From Kyzyl Oi to Bishkek we still had a long way to go. First we had to drive along a dusty road, from a narrow valley to a wide one.
The wide valley is called Suusamyr and is about 100 km long and 40 km wide. I had already passed through a part of it on the way from Bishkek to Toktogul. And now there was the rest of the valley to see. In the western part there were mainly nomads in their yurts, in the eastern part (i.e. the current stretch) it went through villages and there was even a factory to see. The road was mostly dusty. Nevertheless, we saw several travellers on bicycles.
After some time we reached the tarred national road, marked with a monument. I always wonder about Soviet building design, it is not pleasing to my eyes.
We had to wait longer at the closed tunnel, then we were able to drive through and on the other side the road winds over 2,000 m downwards. I had only driven this in shared taxis before, from where there were no good photo opportunities. Here I was able to catch up a little:
There was quite a lot going on in the street, which we were not used to from the previous days. We then found a place for a farewell lunch, where the table neighbours even amazed Erik with their huge (meat) portions on the table. However, we didn’t stay long enough to see if they could really manage these mountains of food on their own.
The suburbs of Bishkek are all lined up endlessly along the main road. It didn’t look nice and again unanswered questions arose: do people live here because they can’t afford the rents in Bishkek? Or are these structures that have grown up all their own? Do people find an apartment building on the big street attractive? Because there were quite a few here among all the commerce, some even in new/renovation construction. We also saw the big used car market, which is really huge. That seemed very practical for the desire to buy a used car: everything in one place and you don’t have to drive back and forth and search.
And then we were in Bishkek and said goodbye to Erik. He is a really great driver – I hope we were pleasant fellow travellers for him.
It was afternoon, the temperatures a bit lower than 3 weeks before, but still hot. A trip to the city centre didn’t really seem that attractive to us. We had had a big lunch and in the evening there were also many delicacies in the guesthouse, so we only managed a digestive walk along the river.
A little sleep and then Ute had to go up again at 5:30 to catch the plane. The next goodbye. Ute and I have known each other for about 30 years, met first during our studies, lived together twice and once she also travelled to Ladakh to join me. I hardly know any other people who are so uncomplicated, she is very socially compatible and likes to make contact with others – even if they don’t have a common language. We didn’t tend to argue (she only found my occasional little tantrums out of travel dissatisfaction very silly) except about who was the bigger blabbermouth. It was a constant chatter about what was going on in our heads, especially when we were on the road. So it was a great pleasure for me to travel with Ute, much greater than before alone. And when she was gone, I felt a bit lonely.
When I booked my flight, we didn’t know yet that she would really come and when exactly. And so I had a return flight 4 days later, which I spent in Bishkek. I was actually through with travelling, no longer curious about new things, uninterested in contacts – and so I had very quiet days, where I worked on some things on the laptop and at some point went out to eat and then walked around a bit. That’s when I took a few more pictures. One day it was very overcast and on the one hand a bit cooler, on the other hand the air was exhaustingly dusty – many cars also had such a light layer of dirt.
I still find Bishkek an ugly city, but I don’t mind staying there. In general, I didn’t seem to have any emotions, neither did I feel sad about being here nor was my heart full of joy. But when it was time for me to go to the airport, I was relieved. 3.5 months in post-Soviet countries with the feeling that I had made the wrong travel decision was not so easy. But all in all, I had the feeling that I had experienced enough beautiful and interesting things. And I was able to broaden my knowledge of post-Soviet realities a little and I am also very fascinated by them. Kyrgyzstan is only a very small part of the Soviet empire. But it seemed huge to me for the socio-political upheavals back then, and all in all I wonder how the Soviet Union managed to implement its really massive changes so effectively in such a short time in such a huge area – without internet, without a good existing infrastructure. Besides this history, of course, I also find it exciting how the respective countries developed after their independence. Estonia, Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan – I haven’t seen much yet. It still keeps me interested, but I think a break is not bad now.
So I also went to the airport
and said goodbye to this country where I had gathered so many impressions after this second trip.
As always, there is one last blog post with afterthoughts. There is a bit more than what I have just mentioned here.