Everywhere along the road, in front of the mini-market, or the hair-salon seems nobody cares.
After sixty kilometers we arrive to Merke, here's the border with Kyrgyzstan. We get a last meal with manti (ravioli filled with minced meat and onion, steamed and then fried). Finally we can stop our rush against the clock, in Kyrgizstan we'll have 60 days visa freedom. At the border crossing there's a lot of people, mostly Kyrgyz and Kazakhs who go back and forth but, despite this, the slowness is chronic, it takes an hour to get in the country.
We hope to get some rest beyond the border but no way, the first ATM is located in Kara Balta, 30 kilometers from here, we have no cash so let's ride there.
We arrive at Kara Balta when it's almost dark, nothing to say about the city, negligible, but for the fact of being the home of the Kara-Balta Ore Mining Combine, the biggest uranium mine in Central Asia. The mine was closed in the 90s but the on the site they kept on processing raw material from Kazakhstan until 2005, the massive amount of tailings stored here it's still a serious threat, but not as dangerous as Mailuu Suu. We find a stinking Soviet gastiniza, double room for 400 som (less than six euro). It seems that the room didn't got a decent clean upsince the time of the Union, a giant cockroach welcomes us into our room. We just have to stay covered up in our sleeping bags and hope not to get bites by strange insects.
We get on our bikes and ride for about 25km, stop for something to eat in a café, where we are greeted by a guy who is playing guitar. The place is very nice, inside the courtyard are two "tents" closed by large curtains. Inside there's a large table, where you eat sitting on large colorful carpets, this is the Central Asia style. But I, as usual, eat fried eggs. Daniele instead gets a dish of lamb meat and peppers served on a hot iron plate (I think).
After eating we get to chat with the managers, the guitarist, a girl and a lady of about fifty, the usual questions about our trip and then we have vodka. The lady says she is Muslim but definitely will be burnt out by Allah because che loves to drink. Now with our deep knowledge of Russian, we can even speak of serious stuff! The two boys are cousins and the lady is the mother of the girl. They're half Siberian and half Uyghurs (Muslim from western China). The girl, of whom Daniele falls in love at first sight, dress on with a traditional costume and dance for us! In a few days there will be the Kyrgyz Independence Day and she will dance at the local celebrations.
They tell us that we can stay the night there, and we accept, yesterday we did not get much rest. It's still early and we go to the town of Ak-Suu, where there is an internet point and, most important, a public bath (Banya in russian). There is a room with hot water of three different temperatures and next door there is a small room with sauna. After days in the steppes seems like paradise. And we can stay here alone for one hour for 100 som (1.50 euro)!
Back "home" we get more food, this time no eggs, but a very good sort of dumplings stuffed with vegetables (oromo i think). We have fun with our hosts, playing music and chatting until late (for our standards). We sleep in a beautiful room, and tomorrow we will be in the Kyrgyz capital.
Alessandro Gallo is returning to Italy, Mauro, slowly heading to the edges of the world, there is Chi Yong Xin, a Chinese crazy adventurer with no fears, Bettina and Claudia (a brave lesbian couple) coming from the Pamir, the Swiss guys who made us find the house who are about to go to India, and two other Swiss guys. And then there's Chad and his wife, 10 year experience on the road.
We spent the evening talking about the various travel experiences. It's great to meet so many travellers at once!
Today is Independence Day, we go downtown with Alessandro to see the celebrations. Kyrgyzstan is a nation of very tough people, they made two revolutions in the last 10 years (the Tulip Revolution in 2005 and the Kyrgyz Second revolution in 2010) and their nation pride is quite high. The square is big and beautiful but above all there are the people. Bishkek it's a city with a very mixed population, lot of ethincs grups from all over Central Asia and Siberia here, there is a desire to photograph whoever steps ahead our face, and we pretty much do it. Then today everybody have the party dress and this makes them all perfect subjects. On stage we see a couple of bands performing traditional and pop music, then nothing, maybe there is a break. Eventually someone tells us that the music will resume this evening. We go to the hyppodrome where there should be a match of Kok Boru, or people on horseback trying to throw a dead goat in a large "basket". But upon our arrival the game has just ended, and we fret. There we meet the other guys from the guest house which, however, were able to watch the game. No one knew the starting time so it was just luck... and we are the losers. The racecourse is a large field of sand with huge mountains towering in the background. However, on the other hand, we find that 9 to 14 September there will be the first edition of the World Nomad Games in Cholpon Ata, Issik Kul lake, just where we're going. So we hope to see a few games there.