Biskek to Sosnovka 85km
Sosnovka to Too Asuu Tunnel (3100m) 47km
There were 18 people at A House the other night. Eight Poles, two French, two Aussie/Poms (dual citizenships), one Vietnamese, one Canadian, one Bulgarian, a Kyrgyzstani, one very ill Englishman, a pretty Filipino, who had come to visit because she heard there was a handsome kiwi about, and me.
The Poles, Nick, Roman, and I were all planning to leave the next day. Nick, Roman and I cycling the same route. The Poles hadn't made up their mind.
As usual, I was keen to make an early start. The others are not early rises, so when I was packed up and ready at 7am, most were not even out of their sleeping bags. But..... Angela was very keen to cook me breakfast, pancakes, and they, the pancakes and frying pans, were not cooperating. The first batch didn't appear until 8am, but they were yummy, and by then a few others were about, so they all wanted some. Angela was going to be busy.
Well feed, I slipped away. Getting out of Bishkek was pretty easy, except for the many mini buses....Mercedes vans. It's Monday, and everyone is mobile, heading to work, and a quick wave and three mini buses make a beeline for you.....without regard for cyclists. Pretty scarey. You certainly need to be concentrating.
For 50km the road is flat, and pretty busy, so when I get a chance, I turn off the main drag. Immediately, I start climbing, only slowly, but it's definitely uphill. At 60km I'm feeling weary, so I stop for a feed, and a nap. It's so easy to nod off, sitting on a quiet road, in the shade of a tree, with a full belly.
The next 10km continue to climb, and I'm relieved to finally reach the top. I'm resting in a bus shelter. A local taxi driver comes over to chat. It's amazing how much information you can pass between two people that have no common language. He was the same age as me, thought I was crazy to be on such an adventure, and drove an American car, a Ford, which was really clapped out. He had to roll start it when he left. There are a lot of flash Mercedes, and BMWs, but also a lot of ancient Skodas, and other Russian cars. It's very disconcerting, as half the cars are right hand drive, and half left hand drive. I like to eyeball the drivers, but often I'm eyeballing the wrong person.
85km, and I'm stuffed. I find a lovely campsite next to a very busy river. I'm glad to stop, because there's a massive electrical storm further up the valley. I'm in bed not long after sunset, and quickly asleep.
Uphill. At the 90km from Bishkek sign, I spot the boys tents and cycles. They've passed me after I'd made camp, without seeing me. But it's only 7.30am, so I don't expect to see much action, and cycle past. I'm pretty sure they will catch me. Today is uphill for 45 km, to a tunnel that passes through the mountains.
12% gradient for 45 km. The Kyrgyzstani road builders are not as cycle friendly as the Indians or Nepalis. This is a tough climb. Nick catches me at 30km, but he is hurting. He has a sore rib from falling off a mountain near Almaty in Kazakhstan, and the steepness, and the altitude are making it hard to breath. He walks his bike often....as fast as I can cycle.
Roman catches us at 35km. He is also struggling, but they are young, half my age, so I just keep on trudging on, with frequent breaks. Occasionally they pass me, but then need to stop. My 21,000km, recent altitude cycling with Tessa, and perseverance, are paying dividends. I reach the small village, just before the tunnel, first. Six hours twenty cycling, at an average speed of 7.3kph. 1800m ascent. I'm done for the day. We find a spot to pitch our tents. It's very cold. Locals come and watch us set up camp and cook. It starts to rain just as I crawl into my tent. Tomorrow we have a 3km tunnel to negotiate, and with a bit of luck, perhaps some downhill. Yeha. Better get some sleep.