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Published: January 7th 2018
Monday 26th July 2004
We are heading to Osh through the Taldyk pass, a mountain pass of 3615 metres which has some stunning scenery, but we saw nothing as it was pitch black. The road quite bad & bumpy – resigning ourselves that we would arrive in Osh in the middle of the night, we tried our best to get some sleep in our uncomfortable bunks.
We are heading to Osh through the Taldyk pass, a mountain pass of 3615 metres which has some stunning scenery, but we saw nothing as it was pitch black. The road quite bad & bumpy – resigning ourselves that we would arrive in Osh in the middle of the night, we tried our best to get some sleep in our uncomfortable bunks. Tuesday 27th July 2004
It didn’t feel like it but I must’ve slept during the night as it is now daylight and we are still trundling along, so much for arriving at 4am! Something happened to the bus last night, first they had to change a tyre in the wee hours and then later they were filling it with petrol. The scenery is still mountainous, green pastures filled with
horses and cows, the farmhouses were surrounded by fields of sunflowers, very pretty. The odd ger is around, plus families living in disused rail cars.
At 730am saw us have a toilet stop, everyone went on the side of the road or behind a bush (last night at the border I had to go in the weeds between two buildings!!). One guy got left behind as the bus took off, I noticed he was missing but didn’t bother saying anything because he was ALWAYS last on the bus and it would serve him jolly well right. We’d gone about two kilometres before somebody did notice he was gone, and we had to turn around and get him from the side of the road.
930am saw us (finally) arrive in Osh. We pulled into a bus station that had obviously been disused for years, as it was overgrown with weeds and deserted. Typical Chinese, can’t even take you to a proper bus station, obviously too hard for their small brains. As it was we were miles from the heart of Osh where our hotel was, and there wasn’t a taxi in sight. Pleas for a taxi fell on deaf
ears and it wasn’t until Tony approached some old men a sleep on a bed outside the station that we got anywhere, as one of them explained we could catch a Number 7 bus into town.
Not happy with the concept of carrying our backpacks on a local bus, we had no choice but to head in the direction that the old man pointed. Leaving the Japanese scratching their heads (although we had told them how to get to town) we walked to the side of the road, where we found a man sitting in his car but no bus stop. The good thing about Kyrgyzstan is that most people speak a bit of English, so Tony was engaged in a conversation with him when the Number 7 bus came around the corner. The bus stopped and the man told the bus driver the name of our hotel and where we wanted to get off, which was very helpful. The bus was more like a Bedford van than a bus but quite comfy, everyone smiled at us on our journey into town.
After about ten minutes we were dropped out the front of our hotel, thank goodness, we
were as we would never have found it on our own, no signs anywhere just a doorway. The hotel itself is on the second floor and our room is quite nice although there is no air-conditioning or a fan, I hope it doesn’t get too hot! The hotel (the Taj Mahal) costs 600 somme ($20) a night.
After we had showered the bus ride away, Tony asked the guy in reception if he could arrange our plane tickets to Bishkek and he said he could for 10% commission, so we left it with him and went off to find some lunch. Osh reminds us of Ulaan Bataar in some ways, probably the old soviet style buildings and Cyrillic writing. We found a café around the corner but couldn’t read the menu, so Tony dragged the waitress around with him and pointed to all the food he wanted, a well-used trick on our journey!!
Our lunch consisted of plov (rice with tomatoes, mutton, onion and fruit) piroshki (puff pastry filled with mutton) and shashliks. Very delicious although the meat was a bit fatty, we couldn’t finish it all and it all cost just over 200 somme ($6).
then headed down to the bazaar but bumped into the guy who was getting our plane tickets, our flight to Bishkek will cost us S1700 ($56) so we are leaving on Thursday at 330pm. Tickets cost a bit more than we had planned so we were virtually wiped out of cash, our next stop was to find a bank to replenish our supply, but this turned out to be easier said than done. Walked into the first bank and asked security if they had an ATM, he didn’t understand but pointed us to a desk with Western Union signs, no one wanted to serve us so we walked out, couldn’t get a cash advance anyway as the guy buying our plane tickets still has our passports, what a pain!
Returned to our room to find it was just like a sauna, very hot, we had another shower but this time a cold one to cool us down. Soon it was dusk and the mozzies were out, I put the fly screen on the window but we ended up having to shut it completely which made the room even hotter. Heard the “call to prayer” about three times during the
evening it wasn’t too disturbing. Wednesday 28th July 2004
Like Ulan Bataar in more ways than one, in this case killer mozzies, Tony killed eleven last night, this time it was me they ate, I had about six bites. Once they had all been killed we tried to sleep; we had been reduced to wetting towels and flannels and wrapping them round our heads and necks to get some relief. To make matters worse, this morning I have the runs something fierce, so I had to lie still for two hours while my stomach bubbled away.
Once I felt brave enough to venture away from the toilet, we set off to see Solomon’s Throne, a rocky outcrop sacred to Muslims. You can see this from nearly everywhere in Osh, but we thought we’d get a better look as it was in walking distance. It was very hot and I didn’t take long to start sweating, we kept our eyes open for a bank with an ATM on the way, but still found nothing.
We discovered the section of the bazaar which sells souvenirs and clothes, and will have a longer look around on the way back, we walked through the food section where we purchased a round bread for brunch.
The area around Solomon’s Throne was very green and the streets treelined and shady, and a very pleasant area, we fed the rest of our bread to a duck that was paddling in a culvert but soon even he had had enough. You can walk up to the top of Solomon’s Throne, but it was quite unspectacular and far too hot to hike, so we just took a few photos at the base and visited a two-storey ger shaped museum which cost S30 ($1) to get in and was probably pointless as nothing was in English, so we didn’t know what the exhibits were, however, the ger was good!!
We then went to a much bigger museum next to the ger, it was just closing for lunch (everything seems to shut from noon – 1pm) but we changed our minds anyway as there was probably nothing in English.
We continued walking as it was very pleasant under the trees and lately we seem to have been doing lots of travelling but no real exercise. Then we saw it, almost lit up in a beam of light, an ATM!! We ran over to it and were thrilled because it had a VISA & MCD sign, but our cards refused to work, they kept rejecting. A man approached us and told us that the ATM would only accept their own credit cards, however, he worked for the bank and if we came back at 1pm, he would organise for us to withdraw cash. We were so relieved that we found someone who knew exactly what we wanted, I was a bit afraid it would turn out a la China (Urumqi) and we would get refused.
We sat down and had a few drinks at a nearby hotel bar while we waited for the bank to reopen. The drinks here are all warm, to find a cold drink is surprisingly difficult, nothing worse than warm beer or coke, can’t understand why these people don’t have cold drinks.
Once the bank was open, we managed to withdraw our cash efficiently and quickly, I was quite impressed, this bank is quite modern compared to the ones we visited yesterday, where you went behind ‘door one’ for travellers’ cheques, ‘door two’ for Visa cards etc – how archaic!
We then walked to the bazaar and were instantly impressed, although smaller, it was much, much better than what we saw in Kashgar, it was how we imagined Kashgar would be. We had a great time walking through and looking at all the stalls, Tony bought a traditional felt hat for S100 ($3) plus a felt ger for S20 (-70c). I bought a felt camel for S35 ($1.60) and a pair of sunglasses for S70 ($2.30).
We spent about an hour and a half wandering around looking at all the stuff before we returned to our road and found an Internet place to do some emailing. It is still very hot and so is our room, for dinner we went to the same place where we had lunch yesterday, but much to our dismay, they had no plov, so we had to be content with Roast Chicken, cucumber and tomato salad for S270 ($9), not too bad but a bit greasy and not as good as plov! Thursday 29th July 2004
Don’t have to check out until noon, so spent the morning lazing around in our room – another hot night for us with no fan – only 2 mozzies killed last night, but still had to keep the window closed, which makes a comfortable night’s sleep almost impossible. Hunger got the better of Tony at 11am, so he disappeared down the road & returned with two round breads & two nut muffins – not a bad breakfast!
At 12pm we checked out & were able to leave our bags at the hotel as we still have about 2 ½ hours to kill before we catch our plane to Bishkek – still so very hot & we get no relief, couldn’t be bothered walking around so went to the Internet place. Still hot in there too, despite the fan – sank two ice cold fantas when we came out for S6 (20c) each – unbelievable, even yesterday at the market we didn’t even bother to barter as everything was so cheap.
2:30pm found us in a cab heading towards the airport; the hotel had organised a cab for us so that saved us the agony of trying to find one. Osh airport was very small – badly in need of a coat of paint, very drab & depressing. Our plane was even smaller, a YAK40 (it had engines, not props); you entered through the back under the tail, walking past your luggage which was stowed in racks on your right. The inside of the plane was very small, just 4 seats across, 2 each side of the aisle & the interior was painted blue. The windows were more like portholes, & we did feel like we were on a submarine!
There were probably about 30 people on the plane, if you include the enormous man at the front who would count for 3 people alone. There seemed to be 4 flight crew & only one stewardess, who was a most unattractive blonde with ugly gold teeth like ‘Jaws’ from James Bond – she handed out boiled lollies & carbonated water, & that seemed to be the extent of her duties. Despite the plane’s appearance it took off very smoothly & we were in the air before we knew it – thankfully the air-con started to kick in soon after as it had been boiling hot sitting on the tarmac. The enormous fat man held on to the overhead baggage rack the entire journey – thank God he did as we didn’t want him rolling backward down the aisle, although he would have made a good life raft.
It was only about an hour journey to Bishkek & again had a smooth landing. Had a bus to transport us to the terminal, & the flight crew got on board as well. Airport a lot bigger & a lot of US planes sitting on the tarmac. Got our luggage (tony was tempted to pull ours off the plane as we walked past it) & then got hassled by cab drivers who wanted to drive us to Bishkek (airport is 30kms away) – one wanted S800 ($26) to take us – Tony told him where to get off, & we walked outside & there was a bus there that would take us for S20 (70c). Cab drivers who hang around bus/train/planes are all rip off merchants.
We sat right at the back next to a young couple who spoke good English – the guy said that the bus takes you to the outskirts of Bishkek, then you have to take a cab the rest of the way. They offered to share a cab with us which was invaluable as we knew they would help us find our hotel. Once the bus dropped us off, the guy had to haggle with cab drivers to get a good price – what a pain, why can’t the greedy pigs just use their meters? We finally got a driver to take all 4 of us for S100 ($3) of which we paid S40 ($1.50) as the others had much farther to go. With the young couple’s help, we were at our hotel in 5 mins – we would never have found it without them.
We are staying at the International School of Management & Business, where we have a room with a balcony & a toilet/bathroom that we share with an adjoining room. Cost is S450 ($15) per night & is good basic accommodation. It is raining in Bishkek & we find this a welcome relief. We are hungry so Tony, having spotted a decent looking restaurant from the cab, led the way. It was an outdoor café called Athens with young staff & a menu in Cyrillic. Luckily the boys spoke English, so with their help ordered a great potato salad & a beef dish, which, when it came turned out to be a schnitzel topped with egg, tomatoes, mushroom & cheese – what bliss, have been dreaming about schnitzel for so long!
They also played an English sci-fi movie called “Riddick” which is a new release, so we stayed & watched that & had a few drinks. The bill came to S420, which is almost as much as our accommodation, but still only AUD$14, & we had a good time. Still raining on & off, should get a decent night’s sleep for once! Friday 30th July 2004
Decided to do some sightseeing today, weather is nice at the moment, so we should get some done. After a strange breakfast of just two fried eggs in the downstairs café (who would serve fried eggs on a plate, no toast??), we then set off for the Russian Orthodox Church which was around the corner. Quite a pretty church with light blue steeples, but we didn’t go in as there was a service on.
From there we walked down the pretty tree lined streets until we found Ala-Too Square. We find it really nice here as no one stares at us, & we can ‘blend’ in until we open our mouths! Ala-too Square was mainly concrete & fountains & previously had a statue of Lenin, but he has since be replaced by another statue. Behind this was the State Historical Museum, which we debated about but finally visited. Although there was hardly any English on the exhibits, it was worthwhile seeing, with many statues depicting events from the Russian Revolution & great murals on the ceilings, which were well painted. It cost S25 (85c) to get in & had a great gift shop, it took us about an hour to walk around.
From there we continued down the street past Dubovy Park until we came to a large department store where we went crazy in the souvenir section. After all this, & as the day was getting hotter, we then went to a burger bar called MacBurger, where I had a burger & Tony had a pizza – my burger was very dry, but only cost $2.
We then walked back to our hotel, as it was past 2:30pm & it was a lot hotter, felt a bit weary. After a short nap, we went to an Internet café, where they had a cute grey kitten who played with our feet. Have decided to move on to Kazakhstan tomorrow, although our original plans were to stay in Bishkek for one more day – this is good for me as I’m running out of Somme!!! Saturday 31st July 2004
Moving on to Almaty today; we caught a cab just outside our hotel for S70 ($2) to the bus station arriving about 1030am to find it all very confusing, no English signs anywhere so couldn’t find the ticket office. It turned out you just had to ask around at the ‘buses’ themselves, which were really just big Mercedes Benz vans. There was one just ready to leave but most of the ‘good’ seats had been taken, so we decided to get on the next one. The bus cost S115 ($4) and we were able to get the front two seats behind the driver, which had extra leg room.
We departed Bishkek at 1115am and after driving along bumpy roads for about half an hour, arrived at the Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan border. Talk about an easy crossing, we simply got off the bus, had our passports checked at the Kyrgyzstan border and then walked across into Kazakhstan, where they stamped our visas, no bag checks or anything, took less than ten minutes and we were back on the bus.
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