We set off around 1pm from AThouse. Direction: lake Issyk Kul, 1600 meters above sea level, surrounded by much higher mountains (up around 7000msl), the Ala-Too range, Kungoy (sunny) Ala-Too in the north and Terskey (Shady) Ala-Too in the south, part of the Northern Tien Shan. Issyk Kul is the tenth largest lake in the world by volume (though not in surface area), and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. The lake is a cradle of Central Asia civilization with a lot of mysteries around it yet unsolved.
For the first 50km, the road is busy, in the distance you can see the mountains approaching. But still, the landscape around us remains bleak.
There aren't plenty of places to sleep, or at least, there is neither trees nor grass.
On our left should be the Chui river, which is also the border with Kazakhstan. There is barbed wire, but of the river only the bed remains, the water was channeled and is locked in concrete across the road to our right. Towards evening, after about seventy kilometers, we go to sleep close to what used to be the river, a few meters from the border. The border patrol stare at us perplexed. When we assemble the tent they stop making the case to us. I think there is a lot of people trying to enter illegally in Kazakhstan.
The road is slightly uphill. The landscape becomes more mountainous. And there is less traffic, we meet some Chinese workers who are building the new lane. Apparently the Chinese know how to build the smooth roads. So this is what they're doing moreless all over the world in the less developed country, building infrastructures and exploitung the natural resources in exchange, new colonialism we may call it, quite better than the old style one anyway.
To our left the railway active for passengers only during the months of June, July and August.
Here finally the Chui river sets itself free from the concrete cage, it's now a beautiful placid river streaming through the valley.
We sleep under a tree beside the river, an apple tree, but all the apples are full of holes...
We cook a pasta and go to sleep as soon as it gets dark. Now our rhythms are those solar, at least in the evening... it's beginning to get chilly after sunset.
It's raining since last night. It's indeed chilly and I did not want to get out from the "bed".
But you have to get out of your tent in this unpitiful life so, we put on all that we have, we are waterproof, moreless.
And as soon as we are ready, the rain stops! So we have to undress again! As soon as we start even the sun cames out. We're back in shorts and T-shirt! After twenty kilometers we arrive at Balichky, at 1600msl, on the shores of the lake. We jump the town because the road to the south of the lake splits before it. Obviously this is not the way the Chinese have built, maybe for the cars is fine but for the bike is a disaster. The Kyrgyz method of building roads is: throw rocks, pass over them with a large roller, fine. So we are continually shaken.
We wanted to stop and eat outside Balichky, where plenty of small restaurants where, but it was early. This must be a touristic spot, don't it? We shall found a lot of restaurants, no? No. No way, regret it, there is almost nothing for 40 kilometers, not even a mini-market. But the scenery is beautiful, the lake looks like a sea, with gren calm water, surrounded by high mountains, some snow capes them.
Almost at the beach we break the eggs! Back to the market, followed by the always troublesome children, to prevent them throwing stones at us we throw stones at them, so we learned in Azerbaijan and so we do, and it works. No worries nobody got hurt. Bought back the eggs, back to the beach. We cook, the result is a pimp, but it's good. In the meantime, it starts to rain and then hail, we are under a tree waiting for it to stop. There comes a donkey trying to eat up the eggs, and so we find that the donkeys like eggs. The hail is over and the sun comes out, let's go on the beach and pitch the tent. We only cycled 40 km but the lunch break lasted much longer than expected and this place is really amazing.
And after ten eggs in our stomach, we can go to sleep.
We keep riding the south coast. The scenery is as beautiful as the road sucks! There's a climb to 2000 meters, and as soon as the descent begins a dreamy landscape opens before us.
The descent is long, about 10 kilometers and takes us back to the lake, Caribbean beaches. Who could expect that in Central Asia. It's midday and it's hot so we go to swim. There's a bunch of young guys preparing a barbecue, they're sympathetic and we chat a little, while there a minbus comes, it's full of women, aged 50 to 60 i guess. They get down the Marchoutka, and get naked, yes naked, and go to swim laughing loudly and playing with the water, we stare in unbelive togheter with the young guys. This is what Soviet tines made to a Muslim nation, not bad should I say, at least in this aspect.
In this part of the lake there is no tourism neither, we have seen just one hotel.
The only "touristic" village we encounter is Kaji-Say where there are old Soviets sanatoria abandoned to themself and a few new buildings. We stop to sleep on the beach shortly after the town, there is another tent, a couple of Kyrgyz in their fifties who have cooked a fish soup. They offer some to Daniele (I'm vegetarian, remember?) and give us some apples. We cook the instant noodles but they are spicy hot!
There's a tourist bus parked beside a cliff and a lot of western tourist taking pictures all togheter, we go to see what's going on and we realize there was an eagle hunting show. It's over now and the hunter is feeding the eagle with the hare she cuaght, a sacrifical hare, brought there to be gutted for the tourist cameras. Eagle hunting is a strong tradition in Kyrgyzstan and the hunter seems to know how to handle and treat the eagle, anyway it's wierd to see this practice acted as a performance for tourist.
The road continues along the lake and then goes away through the fields, this must be one of the few flat and cultivated areas in Kirghiztan.
After about 90 kilometers the weather turns bad and seems it's going to rain. A stratch of the road consists only of stones, not yet crushed, when cars pass the stones become bullets.
We find a small road that leads through meadows to a small field, we ask if we can sleep there and of course they say yes. We pitch the tent among the curious eyes of children pastors.
We are up to get our turn back west, along the north coast of the lake, the road is always a few kilometers from the shore. We arrive in Karakol, large town (70,000 inhabitants), where there is even a sporting goods store, I buy a jacket and Daniele a pair of trousers, winter gear for the next climb to Lake Song-Kul (3000msl). We're on the easternmost part of the lake, this is where the russians used to test their torpedos and submarines. In March 2008, Kyrgyz newspapers reported that 866 hectares around the Karabulan peninsula on the lake would be leased for an indefinite period to the Russian Navy, which is planning to establish new naval testing facilities as part of the 2007 bilateral Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation, Mutual Help, and Protection of Secret Materials. The Russian military will pay $4.5 million annually to lease the area. Sems India is interested in testing military submarine technology there too. No peace for Issyk Kul (source).
We think we can finally sleep...
But after a while the Baron is back and reveals his real crazy nature! Keep talking and talking, he does not go away. We understand he wants to sleep with us in the tent (?) or with me or with Daniele (he's confused). We think he's drunk and we tell him, but to demonstrate he's not he does some strange acrobatic move. Now we are scared, if he's not drunk then he's psychopath. Daniele takes the trusty TigrLock to show him we could be a tough cookie, but he's not threatining, just very creepy.
At the end I say that I will call the militia (lie... who knows the number? And then how should I talk to them and explain where I'm?), but at the sound of the word militia he's gone! If I had known it was so easy I would have tried it before...
Anyway we cannot sleep after these two hours of stress, we understood that to "disconnect yourself" too much (as Alessandro says) from civilization is not always safe.
We wake up after a night of wierd dreams, the Baron was a tiny gnome and was sleeping at our feet inside the tent while outside there was a party going on... and I find myself without a bag, it was empty and I used to cover the connector for the GoPro in case of rain. Probably it was taken by the crazy baron. Among other things, the car with the crazy number 1 and the Baron is still there, and there is also another guy. It seems pointless to try to go to talk to them... we don't want to cope no more with those mad assholes, and we are still in the middle of nowhere.
We dismantle everything quickly and we leave. The road in this part of the lake is not very interesting, is far from the shore for the most part (so if you have to chose une side chose the south one), but we still manage to find a beach and take a bath, probably the last of the year.
Setting up the tent here is not an option, to follow the games we need a place to store our things and this town is full of people. So we go to the village, we meet a franch guy also looking for a Guesthouse, we find a room for 1200 som (17 euro). The French says it's a normal price in Kygyzstan, we always slept in the tent so we do not know if the price is in the average but it seems a bit expensive. However, the room is nice and we can take a shower, for tonight's okay! And then right in front there is a nice little place where they make good Lagman (bigoli - thick noodles) handmade of course.