An interesting day but not greatly productive.
We had found a nice camp spot down off the road accessible only by 4X4 last night and not visible from the road.
A storm had been threatening before settling in and it was still threatening this morning, but nothing eventuated. Well, the next bit was a disaster of minor proportions. Yesterday Jen loaded down a map for the country on MapMe and this morning, it lead us on a merry old chase. The issue was that the main road to Bishkek, (the capital), went through Uzbekistan and we had a single entry visa, used up. So, we programmed the app to take us on an alternative route to avoid Uzbekistan. After about 20k’s the road was getting narrower and more marginal but we retained confidence in the App till we got to Y junction, and it said, “bear left”, which we did, till it took us to someones property entrance. Enough. Retracing our steps we headed for the main road to suffer whatever consequences we were faced with. We had discussed this very section during our planning phase in NZ and had reasoned that the country would not be making connection of it’s two main cities, dependant on another country, for access. Though unsure. So it proved. While we technically crossed Uzbekistan, there was no border. Confidence in MapMe is now questioned, or maybe it’s our interpretation of it’s directions…:).
As Jen mentioned we were stopped twice yesterday by the Police. They are mercenary lot, as their presence has absolutely no influence on the driving habits, which are near suicidal. I was a little more cautious of cameras today. However, despite being warned by oncoming motorists that there was a checkpoint ahead, and strictly observing the speed limit, they pulled us over!!! With steam coming out of my ears I headed back to the officer who had his hand outstretched to shake mine, proceeding to regale me with meaningless information. A young european lady backpacker nearby explained that he had pulled me over to give her a ride! She was Polish but had a perfect English accent and of course could speak Russian. I smiled, thanked him but graciously, declined the offer, and drove off. However, another 50k’s down the road a group of Policemen were standing around and one waved his “wand” at me to stop, I drove on with a wave..:). Jen said, you cant do that. Sorry, just did.
The drive north is pretty impressive, scenery wise. Very mountainous but with a quite a good road. Passing a large hydro lake, as blue as lake Tekapo, where we stopped for lunch. Extraordinary, given the stark, arid, brown mountains around it.
The people. Outwardly less demonstrative than those of the last two countries, but neither are they hostile. They are traders, big time. Very industrious. It’s watermelon season and every man woman and child has a patch on the roadside with stacks of melons for sale. Jen bought one of our favourite type yesterday in a market in Osh and I am looking forward to dealing to it soon.
Kim and Jasper the young Dutch couple with a Land Rover we have mentioned earlier, are not too far ahead of us having arrived in Bishkek. We look forward to catching up with them tomorrow. Another Dutch family we met in Moscow, Roland, Iris and girls are not too far away either.
With about 300k’s still to go and 4pm, we have found a remote camp site by a lake, inhabited only by another Dutchman who is trying to “sort out” electrical and drive train problems in his Russian built camper he bought in Bishkek. We feel infinitely superior in our land Rover…;). Incidentally, it’s going beautifully and seems to have it’s zest back again. The starting problems are not completely resolved, though much improved.
The country. Mountainous from what we have seen so far but the quality of infrastructure is a vast improvement on the previous countries. Not so much ostentation but an overall better standard of housing and civic amenities. Less corruption, would be my guess, as the reason?
We are parked in a recently harvest field and I am looking through the windscreen across the field and lake, at a range of grass covered, eroded mountains, of modest height. Very similar to much of NZ. Like someone has taken a sheet of A4 paper, crumpled it in their hand and set it down. The sun is getting low and the valley’s are accentuated.