Day 36 Kumtor sub-station to Bishkek

We had a grim night. Although it was freezing outside, we were very warm under the quilt. However the altitude of nearly 4,000 metres meant that the air was thin and sleeping was difficult. In the morning with the temperature rising to a sweltering 2.5 degrees, we set off down the mountain driving all the way in first gear because the mist during the night had turned the road to mud. We got round the 36 hairpins safely just before a convoy of perhaps 10 massive fuel tankers and various other vehicles started coming up. Descending the mountain allowed us to have a much better view of the glorious scenery; sheer mountain sides of different colours – brown, grey, black and silver with the mountain tops coated in glistening white snow. We passed a huge herd of horses being led up the mountain to their summer grazing on the plateau. I was especially impressed by the herdsmen who worked seamlessly with their horses, man and horse working as one.

Reaching Baskoon on the southern shore of Issyk Kul we rode an atrocious road to the grubby shanty-town of Balykchy. The tarmac on the old road had been ripped up before the new one had been built and we spent most of the day bumping and rattling along at 20 mph. The aim was to find a hotel in Balykchy, but everyone we asked appeared to be psychologically challenged and we concluded that there wasn’t one. So we set off for Bishkek and slept in a deserted car park at the side of the road.

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