To Kyrgyzstan after all!
Today, Tuesday, June 7, we examined the various options for continuing the trip. Our goal is to be in Uzbekistan in at least a week to be able to finish the trip.
Option 1: Calling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan to see if we can get access with a special code. We tried several times, but the connection was broken every time after a shorter or longer time. So this will not help us any further.
Option 2: Transport of the engines via OceanNet. Tried to get in touch with Stefan from OceanNet. We succeeded later in the day, but he has no further information for us yet.
Option 3: Route via Russia to Kazakhstan. For this we drove to the Russian visa office and requested information. Applying for a visa takes at least 3 working days, so that should work in the best case. However, she also states that a transit visa or a tourist visa is not possible, only a private visa. We don't know what this means exactly and it also doesn't give much certainty.
Option 4: We wait for the border with Azerbaijan to open. This is not really an option anymore or the border would have to open within 2 days. This we are not going to gamble on.
Option 5: We sell the bikes in Tblisi, fly to Tashkent and buy other bikes there to continue the trip. We went to a few motorcycle stores, but they didn't want our bikes, they only sold new bikes. In the end we also gave up this option, we will drive them home.
Option 6: We fly to one of the Stan countries and rent a motorcycle there, so we can still make the tour through the Stan countries, ending up in Mongolia. We have contacted SilkOffRoad Kazakhstan for this. They tell us that the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is closed due to corona and will not open for a while. We therefore have to choose between a route in Kyrgyzstan or through Tajikistan, where they indicate that Kyrgyzstan is nicer. Prices and availability seem to fit if we arrive in Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan) and leave again from Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) after the round trip. Then searched for flights from Tblisi to Alma-Ata and for the return Bishkek to Tblisi. We found and booked those and with that the day was almost over.
Since the flight to Alma-Ata doesn't leave until tomorrow evening, we arranged with the hotel that we can still use the room during the day tomorrow. We can also park the bikes in the courtyard of the hotel and we have booked a room for the 24th of June when we are back in Tblisi.
Then went for a beer and dinner at a restaurant nearby.
Tomorrow we will have the tires changed and buy a suitcase for the flight.
On Wednesday morning, June 8, after breakfast, we drove to the car bazaar and quickly enough found someone who could change the tires. We had to mount and dismount the wheels ourselves, but that was our plan. This man was very fast, he was faster with changing the tires than we were with dismounting and mounting the wheels (which is only a maximum of 3 screws per wheel). We also bought oil and gave both engines half a liter extra, it had been 3,500 km since then. Also topped up the coolant to the maximum level.
Asked where we could buy an airplane suitcase and went to that shopping street. However, at that moment we saw a message come in that the outbound flight could no longer be booked and was therefore cancelled for us. Bummer!
Quickly caught the road to the hotel and started trying again to book a flight. We finally succeeded, but it was a flight with 2 stops and long waiting times. We first flew from Tblisi to Yerevan in 45 minutes, then 11 hours of waiting followed by a 2 hour flight to Antalya in Turkey. Another 9 hour wait and then the 6 hour flight to Alma-Ata.In total we are then on the road for over 30 hours, but still arrive in time to pick up the motorcycles.
The flight to Yerevan leaves tonight at 19:35, so we have to hurry with the suitcase and packing. In the city center we bought a suitcase in which we put all our motorcycle gear and toilet bags (because of the 100 ml limit for liquids, the toilet bags are also in it). Clothes and electronics in the backpacks and the motorcycle jacket loose.
At half past four we ordered the cab, so we were at the airport in time to make some arrangements. That was exciting, because we were not yet convinced that everything had gone well with the booking. At check-in we had to go back and forth between counters three times (paperwork, pay, paperwork, pay, boarding passes), but then everything was arranged and we could enter the security check.
Relieved, we grabbed a beer and got on the plane. Meanwhile we had arranged a hotel in Yerevan 1.5 km from the airport. The man from the hotel picked us up at the airport, had his wife make some food for us and will bring us back to the airport tomorrow.
Tomorrow a day with the flight to Antalya in Turkey and a long wait for the next flight. That will give us time to make another blog.
In the early morning of Thursday, June 9, we left for Yerevan airport, the hotel owner brought us. Check-in went smoothly although we were initially told that we had to pay 140,000 (about € 280) for the suitcase, later this became 40,000 (about € 80). Had a good flight and landed nicely on time in hot and humid Antalya in Turkey. Since we have to wait another 9 hours there, we took the metro/tram to the center. There we had something to eat and drink and immediately used the time to make a new blog.
Then there was an hour left where we walked to the sea and enjoyed the fresh sea breeze for a while. It is humid hot and for our perception there are already many tourists, fortunately tomorrow in a quieter country. At 5pm we were back at the airport by metro/tram and because we already had our boarding passes we could go straight to passport and security control.
From the departure hall we booked a hotel in Alma-Ata so that we can sleep for a few hours when we arrive. The plane landed at 03:00 local time, the flight took 5 hours, where we had counted on 6 hours. This was a windfall and quickly grabbed a cab to the hotel. The cab driver asked way too much for the ride (24,000), we sent him home with 10,000 and told him to make do with it. He still earned well enough.
Well received in the hotel, had a beer and went to bed. Tomorrow at 10:00 am the bikes will be waiting for us.
On Friday morning, June 10, after a short night, we got up. The time difference with Tblisi is 2 hours and Antalya 3 hours, so we have to get used to that. The hotel has no breakfast, so we'll arrange that somewhere along the way. With the last 1,000 we took a cab in Alma-Ata to the motorcycles. When we got there the mechanic was still busy with the bikes, but we could already start mounting the navigation. They will take the suitcase with them to Bishkek, so we can reuse it for our flight back to Tblisi.After we have had the paperwork, payments and explanations, we can finally hit the road. First stop is the gas station, then an eatery for breakfast. After the stomachs are filled again we head out on the bikes. They are a lot smaller than our own bikes, Martin can even reach the ground with both flat feet, and it all feels a bit more like a moped. However, they run well, and will be very suitable to ride larger parts off-road. The saddle is not comfortable, partly because the saddlebags are far forward. At the first stop we immediately tackled this by moving them further back. That's a lot better, although they can't match the nice seat on our own bikes. These bikes don't have a windshield, so we are much more in the wind and the noise. Now we notice that well on the "highway", later through the mountains probably a little less. Through the heat and a small shower that cools down nicely we drove to the border with Kyrgyzstan.
There is a long line of cars waiting at the border, we decide not to wait for them but to pass the line. We decide not to wait but to pass the queue. The customs officers appreciate this and indeed let us pass first and the next one points out that we may pass the queue again. It is special again at the border. The first border post gives you a small blank piece of paper, on which the second puts a stamp that the passport control has been done, third another stamp that the luggage has been checked and the fourth takes the piece of paper back.
On the Kyrgyz side we have to wait again and the cars, motorcycles and trucks are allowed to go to customs in groups. This goes faster and we are through it quickly.
The people in Kyrgyzstan seem friendlier and that appears to be the case later in the day. We drive to the center of Bishkek, change some money and look for a SIM card. After some inquiries we find the right store. For € 6 you have unlimited internet for 30 days. Unfortunately the hotspot does not work, we have to pay an extra € 0.60 for it. It takes a while, but finally everything is arranged. Rob is still waiting with the bikes and together we choose a hotel nearby. At the hotel Asian Mountains the bikes are parked behind a closed gate and we have a lovely room with air conditioning at our disposal. The woman behind the bar recommends a restaurant that we visited later. It is indeed a fine restaurant with good service.
This concludes our first day in Kyrgyzstan, tomorrow we head for the mountains.
On Saturday, June 11, after a full breakfast at hotel Asian Mountains, we rearranged the gear on the bikes a bit. Then we set off with the track we made yesterday based on the sleeping places we got from SilkOffRoad. It takes quite a while before we're out of the city and especially with this heat less fun, meanwhile we also refueled to be sure. 28 liters of gasoline for € 21 is nice, not as cheap as in Iran, but much cheaper than in the Netherlands.
The bikes ride fine and the suspension digests all the bumps well. Martin's bike has a leaky front fork seal, but Martin is used to that. With a cloth around it, that is solved for us and we can ride along until we return the bikes. The saddle and sitting position is much worse than on our own bikes, so our buttocks hurt a bit more quickly. Around the saddle a kind of thick net is drawn, probably for some extra cooling but it is not very comfortable.
After we leave the city, the route bends south after a while and heads towards the mountains. The toll gate is free for motorcycles and then it goes steadily uphill. It is getting more and more beautiful, but also colder and colder. The first pass is immediately at 3130 meters and already gives a beautiful view. After passing through the long tunnel, the descent begins where it gets warmer again.
Yurts are everywhere for sleeping and in which the mountain people live. Horses, sheep and yurts seem to be pretty much the life of these people. At a stop in a roadside restaurant, we ate something and also dressed up a bit thicker with a view to the next high pass. That one is coming up soon, as we are now driving steadily up along the wildly flowing river. This pass ends at 3175 meters, so the first day we already had 2 passes above 3000 meters.
Then the road goes downhill through a sort of canyon until we reach the Toktogul Reservoir (large lake). The route goes around it and it is again lovely and warm in the sunshine. On the other side of the lake we have chosen our sleeping place at the Toktogul Lake Resort.
It is indeed a resort and for € 23 per night including breakfast we are the man. It takes a while before we manage to get a beer on the terrace, but eventually we succeeded in doing so as well. We enjoy the view, the soup with fried fish and the qualification of the Formula 1. Martin's stomach is rumbling again, so he ducks into his nest in time to hope for a better day tomorrow.
Tomorrow we will go to Arislonbob, a tourist place where there is also a waterfall and perhaps an off-road trip through the mountains. So maybe worth an extra day. The trip is something like 250 km, so we should be there in time.
On Sunday morning, June 12, it took a while to find where breakfast was served at the hotel. Finally found it and enjoyed breakfast. It is already starting to get warm and we are in doubt as to what clothes to put on. In the end it will be a middle ground and we will see later in the day. We are now at about 700 meters and in the end it turns out that we will ride even lower for almost the whole day, always downstream and later through the lowlands. The first part is very beautiful between the mountains and next to the elongated reservoirs that lie there. Along the border with Uzbekistan it is flat and less beautiful. The road is regularly broken or they are working on it, but with these bikes it is a lot of fun to ride off road. Let's see if we can find some serious off road sections in the coming days. Today or tomorrow we should receive some tracks for this from SilkOffRoad.
At the end of the day the road climbs up again to 1700 meters ending in Arslanbob a tourist village they say. The village is known for its authentic atmosphere and the two waterfalls that are there. It is a while to find the office for the reservations of the sleeping places, eventually we found it. A bit back at the gas station, we are picked up by a young boy who takes us to the guest house via a shortcut. It is a kind of old farm community where we have our own bedroom and in the yard there is a newer building with shower and toilet. We have to sit in a tailor's chair because there is no high table or chairs, but our limbs are not trained for that anymore. After entering the building, some bread and fruit are put on the table for us. The people are very friendly as we have already experienced in Kyrgyzstan and make us feel at home as much as possible. We can also have dinner here, they have made a delicious bowl of nasi (at least it looks and tastes like it).
After dinner we went for a walk to the small waterfall. All the tourists and almost all the stallholders have disappeared by now so we can look around at our leisure. It is already getting dark so we start the walk back. This time we don't use the footpaths over the hill, but the streets through the village to buy some more water. We secretly hope to find a pub or a beer sale, but our hope is in vain. They are somewhat conservative Muslims here and alcohol is not allowed. The only store that sold alcohol disappeared last year.
Hopefully tomorrow morning we will have some tracks in from SilkOffRoad and then we can adjust the route.
We resolve after breakfast to visit the big waterfall first (5 km walk) and then drive on.
Since there is nothing else to do, we went to bed early.