truckers are stealing gravel and a bunch of dudes are swaying down on used tires. Shivering with cold we decide to shower and do our laundry, and in the morning we thanks ourselves for doing so.

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    After a breakfast of tea, dried apricots, tomatoes and kurut, crackers and nots, we hit the road. For the next days the plan is to avoid all tarmac, and zig-zag our way across the mountains, visiting the Song Kul lake on the way. The first stretch does not disappoint: it’s free, empty and beautiful.

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    Recent downpours have scarred the land, so there’s plenty of streams to quench one’s thirst. The mountains rise between deep valley where vultures hover with an eye on the sheep and goat.

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    When we reach the high pass rain threatens to catch up. A wall of dirty snow has been rendered into graffiti by local tourists. But beyond the pass is the real show: wrinkled peaks barely touched by a dying sun, pierced by a tempting succession of hairpins. We do them, then we remember we have a camera. Too late for a photo op now, so you’d better ride over here to see for yourself.

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    In Kazarman we feel terribly hungry. We fetch lunch in a creepy looking communist canteen: the micro-raion feels frozen in time. Later we ride into a landscape that appears even older. Seen from the top the valley looks like the dinosaurs are still roaming an Earth at the age of geological infancy.

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    We will not meet our mileage target: at the next stop my side-stand plate cracks open again, so I cannot start the bike. We set camp, but we happen to be in a nice place close to a stream, so it’s not all bad.

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    In the morning I ride the DRZ to the nearest village, Ak-Kyia, in search of a welder. People point to the teacher’s house. Her husband, Akmatov Abai sorts me out; I promise to return with my partner for a chat. When we’re back, the daughter in law serves us bread, tea, butter and cherry jam. Ana is entertaining the teacher, Mrs. Osiya, while Akmatov Abai wants to have me trying all the fermented beverages in the household (made from millet, barley or corn, even stale bread).

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    After Ak-Kyia we have some fun on a sandy stretch. For us a dry and hot intermission is a luxury to be cherished.

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    The second part of the ride up to the plateau of Song Kul is a different ball game. Ana is taking a beating, and rain returns with a vengeance.

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    Even if the views are sublime by the shores of the lake, with shiny rainbows and green grass shimmering, all we want is for the rain to stop and for the temperature to rise, even by one degree.

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    Many yurts dot the field, but most are guesthouses; we prefer a local family compound. Searching for one, we are pushed to lower altitude. The landscape lifts our soul, but the weather is too damn hard on the body. Ana asks me to stop, almost crying with cold. Her lips and fingers are a weird shade of purple. We knock on a door: the house appears to be deserted, so I pitch hastily and boil a porridge, anything to heat ourselves up a bit. Lightings and thunders explode in the valley, but we are at shelter. In the morning the sky is blue, as if we have imagine the whole thing.

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    I say nothing beats the sight of blue sky after days of grey. The nearby stream is cold as ice and we have again white frost on the tent. A couple of Polish riders pass by: they tell us they had minus 5 degrees last night at the lake. Perhaps it was a bit warmer down here…

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    The trail is soon to end. As the valley becomes wider, I can smell the tarmac. But I am not bitter, we’ll soon be in Mongolia, we’ll have plenty of trails to ride. It just happens that we mark Ana’s first 10.000 km on tar.

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  13. Comrade Art

    Comrade Art Working stiff

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    695
    Location:
    Oregon
    Love the pics :clap
    Stay safe and keep posting.
  14. IVAN38

    IVAN38 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2013
    Oddometer:
    81
    Location:
    Veyrins , FRANCE
    10 000 km carried of hands...

    It is always pleasant to have new photos

    merci beaucoup (thank you very much)

    :clap:clap:clap
  15. skian g

    skian g Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2010
    Oddometer:
    74
    Location:
    Reading, Pa
    Great update, Glad all is well!
  16. Abraxas

    Abraxas The last one

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    Spain
    welcome back to the net, I was missing you.

    Thanks for this new dose of adventures, keep it coming please.

    Ana, cograts for these 10.000 km full of memories. :clap:clap:clap
  17. SirBikeALot

    SirBikeALot Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2013
    Oddometer:
    27
    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    Okay, after a week or two of catching up on your incredible RR I can comment :)
    Thank you for taking us along on your ride. For taking the time to report, show us the sights and actually learn something about the places you visit

    One thing that I did notice, or maybe it's just me, but the images of your 2up-on-the-Tenere ride were a lot more artistic. Was it the incredible 24mm f/1.4 that made the pics pop?

    I'm a little sad that you put the Tenere out on the pasture. But it's the trip and not the horse that counts, so keep it up. All the best, have fun and keep taking us along!
  18. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    940
    Location:
    Bucharest, Rallying or RTW
    Big thanks for the thumb up, we're both happy to see this seemingly crazy idea come to fruition and can only hope that it will keep on giving. Sure, even 10000K don't make a rider, but Ana is living proof of how someone can go from zero experience and interest, to riding one of the most astonishing trails on the planet with a new heart (one that cares about motorbikes that is :) Now clearly after this crash-course in adventure touring she will have to work harder.

    On to our ride report….

    __________________

    In Bishkek we will be hosted by Berker, originar from Ankara and currently teaching Journalism and New Media to the Kyrgyz. Before ringing his doorbell we take a breather in Balikci, a small town on the banks of Isik-kul lake. A quick lunch in a local shack is in order. We also shop for some local delicacies to later sample with our Turkish host: we pick some smoked fish and kurut, a cheese made from dehydrated mare’s yoghurt.

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    We will not enter the Kyrgyz capital before switching to road tires; while we are dealing with this, the mechanics in the shop grab some cooling kvas for us. A welcome treat.

    Berker is waiting for us and he helps us carry our luggage into his apartment.

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    Bishkek is strangely familiar: the grim apartment blocks with shiny jeeps parked outside, the asphalt that crumbles like short pastry, the watermelons piled at street corners, the kitschy hair saloons, the ladies sporting chopped bobs, patterned leggings and excessively plucked eyebrows, the smell of pee in the elevator, the whole-int-the-wall where an old timer is patching up shoes for a living… it’s disturbingly funny how this resembles home.

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    Berker is nothing short of amazing. We are stuck in Bishkek with some administrative business to sort out, and we are lucky to have this awesome host who cooks for us, pampers us and when nobody is in the mood for doing dishes, knows the best place to eat an outstanding duck kebap.

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    Berker uses his connections to locate a dude who can help me fabricate a new plate for my side stand. No more welding this time, problem solved!

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    In the meantime we learn that our cyclist friends are in town as well, so we feel we must share with them the secret of duck kebap. Soon we are all hooked on the sweet fatty delicious thing!

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    More user-friendly than Dushanbe, Bishkek feels also somehow … smaller. The socialist architecture is less monumental after being adorned with Chinese neon. There are many parks and pedestrian areas, and they all teem with people even during daytime. The locals seem to enjoy consuming everything that is being thrown at them, be it from the West, or from the East, and by night the Ala-too square is resurrected to a Kyrgyz version of Djema el-Fna.

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    Instead of sheep brains we find magenta cotton candy, and in the place of snake charmers we see small business ventures renting out rollerblades and tandem bikes to the enthusiastic, while huge subwoofers are blasting nondescript music. And in the middle of this tumultuous spectacle, instead of the minarets of a Moroccan mosque, a monument celebrating the Tulip Revolution .

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    Next to the statue and just as contrasting to the general vibe of the square, teenage soldiers perform a ritual inherited from soviet times.

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    The change of guards takes place hourly, from sunrise till sunset.

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    The young soldiers execute their impeccable ballet, but from up close one can see how humble their budget must be.

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    At 10 p.m. the music stops, the fountains dry out and people start their journey back from fantasy to their matchbox apartments.

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  19. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    19,068
    Location:
    Burbank CA


    :thumb

    just read a few pages and i was amazed. need to go to page 1.


    you have a remarkably special talent to share your experience. traveling in the harsh, unfamiliar and remote areas are not for everyone. you guys persevere and able to cope up with the people and surrounding...:bow

    i see both of you as a young couple however your adventure made you to a matured, appreciative and compassionate human beings.

    big thanks for taking us along.
  20. allroadtoine

    allroadtoine Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    79
    Keep up the writing, splendid report and i enjoy it very much

    Greetings

    Toine