A Kamez truckload of scrap metal parts bound for Kashgar,China. Our host, Nurlan from Kara Bulun village drives twice monthly to Kashgar via the Torugart Pass. Even though the Pass is <200km away, Nurlan and his brother would take 1-1/2days to travel to the pass due to bad road conditions and high attitude. Driving a 20-30T truck across 3700m terrain is no joking matter.
(Kyrgyzstan … 24.04.05 to 12.05.05)
We were invited the next morning to his brother-in-law’s house. They had just celebrated their newly born daughter’s birthday the day before. Thus there was a spread of food on the table (as seen in picture). The homemade apricot jam and butter were especially tasty, earning the compliments of Jeremy *grin*. As guests, we were given sheeps’ ribs and rice to bring on our journey.
Barely 20km out of Kara Bulun, we hit the gravel roads. From there until Torugart Pass, we would have to contend to riding on such rocky terrain.
The last settlement before the Pass (approx.70km away), Ak Beyit. There were only 6 cottages and a Soviet era building used currently by the truck drivers for overnight rest. Out of the 6 cottages, only 2 were occupied at that time. According to them, the families only come from Ak Bashy with their herds from Spring to Autumn. Ak Beyit is already >3000m high, with no electricity and no grounds for agriculture, it is unsuitable for them to stay whole year round.
The extended family of Shakirov Kaslan (man in middle) who sheltered us for the night. The family also stays in Ak bashy during the winter season. Food, flour and supplies are regularly brought from Ak Bashy to Ak Beyit. The only way to travel between these 2 places is by hitch hiking the scrap metal Kamez trucks that pry the mountain roads.
Herds of yak or cows with hairs? It was snowing at that time, reducing the visibility on the road.
Lunch beneath the great eagle, famous in the Pamir plateau of Kyrgyzstan. Jeremy managed to cook instant noodles that he bought in Almaty, Kazakhstan while we cleared our ribs from 2 days ago. Luckily during lunch stop, it was not snowing, leaving us some peace and a breathtaking surrounding to enjoy!
Tuz Bel Pass, 3574m. It started snowing heavily after lunch, further eroding the muddy road up the Pass, our last pass before reaching the Kyrgzs Torugart Checkpoint. Kamaz trucks were inching their way up and some stalled, as seen in the picture.
Taking a much needed break. The high attitude and gravel roads made riding 60km on the mountains a very exhaustive affair.
Lake Chatyr Kul. Set at 3520 m above sea level and measuring 23km long by 11km wide, it is 18 m deep at its deepest. The lake is frozen from October to May, along the way to the Kyrgzs Checkpoint.
The majestic Pamir mountains
After almost 70km of riding, we finally caught sight of the Kyrgzs Torugart Checkpoint. It was a relief to reach our destination as the temperature plunged lower and the freezing winds were picking up in the evening.
A military personnel standing besides buses of wagons before the Checkpoint compound. These wagons offer accomodation and food for 100som per night.
Inside the wagon offered by the militia (police). It was lucky we could sleep inside a wagon as the below zero temperature and sweeping freezing wind would be a threat to camp outside. Even inside, we were sleeping in thermals and fleece and beanies on.
(For more on the Torugart Pass crossing, pls refer to the previous article, “Torugart Pass”.)