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Published: March 10th 2013
a soggy camp siteMagnificent Monuments of Bishkek - 13thJuly 2012 – mile 10,229
but still with spectacular views
With the appearance of the rainbow over our camp-site we thought the storm was going to clear up. But no – the thunder continued all night long constantly moving up and down the valley. It really was pretty spectacular at times, especially when it was directly overhead.
To leave the Suusamyr Valley we have one last 3500m pass to cross. The roads are wet and the clouds are low as we make our way up the hairpins. You can hardly see the bike in front through the mist. Its a shame, I expect there are wonderful views back down into the green, yurt dotted valley below. Yesterday the roads were in perfect condition but typically now we are negotiating hairpins in bad weather they are really bad and full of pot holes!!
At the top we emerge above the clouds and its a chilly 5C - we've been at 30C+ for weeks and weeks so its a bit of a shock. Even though we can see the views its still a spectacular ride. The rain is really bringing out all the colours in the rocks; deep purples, oranges
A tunnel means we don't have to go all the way up to 3586m. The traffic lights at the tunnel are definitely on red but the military guard very insistently waves us through. Inside the narrow tunnel there's a steady stream of lorries coming the other way – there's just enough room for us to squeeze past them. We ride along on main beam just to make certain they know we are there.
On the other side we plunge steeply down the hairpins into the Chuy Valley. Its like we have entered a different world. Yesterday was remote green valleys and empty roads. Now we're back in the thick of the traffic and the whole 40 miles to Bishkek seems to be lined with shops, houses and factories – it feels quite claustrophobic. It must be a series of small towns as we pass a series of “town halls” with Lenin outside – always gilded, they like a gilded statue here in Kyrgyzstan.
I love Bishkek from the moment we enter it. Riding to the hotel we pass a myriad of enormous, dynamic statues – Soviet in style but all of local heroes. And flowers,
there are colourful flower beds every where even long the side of underpasses. It really beckons you to come and explore it. So while Edwin heads off to try and find a local garage where they can change the bike's road tyres for knobblies I head off to explore the city.
Its a very open & spacious city – lots of enormous squares and green parks full of flower beds & statues. The Soviet statues have mostly gone and been replaces by local heroes or Victory/Peace/Freedom etc. Even Lenin has been relegated to a minor square, they weren't quite brave enough to get rid of him completely. And you can still find Marx & Engles sat chatting on a park bench and Frunze riding his horse. Frunze, Lenin's compatriot and leader of the Red Guard in the Revolution, was born here and, as with Lenin & Stalin, his childhood home has been preserved for posterity – during Soviet times the town was actually called Frunze.
The best statue of all is of Manas, the legendary Kyrgzy hero, the central character of the 500,000 line poem “the Epic of Manas”. Here he sits astride his magical horse, Ak-Kula, slaying
entering the purple zone
the rain really brings out the colours in the rocks - they may not look it on the photo but in real life they were really purple
a dragon. Its beautifully curvy & flowing, it really looks like they are flying through the air.
The other highlight of Bishkek is the State History Museum, not so much for the exhibits but for inside of the building. Built into the internal walls are life sized faux bronze sculptures depicting the Bolshevik uprising scene by scene. They are very impressive. And all the ceilings are covered in amazingly expressive murals showing all aspects of life during Soviet times including the wedding party attended by members of every nationality in the Soviet Union and Lenin himself. It really is quite an amazing building – even Edwin was impressed.
Tomorrow we're off to exercise our legs walking in Ala Archa Canyon then its back on the bike to hunt down some dirt roads with our new knobbly tyres.
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