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Published: August 29th 2014
At Song Kul lake, we woke to a magnificent morning - clear crisp blue skies and warm sunshine. Breakfast in the yurt was again astonishing to see what the 'lady in charge' could conjure up with such primitive facilities and with the nearest shop being 100kms away. Only negative of the place was the crude 'bathroom' facilities ie none !
After breakfast, we left the lake, and drove thru the valley and headed for Bishkek. Passing thru Balychky on the shores of Lake Issy Kul, we spotted the roadside stalls selling a huge range of fresh fruit and racks of smoked fish. Presumably caught in the nearby lake, there were many varieties of fish including trout, salmon, a flat fish etc. John could not resist buying a large 2kg smoked salmon at a bargain NZ $7 which we designated for tea later that night. (It proved to be absolutely delicious)
We checked into our Guesthouse Tien Shan in the outer suburbs of Bishkek
Next morning was "Visa Day" when we HAD to obtain our Uzbek and Tajik visa's. The Uzbek visa was notoriously difficult to obtain, but we sailed thru the process and in 15 mins we were
out with the visa stamped in our passports - with LOI the cost was $US 75 plus $10 for the double entry. Off to the Tajik embassy to get the 'easy' visa, but to our horror we were refused on the grounds that there was an imminent multi country conference to be hosted in Dushanbe in a couple of weeks, and because of that all land borders were to be closed to foreigners for the next three weeks!! This was a fatal blow to our plans to enter and tour Tajikistan, and as a consequence Afghanistan. We withdrew bloodied, but returned the next morning to try again, but to no avail. There was no way we were going to get the visa. There was a scrum of other travellers also at the embassy all facing the same problem, and the mood was not great. Such unilateral actions by the government with no warning is clearly unacceptable, and cannot endear the country to tourists.
So we have had to completely replan the next three weeks until we can enter Uzbekistan on the 18th Sept. We will probably spend the time doing all the other parts of Kyrgystan that were excluded
from our current plan, and maybe add a week in Khazakstan to see if Borat was right !
In the meantime, we spent the afternoon sightseeing Bishkek city which has quite a few memorable buildings. None more so than the Parliament building where in April 2010 during the 'second' peoples revolution, 90 protesting citizens were fatally shot outside the building. Hard to comprehend these events occurred just fours yrs ago, and today life seems to be back to normal for the city.
Friday morning, we left Bishkek and headed across and up Alatau mountain range, over the Tor Ashuu pass (3586m), thru a 2.6km long tunnel at the top of the range (an unpleasant "fumey" tunnel which in 2001 6 people died when there was a car crash deep inside the tunnel, and hundreds of cars were trapped, and the fumes overcame the 6 fatalities). Fortunately we got thru with no issues to reveal the broad expanse of the Suusamyr valley. Lunch on the top with the panoramic vista below was pretty special. Down the other side a couple of thousand metres descent, and then we turned off to the southeast to head to the village of Kyzyl-Oi,
where we hope the annual regional Horse Festival is going to take place tomorrow.
Tonite is our first experience of a CBT homestay - a community initiative to provide accommodation for tourists in locations where there are no guest houses or hotels. And we were pleasantly surprised to find a very hospitable couple, a large room with beds and couches, limited bathroom facilities, and decent meals all being served up. We're in the heart of a very small village alongside a rushing glacial river with crystal clear water that enticed John out for a fish, but again with no success.
Next morning, we are buzzing with anticipation of attending the Horse Games, which we have confirmed does include the "chase the headless goat" game that we have looked forward to ever since we started planning this trip.
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