To Hydro Lake 98km
To Korgon 110km
To Ozgon 74km
To Osh 67km
These last few days I've ridden through three tunnels. None of them have been as big as the first, but they're all pretty scarey. They are dark, and even with lights it's hard to see where you're going. I realised how much you use your eyes to balance. In complete darkness Fiona was putting on some wobbles. And it's noisy. You can hear trucks and cars coming, but don't know from which direction, and the noise echos. Very loudly. And it's fumey. Luckily the longest was only about 500m.
But there was so much fantastic scenery to see outside. And seemingly so familiar. Today I could have very easily have been cycling through the hills around Omarama, along the Cromwell Gorge, or through the dry valleys and roads around Ward in Marlborough. The only thing was, the local roading engineers are not as cycle friendly as those in Nepal and India. Here, a contour line that a road might follow around a hill, does a lot of up and down.
I contemplated dropping down to a couple of spots on the hydro lake for a swim, but the climb out just looked far too hard. ( I learnt later that the boys had camped at one of these spots, and really regretted having the big push back up to the road in the morning).
Eventually I saw a spot that did not require a huge climb out, and it was so beautiful (if you disregard the rubbish), I decided to stop for the day, and set up my tent. I was swimming, snoozing and sunning myself, when a young couple turned up in their car. They seemed a bit put out that I had their favorite spot, but went along the beach about 50m, where they proceeded to have rather boisterous "cuddles" for the rest of the afternoon. I was scared to stand up from behind my tent, but needed to plunge into the lake a couple of times. As the sun set, the couple, a newly promoted officer in the Kyrgyzstan Army (30), and his very hot girlfriend (29), returned to the car. We started a conversation, which developed into some music and dancing....they had vodka... The young lady was giving me the eye.....of course I liked it...... Then the tone of the conversation between them got serious. It turns out, she wants to stay with me in my tent for the night.......what? And he reckons it would be a great idea.....what? I'm a visitor.....I'm alone....I'll need company. ....it's only polite......what? He will pick her up in the morning......NO, NO, NO, NO. I'm happily married, I do not need company, and thank you very much, but I do not want the services her eyes were offering...... I finally convince them that I will survive alone, they leave, and a go for a very cold swim.
Oh my goodness. A young, good looking, lonesome foreigner could get himself into all sorts of cultural, religious, international misunderstandings, in this "muslim" country. Luckily I'm older, wiser, happily married, and culturally sensitive.
In the morning, I stop for bread and Chai for breakfast. A lovely young 20ish lady serves me. We chat. She teaches me some Russian. Her mother appears. Daughter is told to sit with me for a photo. No, closer. Cuddle up to him. Sit on his knee. Now give him a hug.....Have you his phone number, his email? Is it just my amazingly stunning good looks, youth, health and vitality? Why am I having all these women thrust upon me? I think they're looking for a westerner, any westerner, as a possible way out......
The road is busy. It's condition deteriorates. I'm cycling around the fingers of Uzbekistan that protrude into Kyrgyzstan. Along the right side of the road is a six metre barbed wire fence. Beyond that is 50m of unused land, and then another six metre barbed wire fence, and then ....another Nation, Uzbekistan. Different money, language, customs, beliefs, and its within throwing distance. I can't get used to these borders.
Along the side of the road are hundreds of watermelon sellers, sitting behind massive piles of watermelon, waiting for the daily influx of Uzbeks to come and buy their produce. A car stops, and a random guy jumps out and gives me a rock melon, jumps back in his car and drives away. The people here are nice, but not nearly as forthcoming as in previous countries, except in the number of women I've been offered. They seem a little mistrust in of this foreigner, although most will wave or smile if I initiate the contact.
It's an adventure I'm on, and adventure is all about the unexpected. This cycle ride does not disappoint.