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Hanging around Bishkek

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

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.

Fresh snow lay over the previous snowfalls, leaving hard packed ice underneath.

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!

Daytime temp outside the car and the sun was still shining!

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.

I didn’t get a picture, but this was taken just after passing the cyclist. It was minus 25° outside!

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.

RIP my trusty steed

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!

Not the prettiest of jobs, the scar from my accident.

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.

More soon…





Andrew Marsh
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 10:59 am

Bloomin ‘eck Derek. I had not realised how badly you were hurt.
And yet you carry on!
You are an inspiration.
God bless you and keep you safe and healthy.

Tim Cullis
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Thank goodness you’ve made it to the relative security of Bishkek! Hopefully things will come together for you quite quickly.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Hi Derek, I just ran into your blog and and I am really touched by your courage and positive attitude. I read a lot of cycling blog but no one inspired me like yours. I am an experienced cycle tourer and ride the Pamirs…looking at the pictures of you and the driver’s family reminded me the kindess and generosity of Tajiks. I spent many nights in people’s home in Tajikistan. I am Canadian and currently live in Calgary which is about 1000km from Vancouver….One of the way to reduce the cost of cycling here is to use the “warm shower list” (google it). it is am amazing network of cycle tourist friendly people. Also please keep in touch and let me know when you arrive in Canada…I would like to host and help and maybe even ride part ofthe country with you…You will enjoy SE Asia. I cycled there in 2004-5 and loved every minute of it (favorite is Laos)….
You are AMAZING.

    Friday, November 29, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Hi Celine,

    Thank you for your kind words. I know Calgary reasonably well, as I did two tours in Medicine Hat and also at Lake Louise. Even though I’ve now visited 26 countries, Canada remains firmly my favorite and I can’t wait to return. Having said that I’m so looking forward to SE Asia, I think ‘the stans’ though absolutely amazing give me the feeling I have outstayed my welcome, I desperately need to move on. Beijing will be a welcome diversion as I make my way to Singapore! I will take you up on your offer, (as I have done with other ‘warm shower’ hosts – check out my profile!), so stay in touch. Look forward to meeting you and swapping stories about your own amazing travels.


Ben Lewis
Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Just came across your website Derek. Sorry to hear about your misfortune. Really, all the best for the rest of your trip

    Monday, December 9, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Thanks Ben and welcome to my ramblings! Now back travelling again and it feels so good…

Monday, December 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Hi Derek

we are 2 English cyclists also on a long journey…Norway to Japan. We’re currently on the Greek island of Lesbos but slowly making our way east. We discovered your blog via another blog and were shocked to read about your accident but happy to read that first you are slowly recovering and second that you feel you want to carry on…..very inspiring and we wish you all the very best. We’ve cycled in China and enjoyed it very much, especially the rural areas where we thought the “real” China can still be found.
We’d heard that getting a Chinese visa in Central Asia had become very difficult and so we wondered how you were able to get one? Could you let us know…..(I’ll leave my e-mail address below).
Thanks in advance if you can help!!
We send you our very best wishes and will be following along…
Gayle & John
aka The Sloths on Wheels

    Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Hi Gayle & John, good to hear from you. I’ve just dropped into China (Beijing) and I’m liking it, but the real test will be traveling through this huge country. Anyway about the Chinese Visa, you can now get it in Bishkek and it’s the easiest visa I’ve obtained so far. I’ve put details in one of my blog posts =, there’s the address and even a picture of the travel agents where you get it from. I’ll check out your website a little later, keep in touch and if I can help in any way, please just ask.

Monday, December 9, 2013 at 8:35 pm

When can we expect an update? Were you able to get a chineese vias in Bishkek

    Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Hi Patrick,

    The next update will be later today. You can find information on the Chinese Visa on my page The Visa Jungle, simply scroll down to the bottom of the page. Everything you need to know is there, including the address and picture of where to get it.

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