Saturday, 27 December 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Stuck in Bishkek

June 7- 18, 2014

It is impossible to ride in Bishkek and not get frustrated by the drivers, especially by minibus drivers who stop ANYWHERE, ANYTIME to pick up passengers. The other infuriating accepted common behaviour is that drivers cut you off when turning. Several times I had to break hard to avoid hitting them on crossroads. Another rude behaviour is that drivers do not share the road with the cyclist who is passing by a parked car: "No, sir! Over my dead body". Sounding their horns, they make sure you know who is calling the shots here.  

The Kyrgyz people, especially in Bishkek, are not as friendly as their southern neighbours, Tajiks. When you ask them for direction, they ignore you completely. If you are shopping, there is no friendliness, nothing.

On Monday, we went to the Kazakh embassy to apply for a visa. After getting the form, we had to go take a taxi downtown to pay $30 in a bank and get back before 12 noon to submit all documents. We made it on time thanks to a Canadian businessman who had a taxi at his disposal and gave us a lift to the bank. Bravo Canadians everywhere. The visa process took 4 days and we picked it up on Thursday 6 pm when we immediately went to a travel agency to apply for Chinese visa. We found out that it is a lot easier to get the Chinese visa in Bishkek through a woman called, Ms. Lui who we heard and read a lot about on the internet and from other cyclist. For $150 she would get us a Chinese visa in three days. She could not speak English well, but apparently, she had a way to get Chinese visa from Bishkek embassy. We coughed up the money and now are waiting for the visa which is going to be ready on Wednesday, we hope.

We stayed in Sabirbek guesthouse for nine days. We had some problems there, such as not being able to use the kitchen all the time as the owner had some guests almost all the time. We decided to move into the guesthouse Raimon and Radu were staying at. At the new guesthouse, not only the people were nicer, but also they would charge us only $5 a day. We would have to pitch up our tent in their backyard though--even better.

We are now in the new guesthouse. It is much better than where we were. 

At Nathan's guesthouse, first there were only Radu and Raimon, but two days later, a couple from Belgium arrived who were riding from home on their honey moon! Laura and Koen had with them some of their national heroes' cycling jerseys from a museum in Belgium.  On their trip, they would ask random people to wear the jerseys and pose for a photograph. Once they asked all of us at the guesthouse to wear the jerseys and they took our photographs.
At the guest house, I cooked Mirza Ghasemi, an Iranian dish for all, and then Raimon, Laura and Koen, and Fausto cooked some delicious dishes from their country. It was so fun.

Nathan, the Canadian Guesthouse owner, is THE BEST bicycle mechanic I have ever come across. He fixes everything. He built Ramon's BROKEN bike. Everything was broken: rear wheel, rear hub, rear axle, fork, button bracket and chain wheel, Cassette, computer bike, etc. Nathan is amazing. He taught me how to change the real hub, for which I had to remove all my spokes and put them back together.

Tomorrow, we are leaving Bishkek with Chinese and Kazakh visa in our pockets. I don't want to leave tomorrow because it is Thursday tomorrow, and there is only about 300 km to Almaty. We would be spending the weekend in Almaty if we leave tomorrow. We could leave the day after since we need to go to Mongolian embassy on Monday. 

Nathan's Homestay

Watching World Cup in my Tent on my Ipad

Nathan's ingenuity to Fix a Long Spoke Using Two Short Ones

Kids Dancing in City Centre

Koen Taking Pictures of Us in Jerseys

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