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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Kyrgyzstan - 23 August, 2002



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Bishkek (hotel) N4252.177' E07441.448' 763 meters .
Kyrgyz National Nature Park N4234.323' E07428.942' 2,081 meters .
- walk in Ala-Archa Gorge . . . 8 km (by foot)
Finish Bush camp (near border with Kazakhstan) N4248.443' E07331.087' 764 meters 212 km


2,507 km


Weather: Clear, sunny, hot and breezy.  Slight haze.  Warm at night.



Today we will go hiking up in the hills and mountains around Ala-Archa Gorge.  We have breakfast in the hotel, pack up the truck and head out of Bishkek.  We first stop off in one of the markets in Bishkek to do some cook group shopping.  It is our cook group's turn for dinner tonight, so we go out and see what we can find in the market.


It is quite a good market, the only problem is that everything is spread all over the place so we take some time to find everything that we are looking for.  It is actually amazing how much they have and how well stocked they are.  The fresh berries are just fantastic.  They sell strawberries, raspberries and blackberries by the bucket - and it is only a few dollars for a whole bucket full.  We try to spend all the money that we are given, but we are not successful.


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Back on the truck, we head up to Ala-Archa Gorge and the Kyrgyz National Nature Park.  It is about one and a half hours and we are well into the gorge when we stop and prepare for our days walk.  But first we will prepare pack lunches - except for the fact that there was a mis-communication and nobody brought bread today.  So we all improvise and cook up some noodles instead.


We head off at noon on our walk.  We start off across the river and head up the steep slope up the ridge and the forest.  It is a tough start to the climb and we are soon sweating as work our way up.  But it is worth it as the views get better and better, until we enter the trees.  But the compensation for the loss of the views is the shade from the hot sun.  Part way through the forest we come to the mountaineers cemetery - it is actually a bit of a surprise to see how many people are buried here.  Maybe it is a bit dangerous up here.


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On we go and after about 45 minutes we break through the forest and once again have clear views of the mountains around us.  The trail becomes a bit less clear here - more like animal trails and we make our way along as best as we can.  At one point we look across the valley and see in the distance on a ridge on the other side someone that looks like Paolo (he had left about 30 minutes before us).  We yell across and get his attention and try to ask him how he got over there. But we could not hear each other.  We decide to see if we can find a way over (we are not sure if he come up another way or if he had himself gotten across the river).


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After going on for a bit, we found that the trail wound it's way down the valley to the river where there appeared to be a crossing.  There was a bridge, but it only spanned the rushing, freezing river in the middle.  We decided to go for it.  We hopped over some rocks to the bridge, crossed the rickety bridge and then looked how to complete our crossing.  There was only one way, and it involved a long leap from a small rock to the bank on the other side.  The rocks were very slippery and if we decided to cross, we could only go one way - there was no way back without falling into the river (we could not jump back onto the small slippery rock - we would never have been able to keep from falling in).  We decide to commit ourselves and leap over - just barely making it.


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Then we scramble up the other side of the valley to see if we can find Paolo, but he must have headed back not understanding that we would try to cross the river and get to the other side.  Well, without knowing whether there was a way back to the truck, we were committed to heading down this way (we now had two rivers to cross).  We are glad that we cross, if nothing else for the wonderful views from this side of the valley.


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After a short while we sit down and have a bit of a snack and a drink and soak in the views.  We have a field full of wild flowers, with a couple of ranges of mountains topped with glaciers and snow with the dark blue sky as background.  We head on down the ridge, which slowly makes it way to the first river that we have to cross.  At first we note with dismay that the bridge seems to be washed out, but we are sure that others have crossed - we see them on the other side.  We spot a log spanning the river - this must be the way.  We then run into Christian, who tells us that he waded across, as he almost fell off the log.


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We decide not to wade - the water is freezing and we are wearing boots (Christian has sandals on).  We tackle the bridge.  Jacqui insists on going first and we decide that the best strategy is to sit on the log.  It is so wet, round and slippery, that it would be impossible to walk across.  Jacqui is successful, and...


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... Lars soon follows.  We have made it across the rushing, freezing river.  It is not much further to the truck and we make it back with plenty of time.


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We have some time to spare, so we decide to wash our feet in the river.  The water is freezing and our feet are numb within seconds - but it feels good and refreshing.  We change back into our sandals.  We also fill up our water bottles at the fresh water spring nearby - it is very good water and we fill up all our bottles.  We then head back to Bishkek - we need to pick up Rick, our co-driver, who has had some problems with his Uzbekistan visa.  


We meet Rick at the appointed spot - but he has not yet gotten his visa.  We need to head on towards the border, so we will have to leave him behind.  If he gets his visa, then he will try to meet up with us at the border, otherwise he will need to catch up with us some where else along the way.  So we head off without Rick, waving goodbye.


We head out of Bishkek and drive in the direction of the border with Kazakhstan.  We will need to drive through Kazakhstan to get back to Tashkent in Uzbekistan (the roads were not planned by the Soviets with the expectation that the Soviet Union would break up one day).  After we have been driving for almost and hour, a car comes up to us with it's horn blaring and some guy waving an arm out the window.  We stop and are told that Rick will be getting his visa.  We decide therefore to stop and wait for him to catch up to us here (otherwise he might have troubles finding us at our bush camp near the border).


We have to wait almost two hours for Rick to show up, so we decide to start preparing the dinner.  We get out the fruits and veggies and start to chop and prepare everything in advance that we can.  The only problem is that the truck starts to smell of onions - but what to do?!  Once Rick shows up, we hop in the truck and head on our way.  About one and a half hours later, just as it has gotten dark, we arrive at the border.  Just before the border, we turn off the main road and head down a side road, which turns into a dirt track.  We take this track for a ways and find a clearing where we decide to set up camp.  It is 9:20 PM.


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We hop off the truck and start to prepare dinner.  We knew that it was going to be a late stop for the day, so we had a simple meal.  Pasta with tomato sauce and apple crumble for dessert.  And it is ready within one hour of arriving at the camp site.  It is also quite good, even if we say so ourselves (it is all finished - nothing to waste).  Once we have finished cooking and eating, we set up our tent and take a look around the camp site.  It appears that we have a steam flowing by on one side and there is a power plant on the other side in the distance.  We wash up and head off to bed.  It is a clear, night sky and we briefly lay there enjoying the stars before falling asleep exhausted after a long day.


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