JULY / AUGUST 2019
Stage 1: Bishkek – Murake (58 km, 220 m elev. gain)
First impressions of Kyrgyzstan: after staying in Bishkek, the capital, a little longer than planned, we are now on the road, meeting lovely locals, getting cheered on (Otkuda?! = where are you from?) and passed by car drivers with a lot of respect, sweating heaps due to hot temperatures, drinking all the water & eating all the snacks, camping wild and slowly adjusting to this bikewander life.
Stage 2 & 3: Murake - Töö Ashu - Suusamyr (104 km, 2365 m elev. gain)
Yesterday we rode over our first big Kyrgyz mountain pass. On the summit at 3200 asl we were invited by some roadangels aka. german ecologists to have lunch with them. After that we hitchhiked through the 2,5km long tunnel to get to the other side where the views were simply stunning.
Stage 4: Suusamyr - Chaek (85 km, 370 m elev. gain)
The way from Suusamyr to Chaek took us through remote villages, bumpy groads with washboards and magical sceneries. It was a good day.
Stage 5 & 6: Chaek - No Name-Pass - Song-Kul (78 km, 1520 m elev. gain)
We still haven't figured out how this gravel pass is called, that we climbed on our way from Chaek to Song-Kul lake two days ago. Although we had to push our bikes up the last very steep switchbacks we would consider it as a hidden gem totally worth the effort.
Stage 7: Song-Kul - Moldo Ashuu - Sary Oy (73 km, 390 m elev. gain)
The reward of climbing the no-name gravel pass was spending the night in a yurt camp on the shores of Song Kul Lake, which lies at an altitude of 3016 asl. It is the second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan and although it's on every tourists agenda we hardly ever met other foreigners. There are no permanent facilities on the lake, but local herders provide supplies and rent yurts. We enjoyed a hot shower in the 'bagna' aka. sauna and the company of @cigogone and her hubby, who are currently on their honeymoon cycling through Kyrgyzstan on their custom made bikes from @47grad_nord, a small bicycle manufacturer from Biel/Bienne (Sara's hometown). The next day we descended Moldo Ashuu pass into the scorching heat of the Naryn region.
Stage 8: Naryn - Eki-Naryn (49 km, 550 m elev. gain)
After a rest day in Naryn where we unsuccessfully tried to find grounded coffee for our beloved Bialetti , we set off again to ride further east into the Tian Shan mountain range. The first day quite hard with headwind and washboard roads, but the homestay turned out to be perfect, once again.
Stage 9 & 10: Eki-Naryn - Bolgart River - Jily Suu Hot Springs (91 km, 1490 m elev. gain)
The next days we followed different streams through marvelous valleys and steadily gained more altitude. We also learned that 'no thanks' is an answer not accepted when Kyrgyz people offer you Vodka.
Stage 11: Jily-Suu Hot Springs - Tossor Ashuu - Tamga (84 km, 1155 m elev. gain)
We are still astonished how fast sceneries change here in Kyrgyzstan. So does the weather. When we started our ride up Tossor Pass (3893 asl) the sun was shining and it was warm. A couple of hours later, pretty much on top of the pass, we had to hide from thunderstorms, snowy rain and freezing temperatures. This has been our toughest ride so far.
Stage 11: Tamga - Halfway up Arabel Ashuu (39 km, 1085 m elev. gain)
After our adrenaline rush from Tossor Pass we had a rest day in Tamga before riding back to the mountains. The goal was the Arabel Plateau/ Pass on 3839m asl. It was clear we wouldn't ride the whole climb in one day so we spent the night at a lovely couple's homestay container somewhere halfway. It was the day where we had our first two punctures (both Andreas) but that's just part of the game and though it's annoying it's actually no big deal.
Stage 12: Arabel Ashuu - Burkan Valley (56 km, 1370 m elev. gain)
The second day brought us to the plateau with its spectacular views. Surrounded by glaciers and lakes we slowly rode towards the Pass before descending to the Burkan Valley.
Stage 13: Burkan Valley - Bolgart River (66 km, 360 m elev. gain)
While riding the Burkan Valley we met other bikepackers who were keen on chatting with us and telling us about their past and future rides. It's always fun to meet other likeminded people such as @johannesschwaderlapp & @yayitsyannic as you don't bump into each other often. The countless river crossings are discussed as well as the best campspots and worst washboard roads, where to find grounded coffee outside of Bishkek and whether one has already tried Kumys (fermented mare milk) and other local specialities. After a good nights rest we woke up to heavy rain just to go to sleep again. Three hours later the sun was shining again.
Stage 14 & 15: Bolgart River - Sary-Bulak - Kochkor (146 km, 930 m elev. gain)
Changing skies: we had a lot of them on that day... It's around 150 km from the Bolgart Valley to Kochkor so we planned to ride this stretch in three days and then having a rest day in Kochkor. Turned out we made it in two days. On the first day we had our longest stage so far with roughly 107 km. We arrived in Sary-Bulak after dark and totally exhausted. Why? We don't know, guess we just pedaled a little further than we had before. It was a tough day with the worst washboard road so far, but the feeling of achievement was even bigger when we finally laid in bed. Luckily the next day to Kochkor was more or less rolling down the valley (with some headwind though) into the city, where we had an other restday.
Stage 16, 17, 18: Kochkor - Kegety Ashuu - Dachi Kegety (113 km, 2400 m elev. gain)
We can't say we had not been warned. Ultimately by three French cyclists (Merci @f.pavia @theo_bayst et @super_milou) with 2.8 tires mounted to their mountain bikes who said not even they would be able to ride all the way to the top of Kegety Pass from the south side so we knew what was coming up: lots of hike-a-bike.
We split up the ride from Kochkor over the pass into three stages, spending the second night at 3300m asl to make it over the Pass early on the second day to avoid getting stuck in a thunderstorm at high altitude. It all worked out perfectly! It took us roughly 3h to push our bikes 500m higher to the summit where we were greeted again with spectacular views of glaciers and the beautifully laid out road.
We would have loved to enjoy the views a little longer but dark clouds forced us to start the descent. On the way down we met two Russian bikepackers who said they had just been dropped of by a friend with a transporter and that he would for sure take us back to Bishkek. As we wanted to avoid heavy traffic heading into the capital, we accepted, but first continued our descent until there was pavement again. Soon after we hopped into the car and one hour later we were back in Bishkek.
>>> Click here to read how it all continued.
>>> Click here to check out the entire route we did in detail and download the gpx-file.