Bicycle touring Kyrgyzstan is great! The scenery and nature are amazing and the people are interested and hospitable. We spent a considerable amount of time in Osh and in Bishkek eating and preparing for winter which was speedily approaching. We entered Kyrgyzstan on the 15th of October 2014 and left the country on the 25th of November. We have cycled 919 km and ascended 8136 meters.
cycled in Kyrgyzstan
Our impressions of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan was our fourth ‘Stan’ so the feeling of ex-Sovjet was quite familiar to us by now. The country is very hilly and mountainous and much more humid than Tajikistan where we had just come from which resulted in more snow.
The Kyrgyz people are very friendly and always interested. Most speak a bit of Russian and by now we could have very simple conversations and explain where we came from and were we were going. We were invited for breakfast, to sleep inside, for chai and many times had a nice chat on the side of the road.Bicycle touring Kyrgyzstan is really quite special. The Kyrgyz people have a nomadic lifestyle. Outside of cities and villages they live in yurts which move around with the seasons. They live with sheep, goats and cows or bees. Along the roads often honey would be sold. Kyrgyz men wear the traditional Kolpok hat which is accompanied by a traditional suit. Traditionally the women wear nice dresses often partly made of felt and very decorative.
The cities in Kyrgyzstan are an interesting mix between old and new, ex-Soviet and modern, traditional clothes and fashion. We enjoyed cakes from the local bakery, Kyrgyz burgers and some western food during our stays in Osh and Bishkek. Our favourite snack were the Blini’s, pancakes with condensed milk, a perfect afternoon treat to fill ourselves after having been ill in the Pamirs. In the cities we did souvenir shopping at the market, bought spare parts for the bikes at the market and enjoyed being together with other cyclists. Especially in Bishkek we found some (outdoor) shops that could help us prepare for winter.
One of the first things we noticed were the horses. Contrary to the countries before all of a sudden there were herds of horses along the roads, in the fields as far as we could see. Most of the horses were loose although they did belong to someone. The trees were also back. Kyrgyzstan has some valleys with beautiful trees and it was really nice to cycle along these again. Sary Tash is a small speck on the map but known to all bicycle tourers, because this is the place where the Pamir mountain adventure starts or ends. It is on a crossroads where you can head for China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan or head further into Kyrgyzstan. The feeling of this town is as if it is at the end of the world because it is surrounded by emptiness.
Practical (Russian) words: Hello = Zdrávstvujte, Goodbye = Da svidanija, Thank you = Spasiba, Water = Voda, Where’re you from? = Otkuda
Many cyclists who do bicycle touring Kyrgyzstan contemplate if they would take the main road or smaller roads from Osh to Bishkek. Because of snow most of the smaller roads and passes were closed so we decided on the main road. The only parts that were not so pleasant were the first 100 km out of Osh and the last 80 km into Bishkek because of heightened traffic and narrow roads. The rest of this route is beautiful and inspiring with blue rivers, lakes, fresh crisp air and high mountains. We didn’t regret our choice! On the road we would usually find a place for lunch because it was nice to warm up during the more chilly days. Our favourite dish was Bifsteck, a good meal for cyclists with pasta, rice, potato and meat with a sauce. It made our day. Other nice dishes were Laghman, Goulash and Manty.
Our nights on the road were always special in Kyrgyzstan. We have slept in small restaurants, in someones living room and also camped quite a lot. One morning we came across Russian hunters on their way to hunt Ibex, another day we were sent underway with Kurut, dried cheese balls which almost break your teeth. And one delightful morning we had a great breakfast with bread, kefir (local yoghurt), jam and dips. The woman was peeling onions and potatoes and asked us to stay for lunch. We had to get going but the feeling was so warm and genuine that it just made us happy.
We spent quite an amount in one place in Kyrgyzstan to gain some weight and prepare for winter. In Osh we stayed in an apartment together with three other bicycle tourers and in Bishkek we stayed at Nomad hostel. In Sary Tash we spent the night at Eliza B&B, a nice little homestay (coming from the Pamirs take a left up the hill and past the hotel, there is a sign to the homestay, the homestay is on your right hand side after 200 meters).
We really want to share our story, our journey with you. We have thought about this new dimension for a while. If you enjoy our story consider receiving one of our postcards from the road. We cycle through many small towns and cities with their own story and often there is a postcard to be found. This postcard can be sent to you.
Between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan there is 25 kilometre of no-mansland. After ascended the worst of the Kyzyl Art pass (with rough corrugations) we got to the Kyrgyz border. We had to wait for quite a while but finally were stamped through and rode into Kyrgyzstan. At one point looking back over our shoulders (definitely do this!) we saw the majestic plateau with loads of snow towering over us. The last part into Sary Tash was relatively flat. From Sary Tash we cycled to Osh in three days cycling up one big pass at the start (with actually two passes), and two passes at lower altitude. From Osh to Jalal-Abad until approx. Kochkor the road was busy and narrow. Up to Karakul the road just went up and down continuously with great views of the river. Around lake Toktogul the road was more or less flat before starting the first ascent from 900 meters to approx. 3200 meters at the Ala Bel pass. The following plateau is quite flat coming down before the last pass at Too Ashuu pass (3180 meters). At which is a scary tunnel which at least heads downwards if you are coming from the south. From there on it is all the way down and finally flat to Bishkek (although winds can influence your speed on the flats).
Out of no-mansland we get stamped into Kyrgyzstan, we have some great views of Peak Lenin and there is a lot of snow at altitude. We fly down to Sary Tash where we stay at a very cold B&B and push on the next day to reach Osh as soon as possible for some good food and rest.
Martin and Susanne are the crazy cyclists behind TwistingSpokes. We enjoy taking you along on our adventure while we are traveling by bicycle from the Netherlands to Nepal. What occupies us while cycling are the interactions with people on the road, culture, scenery and meaningful encounters. You can read more about us on our About page or on G+.