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Published: July 30th 2013
From Bishkek we make a 5 day, 400mile, circumnavigation of Lake Issyk-Kul – you could manage it in1 day if you didn't stop to look at all the exciting things en-route.
Firstly there's the scenery which, as usual, is stunning. Then there are the bus stops – yes the bus stops; they do a cracking line in bus stops in Kyrgyzstan. And then there are the totally random statues that just pop up all over the place; snow leopards, mountain sheep with big horns, eagles, local heroes, MIG aircraft – the range is endless. Plus of-course Lenin who appears on rooftops and mountainsides and standing, gilded in front of derelict buildings.
80km from Bishkek is the Burana Tower – in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields. It was once a capital of the ancient Eastern khanate (Samarkand was the capital of the Western khanate) but not much remains apart from the tower that was once a minaret, a mound that was once a palace & dozens of balbals – the gravestones of nomadic Turks. They are quite endearing, all different shapes and sizes depicting their owners and holding a cup or sword in their left hand.
pass through Shoestring Gorge (Boom Gorge) to get from the Chui Valley to the lake – more spectacular scenery and very curious “service stations”; rows of yurts or huge stalls selling colourful rubber rings, I suppose that's what you need when you are heading for a lake.
Once through the large, Soviet, ex-industrial town of Balykchy we head down the western lake shore and have the road with its amazing scenery all to ourselves. It very changeable: there are the expected stretches of lake shore & beaches but there's also patches of desert covered with blue flowers, long avenues of tall tress and the snow capped mountains of the Tien Shan (Teskey Ala-Too Range) to the south of the lake.
There are lots of roadside cemeteries with an amazing selection of tombs. Many of them looking like houses or yurts – this is traditional for Kyrgyz nomads, during life they have never had a permanent home so they build one in death. Some are brightly painted with scene of the occupants life.
Due to our various detours we're away from the group again and stop for the night at some local chalets right on the southern shore
Bus Stops Kyrgzy Style
they came in all shapes & sizes including a kyrgyz hat and a cotton boll
of the lake. They are most concerned about the bike and insist we park it by the security hut rather than in front of our chalet. We watch the sunset from the beach shack drinking vodka with the locals who are dancing away merrily. The bike is well looked after overnight but Edwin is exceedingly miffed the next morning when he goes to collect it and finds its covered with several animal skins!! Not sure if that was to keep it warm or to camouflage it, whichever Edwin muttered a lot and refused to take a photo.
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