Shortcut in Northern Mongolia

25th of June 2014 – Olgii – zero miles

We had a day rest in Olgii to do some chores, like laundry, bike maintenance, catching up on the blog, buy food etc….
We had pretty much made our mind that we wanted to ride the northern route, which is supposed to be the hardest, but also the most beautiful.
We stayed at a Gers camp in town. We met with few travellers and exchanged information with them. Apparently the main road north was blocked by two rivers that are currently too deep for even trucks to pass. Two cyclists, father and son from california, on a round the world trip, told us about a combination of short cuts. A dutch couple , driving on a big landcruiser from China to Holland gave us also some valuable info on the northern route.
Thursday 26th June – somewhere by a lake – about 100 miles
For various reasons we left rather late.
Our plan was to take the shortcut below, from Olgii to Ulaangom, as the main road north was impassable.
To start with, it was an obvious gravel road, that turned into various tracks. Navigation became difficult as there were tracks on the ground going all over and no idea which one to take. Eventually, it did not matter, we trusted our compass and the GPS, at least we knew we were going roughly north – East….
Which way?

The tracks got from bad to worse, these are probably the worse tracks we ever rode. Lucky we had the perfect bikes for that, they were amazing through rocks, sand, rivers, anything!

Let’s just pick a track…. Any track!
We went up into high deserted plateaux, across mountain passes, down green valleys and lakes and up again. The scenery was incredibly changing!
And up again and down into a valley with a big lake, where the tracks changed from rocky to sandy!

A storm was behind us, so we only stopped to eat an apple for lunch before pressing on!

Then the terrain changed to some dry river bed with big stones.
Up a mountain we met with some canadian cyclists and spent some time talking to them.
Then our first river crossing.
We then came across this scene below. A bike down, a man on the ground, face full of blood and bruises, a kid standing along….
We stopped. The man was still alive, the kid did not say a word.
We did not know what to do. We decided to take a picture of the man and the kid, and alistair rode back up the hills to a small settlement, using the photo to explain what happened and get help, while I waited with the kid. I did not get a word from him, maybe he was in shock? He did not speak russian i guess…
Meanwhile Alistair found some people, but when he showed then the picture they just laughed at it like complete morons!
Eventually he came back. We were considering to get Alistair to take the kid pillion and ride to his home and get help there. We could not leave the man there, it was getting late and he would surely die of hypothermia overnight!
Then, a young lad turned up in a motorbike, he conversed with the kid, they seemed to know each other. The lad gave the kid his backpack and rode across toward a lake, to a ger, to get help.
So we left them to it. There  was not much more we could do.
By then it was very late. Too late to make it to Ulaangom in such dizfficult tracks, and we were tired.
We rode for a while a took a track towar a lake, but the shore was very far. Sowe  just set camp. We could see some gers far away.
We got the stove and prepared what is now our staple diet: pot noodles!
As soon as we got eating, a couple of motorbikes turned up and two mongol came to stare at us. Wgave  them some bread… Then they left!
Friday 27th June – about 65 miles – Ulaangom
We had a   good night sleep, it was a peaceful place and no mosquitoes! Such a relief!
Then as we were getting ready to pack up, two guys om two motorbikes turned up and inspected all our  stuff, our bikes, and were more than willing to help packing, but not with the best results! To pack all small enough it fit in our roll bag is an art!
We got back

on the road, the scenery across a mountain and valley was sublime.

We then got into the good road to Ulaangom, it was even paved! The place is a dump but we need to buy supplies for several days and have a last shower! Beyond Ulaangom, we will go into the wilderness for several days, until we reach the town of Moron! Honest, that’s the name!

Crossing into Mongolia

Our hotel, or room in someone’s house to be more precise, was in the main square. We went to buy some pot  noodles for dinner as we had a kettle in the room, and did not want to chance the local eateries!

By 8pm all was very quite, the fountain turned off and the cattle marched through the town. I was intringued…. Although we did not have internet, i checked in my iPad, changing the manual time zone, from Astana to Novosibirsk. Bingo, we had changed time zone once again and did not realise for two days! Not that it mattered that much! We were now 7 hours ahead of the UK!
monday 23rd June – campsite in Altai – 234 miles
The house had a little cafe on the ground floor, where we had put our bikes for the night. It was closed to the public but the cook was there, preparing the food for the day. We  chanced it and managed to get fried eggs for breakfast!
After that we got the bikes out and left. We were now joining the main highway, the M52 that runs from Novosibirsk down to the Mongol border.
 The ride there was spectacular, the Altai is definitely the most beautiful place we have been so far in this trip!
We stopped at midday, near to top of a mountain pass, for a bit of lunch, the end of our bread and the last tin of pate! That Russian dark brown bread was still fresh, i bet it would last till the next ice age!
We wanted to get as close as possible to the border, and cross the next morning. Our map showed various towns along the way, all of the same size. If fact, as we went along, those villages were smaller and smaller.
By 5 pm, as the weather was turning stormy, we decided to turn back few miles. We had seen a sign for a campsite, and it was obvious we would not find any place to stay in the villages. We followed the sign as it took us off the road into a farm track up and down hills for a couple of miles, across a small river and into the camp!
Inside our gers:
The site was a handful of gers, some small wood comstructions for the staffliving  quarters and kitchen, kennels, a banya, and the usual wodden hut on a wood platform with hole on the ground that constitutes a toilet in russia!
The yurts were almost fully booked, but Iga, the lad running the place, got us two beds in a gers of 6 beds. We would have to share!
The campsite was full of interesting people. Iga had two passions, Capoeira, and racing in dog sleds. For this purpose, he had lots of dogs. Running free we had two white Siberian Samoyeds, a couple of huskies, and in the kennels he had two Alaskan Malamutes and two more huskies.
We went to see one of the Malamute, it was enormous at only 9 months old. Next to it the
Husky looked like a miniature dog! The Malamute had also incredible strength !
Iga’s dream is to race his dogs in Alaska and visit Rio! I hope he get to do both!
Iga told us that three bikers had booked a gers for the night. We wondered if it would be our moldovian friends on their way back from Mongolia….. In fact it was three russians bikers.
As we finished our dinner, they came in the gers that was used as dinning room, and invited us  to join them to drink some (excellent!) russian Cognac!
That is how we met Pawel, who was very quiet, Anton, an IT programmer and Vladimir, a giant motocross racer. Anton spoke very good english and did the translation.
They were from the Altai and were travelling few days on their bikes.
We spent a long time talking. Vladimir wanted to start a business organising motocross tours around the Altai. We thought it was a brilliant idea and he could make a good business and good money by doing tours. We told him about Patrick in Osh and how much he charges to rent bikes ( expensive!)… But the reaction of Vladimir was interesting and humbling. His goal was not to make big profit but promote and bring more motocross events into the Altai and getting more people interested in his  passion.
Anton rleft and Vladimir right:
It is good to see that not everyone is interested in material success, and outside of the west, the cultures can be very differents! I hope Vladimir gets his business going, i told him he had to get some low bikes for the occasional short riders (me!)…. It would be cool to come back and explore the Altai with Vladimir and his inside knowledge of the region! Definitely something to keep in mind! And I could improve a lot om my offroad skills too with such a master!
Incidentally, they did not look down on us, travelling on our little 125 cc bikes, as they themselves were on 250s! Vladimir did not see the point of anything bigger or heavier than 250 for travelling. Anything bigger would be too fragile and heavy!
Tuesday 24th of June – 126 miles – Mongolia, Olgii
We left before our new friend woke up. We got to the border by late morning and it took 2 1/2 hours to get out of Russia!
We had to get through four peoples who in turn, each i n their desk would enter all our details intoa  computer! The height of inefficiency!
We then rode the 20 kms to the Mongol side.
The proof! The sign says Mongolia in cyrillic!
It took only 20 minutes to get through. On arrival before the Mongol borde compound, we had to get through decontamination! W paid 50 rouble each to geta lady vaguely spray a bit of water on one side of our wheels! What’s the point of that?
We then rode all the way to Olgii, througha  mixt or tarmac, gravel and deviations across cross country!
We avoided many marmots set on commiting suicide by getting caught on our wheels!

From Kazakhstan to the Russian Altai

Wednesday 18th of June – 174 miles – Taldikorgan

We left Almaty after breakfast. Then we got on the road, straight north.
Now you must be wondering, we ride south, to Kyrgyz, then east to the border, then west again to Almaty, then North again! Why all those up and down, zigzags?
Well, first, if you visit Kazakhstan, you must register with the police within 5 days or risk huge fines and big problems. If you arrive by plane, it is done at the airport, if you arrive by land, like us…. You have to get to a big town to do it, unless you are totally sure you can get out of Kazakhstan within 5 days!
Also, Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakh or Kyrgyz, only Russia or China. Granted, via China would be a tremendous shortcut…. But it is sadly impossible to get into china with a motor vehicle. You need a guide, and the cost goes into the thousands of dollars. Only large groups can do so! For lone travellers like us, the only option is get via Russia… So north it is again!
The road north was just a masssive constant roadworks, so it was slow going. By the end of the day ,we  stopped ata  surprisingly pleasant town for the night. As we had a look around, we saw many girls  wearing long dresses and guys in suits, getting their pictures taken ….We thought first that it was a wedding, but on second inspection it looked more like a highschool graduation event!
Thursday 19th of June – 331 miles – Ayazov
We left early as we had a long day ahead. Between Taldikorgan and Ayazov, there was no town, only desert. At least the roadworks were over and we managed to get to ayazov by daylight.
The town was some sort of military camp, maybe big prison, and an ugly town.
We stopped near a shop to ask for a hotel. A guy told us about a place near the train station, another guy, in his car, told us to follow him. He took us to a hotel. However, the owner of the hotel wanted 10,000 tenge, about 55 dollars, very expensive for such a dump town. Id on’t like to be takenf or an idiot and I made it clear! The hotel owner dropped his price to 7,000 but we moved pn. We found the hotel near the station. From the outside it looked like a soviet style dump! I went in and a nice lady showed me a huge room, with a private bathroom, andit even had hot water. Ok the place was outdated, the pumbing beyond dodgy and the flooring and all workmanship like done by 5 year old… But it was ok. For 5,000 tenge it was more reasonable!
After dining in our room with some pasties and peanuts, we went out to buy some ice cream.
The shopkeepers asked about us, and when i went to pay, with my change, they gave us a chocolate bar!
Friday 20th of June – 205 miles – Oskemen
We had decided to avoid the main border crossing between Kazakhstan and Russia, on that side, and aim instead for a little border further east. The reason for that was to avoid the long ride through busy highways, and take a shortcut across Russian Altai region, using little roads and lanes, cutting off a good 500 kms detour! Sounded like a good idea!
So we left Ayazov early, as we had no breakfast, and made it to Oskemen, which was only 80km from the border. The town was big and people there looked decidedly russian rather than ethnic Kazakh… We were close to russia.
We found a supermarket and bought some food as we would need to camp in The Altai. We picked some pot noodles and bread and pate, as well as some dried fruits.
Saturday 21st of June – 220 miles – Altai region
The breakfast at the hotel was beyond vile and i only managed to drink my coffee and eat some bread! We then got to the border late morning. The crossing was fairly fast. Afterthat we   rode few miles and stopped at a bus shelter. There we had some lunch of bread and pate. We then got on the road.
The region was agricultural and we crossed many small villages, along big valleys and gentle hills.
The roads at first were alsphated, but the  it turned into gravel and tracks.
As the day went on, we started looking for a spot away from the road, to set camp. We wanted to gets ome shade but the only trees were in the villages.
Eventually we took a farm track and rode up a couple of hills. We set our camp there.
As soon as we got off the bikes, the mosquitoes came out! They were the size of a jumbo jet, million of them, and very hungry!
We managed to get a dinner of poot noodles and biscuits before taking refuge in our tent. By 8:30 we were inside, with the mosquitoes trying to find a way in!
Sunday 22d June – 155 miles – Ust Kan
By 4 am it was already light. My mattress was in some sort of lateral slope and I could not sleep well.
 Soon before 6am i had enough and got up.
Mosquitoes were still around. We had a quick breakfast, packed everything, and were on the road by 6:45!
For a sunday morning, there were quite few cars around, so early!
We continued in our shortcut, with the road turning occasionally into a river bed! lucky our bikes are designed for that sort of terrain!
The ride was stunning, but we got rattled and shaken to death on those bad trails!

Bymid afternoon, very tired, we arrived at the little town of Ust Kan, we even found a hotel of sort!

It had a feel of far west on it, with the cattle being marched through town at dusk!

Back on track

Wedsnesday 11th to Saturday 14th June – Bishkek

On Wednesday afternoon, Sergei, a friend recommended to me by a fellow motorcycle traveller, came to pick us up at the hotel and we brought the bike to Ali, the mechanic. We explained the problem and Sergei helped with the translation.
We left it there and Sergei drove us back to our hotel.
We did not do much that day.
The hotel was rubbish, with an absolutely vile breakfast, so we found a small flat to rent on, just round the corner from the hotel and for the same price! We moved there the next day.
On Friday, we heard some news from Sergei. We went out for dinner with him in the evening.
On saturday morning, with once again the help of Sergei, we went to the workshop, where we got the list fo what had been done to the bike. i will spare you the details.
We got a lot of help from Sergei! We were lucky to meet him!
We took the bike back to the flat. We could not wait to leave and get back on the road!
Views of Bishkek:
Sunday 15th of June  – Lake Issyk Kul – -97 m
At 10am the flat owner’s sister came to pick up the keys, and off we went.
The bad news is that the tuning was still wrong. The CDI was not the one for the engine, and at high revs., the bike would struggle. So we had to stick to about 40 to 45 mph! At least it was moving, but it was very stressful as we were all the time wondering if it would die again! We pressed on regardless.
We made it to lake Issik Kul, and rode the south bank, which is the less developed side. It was very beautiful. Although, as you may expect, we ran into yet another storm.
As we stopped few minutes to let Alistair put on his waterproofs  he made a great impression of Chubbaca while trying to get his wet hands in his gloves!
We stayed overnight in a nice guesthouse.
Monday 16th of June – 144 miles – Kegan, Kazakhstan
We were planning to spend one last time in Kyrgyztan, in the town of Karakol, before crossing the border. However, as Karakol was only about 80 kms and the weather was good, we pressed on and got to the eastern border.
The ride there took us through a small terribly bad surfaced, sometimes gravel road, but the view were stunning. We climbed up into high valleys where the locals move up their horses to graze all summer.
We got to the border by mid afternoon. It was a very small border with just few buildings for both sides. It would have been fast if the officials had not been bored and keen to speak with us! The setting was in a beautiful and very peaceful valley, surrounded by mountains and horses!
We then rode to the nearest town. There were no money changers at the border! That was a problem as  we only had 3000 tenge, about 16 dollars, and too many useless Kyrgyz Soms!
After asking several times, and finally getting someone to take us there, we found the local bank! As usual, it was in a house, there was no way to know there was a bank there!
We got some more money.
By then it was getting late and we asked around about a guesthouse. After turning and asking a lot, we found a place for the night.
We discussed about the itinerary. In Kazakhstan, foreigners need to be registered with the OVID. If you arrive by plane, it is done at the airport, but by land it has to be done within 5 days. If not we could get in big trouble. We decided to go to Almaty and get a hotel to do our registration.
We had an overpriced dinner at the only cafe in town. But then, not speaking well russian and without a written menu, then can ask what they want! Kazakhstan is definitely more expensive than Kyrgyzstan though!
Tuesday 17th of June – Almaty – 160 miles more or less…
We left very early as there was no breakfast on offer. We rode down from the high valleys through beautiful canyons. After the horrible flat desert of the west side, east Kazakhstan was showing a much more beautiful landscape.
So after riding two days east and north,  we turned west to get to Almaty!
We arrived early afternoon. The traffic was insane, with massive traffic jams and cars going anywhere and pushing us from all sides!  I was not happy!
After a long ride into the centre, we parked the bikes and Alistair went on foot to check out a hotel that might do the registration for us…. Meanwhile i was left to guard the bikes, in the intense heat of Almaty. We parked on a big wide avenue ( all streets are soviet style big avenues!) between two cars.
I nearly got on a fist fight with a local woman, false lashes up to her hair line,  tiny, on a HUGE range rover that she clearly could not drive. As she tried to get out of her parking spot, in front of our bikes,and  with plenty of space in front of her, she still reversed enough to tilt Alistair’s bike. I caught it on time, i was furious, if the bike had been going down, i think I would have used my helmet as a hammer to wreak her car! Maybe i am getting a little bit grumpy with age?
Eventually, we got to a hotel, two hours after arriving in town.  The hotel could do the registration, but it would take several days. Or we could do it ourselves. After plenty of asking we found out how and where. We were told to take a taxi to the OVID. The girls are reception wrote the address.
We stood then on the pavement, waiting for a taxi. We saw none! After a while we went back to the hotel. It seems that in Kazkahstan, any car is a taxi! You just waive your hand and wait for someone to stop and see if they can take you where you want to go!
We finally got to the Ovid around 4:30pm. After asking, we got on a big queue at a window. When I say queue, i mean a mass of people all trying to get to the window! When it was finally our turn, we handed over our passports, saying loudly ” tourist! Registration!”…. Only to be handed back a form to fill. In Russian! Hmm… We got lucky as a Uzbek student was there and helped us fill the forms.
After more queuing, waiting etc, we got our registration form done…. What a day! We were happy as this meant we could leave Almaty the next day!

Considering giving up!

Saturday 7th of June – Sary Tash ( about 110  miles)

We left Osh and started climbing into the mountains. In a valley, we got drenched as we rode into a storm. As we continued climbing we left it behind.
Our plan was to turn west and ride a small part of the Pamir into Tajikistan, before turning back to Osh and continuing east toward Mongolia. A detour, but as the Pamir was closed when we were in Samarkand, we thought to ride a bit of it!
Sary Tash, our destination for the day, was only about 110 miles but very high in the mountains. Then the border pass would take us over 4200m….
As we got close to Sary Tash, we came across a road blockade. Not sure what the problem was, but we had to take our bikes down by a river bed to continue.

We then got higher to a pass at  over 3600m, our bikes weres truggling, and Alistair’s bike did not feel quite right, gasping for air more than mine and slower than mine. I was on 1st gear and barely managing 20mph up hill!

We finally got to the village and quickly found a home stay for the night. It was a simple house, with several rooms, all set up with beds and mattresses for travellers.
There was a sink in the entrance, with icy water, while the toilet was about 100 m down a track covered in sheep and horse droppings,  in a tiny mudbrick building, with a floor platform above a deep hole…. I made sure not to drink water!  At least with the cold it did not smell!
Dinner was simple, a stew of pasta and potatoes with tiny bit of cabbage. And a fried egg on the side.
After dinner, there was not much to do, so we went to bed, fully clothed, due to the cold ( no heating!) and the fact that the bed must have ben used by many travellers. The mattress was covered in a blanket then over a big quilt. Not sure any of that get washed often!
Sunday 8th of June – 110 miles – Osh
Without curtains, we woke up very early. A I opened my eyes i saw through the windows, the next building’s roof all white, and white fluffy stuff falling down the sky. I closed my eyes and suddenly reacted! White fluffy thing!?? ” is it snowing?” I could not believe it! It was!
After a while we got up and investigated the outdoor!
After breakfast, which consisted of bread and gren tea ( and some unidentified brown spread that i did not tried!) we talked about what to do.
We did not think the bikes could make it through the high pass. They were struggling too much at only 3600m!
We decided to wait a bit and see if the snow would melt. The house was near a fuel pump, that had no fuel, due to the road blockade. We spotted a spanish biker there and went to talk with him.
We then had two swiss couples coming from the border, on two camper vans.
By 10 am it looked like the snow was clearing. We decided not to tempt fate and go back to Osh, then get on our way to Mongolia!
So we got on our way, climbed the pass, again at barely 15 or 20mph and 1st gear, then down to the valley across the road blockade, through the storm in the valley, back to Osh!
(Road blockade)
Steffan, our german friend, was still there. He was setting the next day for the Pamirs. We had dinner together and went back to the hotel, after a detour for an ice cream. After the cold of the mountains, it was good to get down to a warmer town.
Monday 9th of June – 240 miles – Toktogul
We left Osh once again, determined not to come back. Time to get to Mongolia!
We made good progress until we started to climb into a first mountain pass.Then we   hit another huge storm. I never had so many storms in my life! What is going on? We were also close to the lightening, so we  decided to take cover and wait a bit, in a deserted Chaihana. There were no places to stay for the night, so after a while we continued under the rain, as the storm was moving away.
we got to Kara-Kul but again nothing there for the night. So as the weather was a bit better, we  decided to continue to Toktogul, about 60 miles further.
By then Alistair’s bike was playing up, like when you leave the choke on and it gets too much fuel and choke on it!
As we rode around a lake, it got worse and then the bike stopped. That was it, it would not go anywhere.
We were on a busy road, all straight, along the lake, no village around. We tried to change the spark plug. The new one came out covered in black after a minute of running the bike…. We did not know what to do. We had no phone signal to call Patrick…
We thought about camping, but there was no way near that spot, to set camp and be discreet from the road. We were only about 30 miles from Oktugul.
It was almost 8pm by then. We decided to hide the bike and luggage ( mainly camping gear) on a ditch and ride two up on my bike to Oktogul.
So we got into town and found a place. A bit of a sh*thole but no choice.
After that, we  looked for a place to eat as we did not have any food since breakfast. We found a bizarre place with few teens around, but they served food. With the help of the Point Itbook we   got some salad and chicken.
At 10 pm, the teen in charge of the computer and music turned off the light, turned on the disco ball and the volume! Few teens got on the dance floor, with a couple showing off, the guy was actually quite good!
Tuesday 10 June – Bishkek – about 200 miles
We woke up at 5:30…. Worried. We had to get back to the bike before someone on a horseback wandered   around! As we got packing and dressed, Alistair got out, the door of the house was locked. We could not get out! By 7 am, I started banging on the door or the owners’ rooms.
Eventually a sleepy teen, came out and as i explained that all our lugagge was still in the room but we had to repair another bike, not sure he understood, or cared. He got us out at least. We rode with my  bike to the spot. Alistair had saved the coordinates on the GPS. That was lucky as it was not easy to find the correct ditch!
We found the bike, untouched. We found some sort of derelict bus shelter, about a mile away, so we pushed the bike there. It was not safe to work by the side of the road, as the locals seem to use the long stretch of straight road to race each other!
On advice from Patrick, over the phone, Alistair attempted to get the carburator open to check if it was ok. Maybe something got off while being rattled in the truck!
Alistair battled with the carburator. One screw was totally rusted and would not come off. As we were about to give up, he used another tool and somehow, got it out. It was nerve wrecking!
However nothing looked wrong with the carb! We were tempted to swap with mine, but as my bike  was the only one working, we did not want to run the risk or messing it up!
We did not know what to do. Abandon the bike? Hide again somewhere and go back to Osh buy a new carb!?
We were very depressed, i even suggested to give up!
Alistair put the carburator back, and tried to start his bike. It started with no problem at all! We were puzzled! But we did not question, just got back to the hotel, took our stuff and got on the road, just praying the bike would not die  before we  got to Bishkek. I had contacts in Bishkek with bikers and a good mechanic! We would need one!
The ride to Bishkek is stunning, via several amazing mountain passes and high valleys were the Kyrgyz bring their horses and sheep to high pasture in the spring season, we saw many yurts and horses.
Unfortunately, with the stress of the bike ( when will it break down again!?) and the stress of the crazy drivers in this busy road, we did not enjoy it as much as we should have!
Without breakfast and lunch we were also quite hungry! As we got closer to Bishkek we finally found a service station selling some food. Awful sandwiches but we were hungry.
Finally we  made it to Bishkek, and while the bike was playing up and going slower and slower, we still made   it to a hotel, without it dying!
After getting changed, i got to the reception area, the only wifi zone, to message via facebook my local contacts. Sergei called us back almost immediately.
He came to pick us in his 4×4, for dinner, and took us to a new place being built for bikers, localsand travellers   alike! It will also have a hotel and campground attached, plus tyres and parts for sale! Biker paradise!
He got in touch with Ali, the mechanic, i could not do it direct as he does not speak english.
Sergei was very reassuring, Ali  had plenty of experience and would be able to help us!
We had a beer and some salads.Then as   other bikers arrived, a fire was lit up and we all ( about 12 of us) sat around the fire, roasting sausages, while one lad took his guitar… What  a great night after so much stress!

Bouncing back!

Tuesday 3rd of June – 0 mile – Osh
The guest house was a bit of a building site and had no inside parking for my bike. I cannot stand my bike sleeping outside. I had a bike stolen in brazil, inside a guesthouse complex, during our year round South America. Since then, I am a bit paranoiac when travelling!
So in the morning we packed up and move to a more central, cheaper and more pleasant place, the soviet style, but refurbished Osh Nuru or Ош Нуру if you prefer!
Views from our window:
After lunch we called Patrick to find out how to get to his house. He was in town and came to collect us on his way home.
Once there we discussed solutions. The engine was buggered. Importing the parts would cost a lot and would take  a long time.
We discussed possibilities of buying a chinese bike, but they are quite expensive in Kyrgystan.
Other option would be to buy one of Patrick bikes, drop it at his Swiss office ( he is from Switzerland) and sell it back to him at much lower price. Sort of rent but with a power of attorney to cross borders.
He told us he would investigate options.
Back to the hotel, Alistair started investigating online for parts.
We went to dinner at the california cafe, american owned apparently. The only place in town i dare eating salads and their food will not cause any nasty side effect!
I got some Cipro from a farmacy (antibiotics) as mys tomach had been unwell for the last few weeks.
In the evening Patrick sent us an email listing our options:
1 – we import the parts and his talented russian mechanic would rebuid the engine;
2 – buy / rent one of his bikes and deliver to switzerland;
3 – his mechanic found out that there is a cheap (450 dollars) chinese copy of the Honda XR engine, and it is available in Bishkek, the capital city. The engine should be able to fit on the XR.
We replied immediately to get the chinese engine!
Wednesday 4th of June – few miles to Patrick’s house – Osh
In the morning, Oibek, Patrick’s office manager took me to a local hospital for an Xray of my hand. After two weeks, my hand, especially above the thumb, was still extremely painful, and i was concerned i may have broken the scaphoid bone. That is not easy to spot without an xray, and the bone could set badly and cause problems in the future.
So we went to a very soviet style, run down dingy hospital. One xray machine did not work but we went to the oposite side of the hospital and found a very old looking one working. It cost me 4 dollars to get the xray.
We then went to see a doctor and he confirmed nothing was broken and prescribed a gel. I paid him about 20 dollars. It was fast. It looked to me like each room or xray machine was a mini private business…. Strange.
After a quick lunch at the california cafe, we rode with my bike to Patrick’s house and left my bike there with a list of things to do on it.
( new back tyre, new left mirror, weld and reinforce the luggage rack….)
Thursday 5th of June
In the morning we  went to the Great Bazar which is not located at all where the Lonely Planet guide say it is, as usual in this trip. We think none of the guys who wrote this book actually ever went to central Asia. All maps and most landmarks , like banks or hotels or restaurants, are complete fantasy!

The bazar is built using shipping containers!

After seeing the section for meat, hanging in the sun or laying down on stones, in 35 degree celcius, i decided to turn vegetarian until Russia!
We were hoping to find a sheepskin. We lost ours in Andijan, forgetting it in the hotel!
Sheepskin helps a lot for butt pain when you ride a bike for many hours. Especially as we have little thumpers and the vibrations make it very tough!
No luck, though, we found none!
In the afternoon we took a taxi to get to Patrick’s house again. The engine had arrived and was being installed. There were some problems with the ingnition that was incompatible ( CDI). The russian mechanic was trying various CDI from various bikes for compatibility….
Alistair’s bike:
On the plus side, he will now have a 150cc bike!
Meanwhile Alistair changed the oil on my bike.
We also took the starter motor from his bike ( which is real honda part!) and put it on my bike, to replace the cheap chinese part that I had. As that failed already once in Turkey, we know it is bad quality.
Honda parts in another hand, are top notch quality! So it was good time to recycle the good bits from Alistair’s engine!
During those last few days we got to know another motorcycle traveller, Steffan, a german lad. He  builds giant telescopes for what i understand. He spent many years  in Antartica working! How cool is that!? Steffan was staying in our hotel and had been storing his bike with Patrick for half a year. For the last few days he had been doing some work on his bike, mayking the most of Patrick’s workshop.
In the evening, instead of the california cafe, where we were going lunch and dinner every day, we went with Steffan to a more select place.
Beer, in Kyrgyz, is served with a straw for women:
And here the usual toilets for the ladies. Here, as it is an upmarket place, it even has some toilet paper:
…. But no doors! So much for privacy!

Get to the border!

With a broken down motorbike, in the middle of nowhere, we did not have many options.

“Let’s stop a truck” I said. And I positioned myself by the  side of the road. A couple of trucks came through but did not stop. People in cars just stared at us. There are virtually no motorbikes in Uzbekistan.
Then, after about 15 minutes, an old Lada, with a policeman at the back, stopped. With my little russian i managed to explain the situation.
The Cop took charge of the operation. Within minutes, a massive truck, those that transport up to 7 or 8 cars or vans, was approching, with the trailer empty. The cop made sign to the truck to stop.
The beauty of a police state is that there are cops everywhere and people do what the cops say! So the truck stopped.
The driver and a passenger came out and in few minutes, both bikes were loaded on the back!
There is a big General Motors assembly factory in Andijan, so the truck was going there.
Andijan was the nearest big town ( still a good 80 miles drive fromwhere we   were) but close to the border with Kyrgysztan ( about 40 miles).
We stopped on the way, to wash the truck, in my opinion more so that the driver would have a nice rest, tea , and catch up with his truckers mates!
We were offered tea and rook some pictures.
Then by late afternoon, the truck left us near the airport, as it was too massive to get into town.
We pushed the bike in the shade. I asked some cops ( they are everywhere) where was the nearest hotel. Alistair took my bike to ride and check it out. After a while he came back on foot. We then walked to the hotel, with Alistair pushing his bike for a couple of miles.
The place was a dirty dump, in the edge of town, but we did not have any choice. It was almost 7 pm by then. The hotel did not have wifi and the nearest internet cafe was quite far. We took a taxi, and once online, i made some enquiries on the HorizonsUnlimited forums. I had also the details of a swiss guy called Patrick, who runs bike tours and hiking, from Osh (in Kyrgysztan) just on the other side of the border!
So I knew there would be a competent motorcycle mechanic in Osh. We just needed to Get to The Border! I sent an email to Patrick.
By then it was late and we went to sleep.
Sunday 1st June – 0 miles – Andijan
The next morning we moved to a more central hotel, with wifi and near facilities. Poor Alistair had to push his bike for several miles!
The  wifi in the hotel did not work! At least we had an internet cafe next door.
Patrick, from Osh, would be able to come pick up the bike at the border, Kyrgyz side. Osh is only 5km from the border.
We just needed  to arrange a truck to take us there!
We explained the situation to the staff of the hotel. They told us it would be very easy to get a taxi, as there were plenty congregating at the end   of the street. We walked there. There were only cars….
When we got back to the hotel the guy told us it was not a problem, that we could put the motorbike on the roof of a saloon car! We explained it was NOT possible. That we needed a truck. He phoned his mates but it looked like it would go nowhere….
Alistair, when he brought his bike, noticed a white good shop with a small delivery truck. The ideal truck. So we walked there to investigate. We talked and explained, and after a while, going back to the hotel to get the staff to translate the details,  it was arranged that the truck would come to collect us at 10am the next day.
Monday 2d of June –
The next morning we were ready and all packed up by 9:30. Came 10am, no truck. After 15 minutes wait we asked the staff to try and call the mobile number we had. It was switched off! Not good!
It was clear no truck would come.
We went back to the taxis area, asking where we could rent a truck but had no luck.
Back to the hotel, it was a different team from the previous day. We explained again what we wanted. I asked them to write down  in Uzbek that we wanted to hire a truck to take our bike to the border.
There were various discussions bewteen the staff but not much going on.After a   while i pointed at my paper and eventually the receptionist wrote the translation. Then by late morning he told us there was a big parking area for small trucks a mile down  a street. Why no one told us that before!!!
Get to the border!!!!!
I walked outside with my piece of paper, under heavy rain again. We crossed the road and walked along the street . I then spotted a small truck, empty, the driver inside,smoking a cigarette. I went straight to him. He looked at me as if i was some mad woman, i must have looked the part! I put my piece of paper on the window.
We started talking. We agreed on 100 dollars if he would take us to the border right now! We went straight away to the hotel and loaded both bikes. We tought it would be easier that way, rather than trying to to follow a truck in insane traffic. Once out of town it was obvious the two bikes were falling. There were strapped, but without a ratchet, the bikes were falling, on those dreadful badly potholed roads. We got my bike out and Alistair rode it under the nasty rain.
Eventually, by early afternoon, we got to the border!!!
It took over an hour of back and forth from one office to the other to get all sorted. The border was almost empty,very few   people crossing. One of the custom guys was so bored he asked if we had a  camera and watched pretty much all the photos i had on the memory card ( 100s of pictures!)…. He eventually got bored and we were finally let off Uzbekistan!
Entry to Kyrgysztan took about 10 minutes. Only one guy in an office, no paper work to fill! The most senior officer of the border control came to introduce himself and welcomed into his country! I am going to like Kyrgyzstan!
Once outside, we called Patrick, and about half an hour later he arrived in a pick up truck. He took us to his house, where he had a workshop and storage facilities for motorbikes.
Then his office manager took us to a guest house. We lost another hour ( we are now 5 hours ahead of the UK!). That very evening, Patrick and his mechanic took the engine apart. The diagnostic was bad.
 The crankshaft and piston were dead. Those parts cannot be found in central asia. Alistair looked online for parts in the UK. It would be a lot of money! Not including DHL costand  import tax tec….Was it worth it? Was it the end of our trip?

Total breakdown

Thursday 29th May – 204 miles – Tashkent

After a week in Samarkand, my ankle and hand had improved enough that i could ride. For my hand i could use the “cruise control” a very useful piece of plastic that fits in the right handgrip and i can use the palm of my hand to control speed! Very useful given the circumstances… I was not able otherwise to ride! And i certainly could not use my front brake! The foot brake would do!

So, that day we got up early as we wanted to make as much progress as possible.
However, we were told that the president, or some family member of the president of Uzbekistan, was visiting town, and as such, the town was locked. No one could leave and enter the town, and all traffic was banned from all main roads! It would be most of the day!
Hotel Emir was increasingly looking like Hotel california, you can come anytime you like, but you can never leave!
We sat around and chat in the courtyard, with other guests. A german couple was very pissed off as they had booked and pay for a hotel in advance, in another town!
A policeman came to the hotel. Maybe check if there were any snippers among us???
Then around 10 am, the hotel owner came to tell us that if we left within the next half hour and took the back roads,we  may be able to leave town. We jumped at the chance. By then our only thought was to make it to the border with Kyrgystan as soon as possible!
Using the awful backroads we made it out of town and into the ” motorway”. It was in a terrible condition! No  chance our VIP visitor was driving into town!
We wanted to avoid Tashkent and its crazy traffic, but there was no way to find our way round the trails and tracks.
Eventually ,as  we got closer to Tashkent, the weather turned terrible, very strong wind, massive clouds of sand, and then big storm. We completely missed the ring road and ended up riding toward the town centre.
We finally stopped at a car park, drenched and cold,  to try find where we were. A guy on a big 4×4 came to see us. We asked about the nearest hotel. He told us to follow him and he took  us to the local Asia tashkent. Expensive but by then we just wanted to get out of the storm and insane traffic.
Friday 30th May – 71 miles – Angren
We wanted to leave town early, in order to avoid the insane traffic…. But it was raining very heavily. We decided to wait a bit.
By midmorning, it was clear the heavy rain would last all day. We left. I can honestly say that i did not think i could make it out of Tashkent in one piece…. This is how crazy drivers are! They beat the brazilian… I never thought anyone could drive more dangerously than the brazilians, but the Uzbeks take dangerous driving to another level!
By 1 or 2pm we were totally wet, very cold and could not continue. We got into Angren. We bought some fuel ( we found a petrol station!!! And it had fuel!). We asked there for the nearest hotel and got there.
Afterc checking our marital tatus we were allowed to have one shared bedroom. They seem obsessed about my marrital status in the fergana valley! Very conservative muslim region.
The good news is that we were about 3 or 400km from the border. We could make it to the border in one day, weather permitting.
In the bar restaurant of the hotel, we heard talking spanish. And the russian menu was translated by hand into Spanish… What was going on? Dying of curiosity, i went to speak to a guy. It happens that a spanish company is helping building the road. The team were all spanish engineers, electricians.
For the last two days, they had been out of work as the construction site had totally run out of diesel, No machinery could be used! Crazy country!
Saturday 31st May – Andijan – ? Miles
Get to the border! Get to the border! The weather was very cloudy, but dry so far.
We set off early, but it was very slow going all morning due to endless road works and constants police and military checkpoints. The region is apparently a hotbed for fundamentalists and there have been bombing and stuff…. And you can google Andijan 2005 for details on the Andijan Massacre…. So sensitive area for the government.
On the plus side we crossed a beautiful mountain range.
By lunch time, in the outskirts of Qoqon we stopped for some food and drinks. It  was now sunny and very hot again. We got talking to teenage boys about studies and universities in the UK. They were very curious about us.
Since the mountain, Alistair’s bike, which has been doing a funny engine noise for some thousands ofmiles, was getting louder.
We set of nontheless. Get to the Border!!!
About an hour later, in the middle of nowhere, the noise became much worse…. The engine sounded like it was going to seize. Something was badly wrong and we had to stop. It was obvious we could not carry on.
Alistair turned to me and asked: ” What are we going to do? ” there was nothing and no one around for miles and miles…..