Luke and I left Osh mid morning after negotiating transport with one of the local drivers. We had got ourselves down to the bazaar for a little after 9:00 a.m. and were swamped by the gang of drivers all trying to get our business. This all got a little unpleasant as they jostled and pulled us around and still feeling pretty beat up I was in no mood for it. They backed off.
Eventually one of the quieter drivers offered to take us to Bishkek for 2,500 com each (about $50) after we bartered and insisted we had the estate car, our bags and one bicycle to ourselves – we’d both had enough of being crammed into jeeps with other passengers on a 10 hour plus journey! As it turned out he was one of the best drivers I’ve ever ridden with, taking the road conditions with care but with an experienced amount of speed. At no point did he look like loosing control and we were both extremely impressed by his skill in the snow and ice.
Once we left the city it soon became clear that there was no-way either of us could have cycled this route. Fresh snow lay over the hard packed ice on the roads and the conditions were truly treacherous. Once we reached the valley separating the passes the temperatures plummeted and I took the following picture – minus 25° and the sun had yet to go down!
I like to think I’m pretty tough and will generally accept a bit of a challenge, but cycling in these conditions would be just foolhardy and even suicidal. I remember being told about a cyclist doing this route last November, who after camping in the valley (if you embark on this route you’d have little choice) died in his tent of exposure. So I was shocked to see a cyclist at the side of the road 200 km from Bishkek obviously struggling. What was he thinking? I don’t think I was being unkind when I told Luke the man was a complete idiot, because he’d of known exactly what he was doing – he was too far in the pass not to have had the choice of turning around. Still, I hope he made it through.
It was 9:30 p.m. by the time we reached the hostel in Bishkek, where we were made very welcome and I quickly rustled up some hot food and a drink as we had not eaten for ten hours. Note to self – take food with you next time!
Then it was a quick check of emails before crashing out exhausted.
Fundraising and replacing my bike
I’m truly overwhelmed with the response to my call for help. Alongside the donations which many of you have been kind enough to make, I have been offered a new frame and forks by Surly along with other necessary parts and these are now on their way from America. I could not have afforded to replace the bike and wait around here in Bishkek for them to arrive without your help. To be able to continue is all I ever wanted – you have made this possible. Words cannot express my gratitude to each and every one of you and I have planned a tough itinery to take full advantage of your kindness, if things go well for me. Details below.
I’m trying to be frugal in using the donations given because the daily cost of staying here in Bishkek while awaiting the replacement parts will quickly eat them away, along with the costs involved in getting parcels sent from the UK. DHL have charged me £170 for one box – absolutely scandalous but I had no choice. I think my biggest single outlay will be getting out of here, as it is now not possible to cycle, the roads are impassable for bicycles. That just leaves a train or flight and I have decided to fly to Beijing in China (as riding through the mountains of China would be very unwise in winter), then cycle south from there to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
If I have sufficient funds available, I’ll then take a flight out of Singapore to Vancouver in Canada, then embark on cycling across this huge country and down to New York. I will then cycle across America (almost certainly without any significant funds – a ‘goodwill tour’) to San Francisco. Again I have to re-iterate, without help this would not be possible, but what a challenge. Can’t wait to start cycling again!
For now though I’m slowly recovering. My head is the main cause of concern as I’m pretty sure their must be nerve damage because I have no feeling (apart from the blinding headaches) on the left side, but decent medical help does not seem likely here in Bishkek. My chest is very painful too, although I’m sure this will eventually ease as the bruising disappears. So I’m left just hanging around waiting for the kit to arrive and as nothing happens quickly in Kyrgyzstan, guess I just have to be patient.