Problems and Solutions that the road provides…
I was rushing while leaving Irkeshtam Pass towards Osh, and I forgot to get all the necessary food and water supply before leaving Irkeshtam. I only realized it after I climbed the first mountain pass not far from Irkeshtam. It was too late to turn back then, it was only some 10km but I don’t want to climb the same mountain pass again. The next village which is Sary Tash is only 70km away. “I can easily reach it in a day”, I told myself, without knowing what challenge lies in front of me. After the first mountain pass, the road snakes down all the way to a river before it climbs again into another pass. Then again another… and another. The fourth mountain pass seems never ending. It was about 20km of tough climb all the way up to over 3000m altitude. I had no food and water and the road was very quiet. Not many vehicles pass by this road. At some point, I got worried. Luckily after a few kilometers, there were some Kyrgyz yurts in the mountains so I could get some water from them.
It took me the whole day to reach the fourth mountain pass which sits at about 3400m. I took many rests in between and at some point, I even felt asleep at the roadside for almost half an hour, I was way too tired. I was hungry and had no energy, I even pushed my bicycle at some point, and gave up pushing my bicycle to reach the mountain pass. I guess I didn’t eat well since the past few days. Finally after I reached the mountain pass, I felt relieved, when I see the road snakes all the way down the mountains and I see no more climb for at least some good 10-20km. The ride down took me some 15km easy ride towards Sary Tash, then the road became flat again. I was too tired to continue and I was hungry, the road was flat but the headwind was brutal. And I saw a few Kyrgyz yurts and a beautiful spot to pitch my tent, I then decided to stop and call it a day.
I approached the nomads who are living in yurts and was welcomed by the barking of their fierce dogs. It reminds me of the Mongols, where you have to face their dogs first before you received their warm welcomed. I was then invited to their yurts. They studied my face and knew that I was tired and hungry, so they fed me until I was full. I then asked their permission to camp at their grass, next to their horses. It was beautiful. Being a nomad, you are not far from heaven. I pitched my tent under the strong cold wind in the mountains at above 3000m altitude, laid down my mat and sleeping bag and get my stove ready for more work. After a while, they invited me again to their yurts to have more meals together with them. I told them I was tired and will dine together with them the next morning, since I wanted to spend the remaining energy to enjoy the sunset before I go to sleep. I then spent the best moment in a day living a nomadic life, which is enjoying the sunset. It is always special to sit quietly for some 20-30 minutes, watching the colours of the world changed, from day to night… from orange to red and finally into dark blue, before everything turns dark. It is always special to see how things change. And living on the road, traveling on a bicycle, I always managed to see all these, slowly. Just like how I see the changes of culture from Mongols to the Chinese, and slowly to the Turkic Uighur and to finally now to the Kyrgyz nomads. Living on the road, slowly I hear the phrase Sainbainuu (hello) is being replaced by Ni Hao, then slowly changed into Assalamualaikum then finally now, Salamat syzbe.
Before I went to sleep, while checking one of my bag, I realized that my money was gone… all of it! I put my money on 2 different places, some on my wallet and the remaining on my other bag. I kept and kept searching for it but failed to find it. It is very uncommon for me to misplace things, especially important things like money and passport. After years living on my bicycle, carrying 7 bags with me, I have trained myself so that I know which bag to open to find even the smallest thing. I know every single thing inside each of my bag. I spent some half an hour looking for it but failed to find it. I then started to think that maybe it was stolen while I was sleeping in Irkeshtam, since there were 2 other guys sleeping next to me and my bag was just next to them. I only had some 600 som (roughly 12USD), and the nearest ATM machine is in Osh, some 200km away, which takes 3 days for me to reach under this very mountainous terrain. And I had very little food left with me. But problems often come with wonderful solution. The nomads who live in the yurts not far from my tent, they offered me food without asking me to pay. Smiles and being grateful are more important than money to them. Theyre not living inside the system, so they know there are more things in this world, which are more important than money. But thieves, theyre totally a different creature. To them, money is god and it’s the source of happiness. So they will do anything to get it.
The next morning, the nomads heard my story and they pity me and filled the empty space of my bag with food and water. They understand the hardship of a traveler’s life and told me not to worry. The road will always give me problems, but the road will also provide me the solutions. Spending years on the road, traveling thousand of kilometers of it, you will never be the same person again once you are back to your home, to where you came from, they told me. After shaking all their hands, I then continued my ride towards Osh. I found my first solution in a nearby village, Sary Tash, where I managed to find a guy who is interested to change some Chinese yuan into Kyrgyz som. So I changed my remaining 300 Chinese yuan into 2100 Kyrgyz som, which is about almost 50 USD. I then rushed to a nearby minimarket to get all necessary food and water supply for the next 180km ride towards Osh.
I was surprised to find myself wearing my winter equipments, exactly the same layer I wore when I was riding in the Scandinavian arctic during the last 2 winter. Even though its July, but the altitude here is very high and its normal to receive some snow here at anytime of the day. And the combination of the cold and the high altitude, again I got sick. Seems that the food I ate didn’t digest properly, I didn’t sleep the whole night since my stomach was so in pain and I vomited a lot in the morning, making me feel very weak. Right after leaving Sary Tash, I faced a tough climb, the Taldyk Pass which sits at over 3600m altitude which I had to do it very slowly since my body was very weak due to my sickness. Then it was an easy ride down and the road was flat most of the time. After that there was only one more not so tough climb before the road leads me towards Osh, the second biggest city in Kyrgyzstan after its capital, Bishkek in the north.