Days 151 Through 160

Day 151

Today reminded me of the old times - those experiences battling the endless gusts of wind in Russia and Kazakhstan. The wind was back, in full force. Blake finally knew what I was talking about when I kept bitching about how bad the winds used to be haha. The nice things about the mountains though, is that the wind is constantly changing, depending on which valley you happen to be traveling through. Towards the end of the ride, that huge head wind turned into a great tail wind as we merged roads. Still, the tough wind took its toll, and cut our day a bit short today. As a result, it looks like we won't be able to bike up the secondary roads to Song Kul Lake as we were originally aspiring to do.

Town of Kochkor

Day 152

Today was no joke. Up there with some of the harder rides I've done. Blake even told me it was probably the hardest ride he's ever done. Up 4500 feet to the Dolon Pass, then fighting a headwind down the valley before reaching a long stretch of rolling hills, heading into the town of Naryn, 120 kms away. Add in the terrible dirt roads, some bad drivers, and mechanical problems with Blake's bike, and it was pretty rock and roll all day today. By the end of the day, Blake was about to pass out, and I wasn't too far behind. It didn't help that it was Sunday night and it took us an hour to find an open cafe to get some food.

Day 153

Its raining today, we're still recovering from yesterday's ride, and we really need to try to get some more information about the border crossing before we head up there. Put all that together, and you get a day off in town. Good thing too. We finally were able to meet people who had just come down the Torugart Pass and people who were planning on going up. Also, we stopped at a tourist center which had the most up to date information available. What we found was not good. There is no way to bike down the pass. The Chinese simply will not allow you to do so. If you want to cross to Kashgar, you need to pay for a permit, as well as arrange for a driver to be waiting for you at the border. This was going to cost over $200 per person... When we asked if we could cross at the Irkeshtam Pass, she told us it was closed, confirming what Mansur had told us down in Bishkek. Talking with other travelers in town basically painted the same picture. There was not way to bike into China for Kyrgyzstan.

For me, there was no chance I was going to pay 200 bucks for the 'privlidge" of breaking my rules and not being able to enjoy biking down the mountain. No way. My only option was to turn around, head back to Bishkek, and go back into Kazakhstan in search of a better border crossing option into China.

For Blake, the time crunch is starting to intensify. He needs to get on a plane and fly to Croatia very soon. We all set goals, mine is to bike across Eurasia, his is to bike to China. If we turned around, it was going to take some long, tough days of riding to get to the Kazakh/ Chinese border. If he headed up the Torugart Pass, I was going to feel obligated to join him. I didn't want to ditch my friend who just traveled around the world to be with me. We sat in our hotel room tonight, bouncing off ideas, trying to figure out what we were going to do.

Met a Group of Motorcyclists in Town who Just Came Down from the Torugart Pass

Day 154

We both agreed that Blake's best option is to bike up to the Torugart Pass, pay the 200 something dollars, and take the mandatory car ride from the border to Kashgar. First thing in the morning he went over to start getting the paperwork in order. Three stamps later, things were looking good. Then he got a phone call. The price for his ride just doubled, bringing his total expenses up to over 400 bucks... We grabbed lunch and again shuffled through our options. If he did elect to go back to Bishkek, now the already rushed ride through Kazakhstan was trimmed by an additional 24 hours...

For me, my option was easy. I can't ride through either passes in this country, I need to go back to Kazakhstan. For Blake, his decision pended on a million things. Does he have time? How far can he bike in a day? What is he going to do with his bike? What is the best city to fly out of? Where was he going to meet his friends in Europe? On top of all the logistical questions facing him on this trip, he also had a much more profound decision to make; what was he going to do for the next several years of his life. He was just offered a job offer and needs to decide tonight weather or not he will take it, return to school, or keep traveling indefinitely. To clear our heads, we decided to head up to a yurt village in the mountains. There we hashed out his options. There was no easy answer.

The yurts

Tash Rabat

Day 155

We're both returning to Bishkek. Spent the morning in the mountains doing some trekking, then headed back to Naryn where we chilled around town before catching a red eye bus back to the capital. Not against the rules of course, as I am returning to a spot I had previously biked to... As Blake points out, 4 days of tough riding seemingly erased by a 7 dollar bus ticket...

Day 156

Kazakhstan bureaucracy has found me again. I have a visa, it is still valid, but I don't have any entries left on it... So that means, first thing today I biked over the Kazakh embassy here in Bishkek and applied for a new visa. $160 and five days waisted. Blake can't wait for me to get the visa, he needs to head out  in time to catch his flight back to Europe. Tonight, back at the same hostel, with many of the same people, deja vu all over again...

As a result of the mess trying to get over the border into Kashgar, I now have a new schedule, which basically reroutes half of my trip through China. Assuming all goes ok from here on out, I do actually plan to arrive on time in Lanzhou. My new, amended schedule to Lanzhou is available here.

Day 157

Last full day of the trip with my friend Blake, I'll miss him when he heads out down the road without me tomorrow. We just sit around most of the day. Nice to have some down time. We grab one last dinner, and sit around at the restaurant drinking beers and debriefing our trip together.

Interesting plants growing in downtown Bishkek

Day 158

Blake left this morning, we parted ways at the main square in town and he rode off towards Kazakhstan. After that, it was another lazy day for me, sitting around and watching shows on the Internet. Sure sounds a lot different than Blake's long day of biking haha.

For the first time since I can remember, I am finally in a big city, on the weekend, with no biking planned for tomorrow. Big party tonight.

Day 159
Today is the laziest day I have had on the entire trip. By far. Blake had already finished his ride into Almaty by the time I woke up today in the early afternoon. I really hope I can get that visa tomorrow...

Day 160

The longer I stay in Bishkek the more I realize how many people are just sitting around here waiting to get visas. People wanting to travel to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and China seemingly all end up stuck in Bishkek waiting for their paperwork to go through. Kyrgystan acts as the waiting room for Central Asian beuacracy. Happy to say my wait is over, got my visa. Ready to go first thing tomorrow morning. Time to finally get back on the road.