An amazing day of riding
|Travel From||–||Shonzy, Kazakhstan|
|Intermediate Location||–||Kazakhstan / Kyrgyzstan border|
|Ending Location||–||Tamga, Kyrgyzstan|
|Miles Driven Today||–||191 Miles|
|Total Trip Mileage||–||8388 Miles|
|Countries visited Today||–||Kyrgyzstan|
|Countries visited on trip||US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan|
I’ve now traveled to 16 countries since leaving the US in June. This journey has amounted to almost 8400 miles, over 64 days, with another 46 days of riding to go, and another 10 days in Thailand at the end of the journey.
With each day, I become a better traveler, a better rider, and I hope, a better person. I’ve met many people from these countries, and have been amazed at the level of hospitality and warmth that I’ve been shown. I have an obligation to do the same.
And so, in this life, I am but a pawn. But, even a pawn, if played correctly, can declare checkmate every now and then. And so, as I make my way, I will attempt to be impactful, and to do good whenever possible. At the end, we are judged by peers, onlookers, friends, family, and by your god, if you have one. But I will be judged by the harshest critical of all, I will be judged by myself, and so I must act as if each day is the last, and provide whatever I can, whenever I can.
We left at 8:40 AM, headed out of Shonzy, towards the Kyrgyzstan border. We arrived at about noon, after making a stop for Chai, and another stop at the Mountain Buck.
The mountain buck
Bruno looked at this animal, and pronounced it a Mountain Buck. So, who’s to say he’s wrong. It’s certainly not a big horn sheep, as I suggested it might be. All that said, it seemed appropriate to produce an inappropriate photo.
Martin also decided to take a photo with the buck. His was just a bit more tame, but nevertheless, we had a bit of fun climbing up on this statue, located (once again), in the middle of nowhere.
Karkara, Kazakhstan is the border town that we crossed through, on our way into Kyrgyzstan This is the town of last resort. Its not uncommon for these towns to be a bit like the wild west, but this town seems like it’s torn up for several years..
5 Miles to the border
Potholes, water crossing, berms
After leaving the last town Karkara, we had about 5 miles to the border crossing. This crossing is remote, and does not see much traffic, but it is still open, and we’re allowed to cross. And so, before we could cross into Kyrgyzstan, we needed to get to the border crossing.
You’ve heard me talk about potholes numerous times. In fact, I even promised that I’d give you a good “pothole video” in the next post, so let me give that a try. As we approached the border, this 5 mile region seemed to be owned by no one. it was obvious that it is not maintained very well, and that no one really seams to care much about it. But, when you’re riding a BMW R1200 GS Adventure bike, you don’t much care whether it’s maintained or not. In fact, its the poorly maintained roads that are often the most fun.
The Hill before the border
Before we arrived at the formal border, and while we rode along on these remote back-roads, we came up on a pretty significant descent, that we’d need to complete before we could travel the remaining few miles, and arrive at the border itself.
I arrived at the descent behind a few other riders, so you can watch as each of us makes our way over the crest at the top of the hill, and then rides down the hill until we hit the bottom, and park our bikes to wait for the others.
This descent is only 20 days into our 73 day journey, and at this point we had not seen or ridden on too much in the way of technical roads. And so, you can see how hesitant we all are, as we think about riding down the hill.
Two of the last to come down the hill were Stephan and Karin. Stephan is an accomplished rider, and this descent did not phase him, but Karin had never seen such a steep, and technical descent, never mind the fact that it is very remote, and her bike is loaded with gear. Nevertheless, with all of these unknowns staring her in the face, Karin decided that she was going to go for it.
What you see in this video is Karin overcoming the fear and shock of descending a hill like this for the first time. You’ll also hear her scream with the overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment when you finish such a technical undertaking.
We hit the border a little before noon, and were processed pretty quickly as we exited Kazakhstan. Ordinarily, there is an area, which is called No-Mans-Land, which is between the two borders, but in this case, the area in-between was virtually non-existent.
We reached the Kyrgyzstan side, and I was processed in about 90 seconds, faster than as if I was entering the US after returning home. After a 30 minute ride, we had a brief stop to regroup before we attacked a gravel section, which had a number of hills. This section proved to be a whole lot of fun, as we had a chance to test our bike-handling skills on gravel.
Another 50 miles of dirt, gravel, and potholes, and we finally arrived at our lunch stop, at about 3:00 PM. Lunch took quite a while, and just as we were about to leave town, after trying to convert our remaining Kazakhstan currency, we were told that our hotel reservation was not right, and we’d need to stay put in order to work it out. So, another coffee, and in about 10 minutes, we were finally ready to head to the hotel.
Arghhh, what a day. But, to be fair, while we had a few challenges with logistics, this was the best day of riding so far on the tour. if you like dirt, gravel, and maybe a little mud and sand, then this day was for you.
Lunch stop (Very late)
The cafe we chose for lunch was an excellent choice. A serving of noodles, beef, and vegetables was 190 SOM, the equivalent of about $3.00 USD. The also had Diet Coke, which is pretty rare, so we were treated to a great meal, along with some of the creature comforts that we’ve become accustomed to.
Kid on bike
After we left the restaurant, and after we had all of the hotel arrangements sorted out, another small boy came up to the bikes, so I happily put him up on the seat, and took a quick video.
Report from the road
The smiling faces of Kyrgyzstan
As we left the lunch stop, and headed towards the hotel, it was starting to get late, perhaps 6:00 PM or so. We rode along, with the sun beginning to set, riding through small towns and communities along the way. These places were not distinct or interesting in their own right, but what struck me was the people, especially the children.
The spectacle of 12 big Adventure bikes riding through town, with our bright, blinking, yellow and white lights cuts quite a path through town. It seems that children everywhere are fascinating by motorcycles, but here, in Kyrgyzstan it seems that they have an infectious enthusiasm for motorcycles that on display at every intersection, and along every road.
As we rode along, the children would wave wildly at us, and we’d do our best to wave back, flash the lights, and beep the horn. As we saw more and more children, I found that I wanted to do more and more for them. And so, I used my recently developed skill of riding no-hands, and as I’d see the kids waving, I’d set the cruise control, take both hands off the bars, and wave back with great enthusiasm.
Most of the kids that started waving with one hand, noticed I was waving with two, and did the same. And so, this is how it went for the next 30 miles. Children waving, us beeping, waving, and flashing lights, trying to bring just a little bit of joy and appreciation to these little boys and girls.
Once again, I found myself showing a big smile inside the helmet, and I wanted nothing more than to stop, share some candy, and let them sit on the bike. But, the sun was setting, and we needed to get to the hotel ASAP.
South Beach is a small resort, locate about 3 miles before the main road into Tamga. The resort has 12 cabins, each equipped with a single room, with a larger bed, and a double room, equipped with two twin beds.
We divided up the rooms, drove to our respective cabins, and prepared for a quick dinner before calling it a night.
What will tomorrow bring?
Tomorrow is a rest day, so we’re free to go for a ride to some of the local attractions, or to relax at the cabins, and enjoy a nice lunch, perhaps doing a bit of work, or performing maintenance on the bikes.