Kyrgyzstan – Issykul Lake


You find yourself here again…and reading about Kyrgyzstan. A few things are running through your mind: is Ivan running out of material to talk about? And is there nothing better to read on the internet?

I’ll answer both of those questions: no…i’m not running out of material, to my and probably your surprise there is much more to Kyrgyzstan than any of us expected. And as far as more captivating blogs…they probably exist…just like life outside of our solar system…just no one has seen them yet.

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If you look on the map, btw do you know i have a full map of our route? Yeah, so all the places that we have been you can check out on that awesome page, so you can plan your trip or follow along for fun. Anyway, if you look on that map Karakol is all the way on the eastern part of the country so to get anywhere else we have to go along the Issykul lake, we chose the Southern route…just because.

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If you follow the Sourthern road along the lake, then you will also have a chance to visit a few remarkable places. First, just outside of Karakol is Djety-Oguz (GPS: 42.331874, 78.237582) a valley with beautiful red rock formations. In the above photo you can see the famous (not world famous…just Kyrgyzstan famous) “broken heart rock”. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there is probably some native legend about a boy and a girl and unfortunate circumstances that forbade their true love.

If you are looking for a place to camp, then this would be perfect…great weather, beautiful views, no mosquitoes…everything you need for true bliss. Since we just started our day half an hour ago, we looked around  and moved on.

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Just when you get into the rhythm of the road…boom, dont go too fast otherwise you will miss a little sign for the “Fairy Tale Canyon” (Skazka Canyon in Russkij) turnoff. I have no idea why it is called the that even after visiting the place. It looks like the photo us see above and below…but that doesn’t remind me of any fairy tales. The only thing i can think of is that some of the rock formations resemble castles and castle walls…a prominent feature of all fairy tales. GPS (42.156402, 77.354073)

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One thing i can say with confidence is that its hot here…we walked around, posed for a few photos and got the hell out. Is it worth coming here? Well, flying in from USA just to see the “Fairy Tale Canyon” is dumb…but if you are in the area…then check it out. Its so close to the road and so easy to see that it doesn’t take any effort…just like the pay off…minimal.

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If you climb up one of the “castle walls” you get to see the canyon, the Issykul lake and mountains past the lake – a grand view.

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Apparently if you come to Kyrgyzstan then you have to at least visit Issykul lake, we drove for a few hours looking for a perfect place to stop…all of them were too close to the road or completely crowded with people. Finally, worried that we might have to sleep at a gas station we found the perfect place, GPS (42.162016, 77.053144). Just far away from the road and main beach to give us a feeling of privacy.

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I’m glad that we take photos…they also act as reminders for me. This is what i wanted to say – go to the fresh food markets in any of the Kyrgyzstan cities. When we were here in August, the markets were full of all kinds of veggies and most importantly fruits and berries from the local gardens. Strawberries to ripe they hold together only long enough to be wash, peaches, plums, watermelons, melons, apples, currant, gooseberries, cherries. We grabbed everything in sight and ended up paying less than 5 bucks for a fridge full of fresh goodies (meat not included).

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As we were finishing up our dinner the local kids showed up with their dog and hung around for a while, looking at the flags on Hodori, asking questions …being nosy little bastards. I kid, they were cool kids who just wanted to get to know us. They spoke Russian with a heavy accent, but their curiosity drove them to strain and remember everything they have learned. I wouldn’t have minded their presence at all, if they didn’t come during dinner time. There has to be some unspoken rule among people to not bother people who are eating. Just let them enjoy their food without constantly asking questions. I digress….

We cleaned up the dishes, got in the car and wanted to watch a movie…i got out my laptop and we watched about an hour until the battery died. Usually we just turn on the 12V to 110 V inverter and charge the laptops. Today for some reason the inverter decided to take a dump and not work. Okay, we will fix that once we get to Bishkek. Come to think of it, our fridge has not been able to keep cool over night. That means our second (auxiliary) battery is dead…shit more things to fix, I guess i’ll start making a list.

We tried to stay up longer to look at the stars again, but the stupid moon would not go down. I set the alarm clock for 3 am and of course woke up to the sun shining on my face. Well…maybe next time.

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The view of our camp spot of the night. If the air is clear, like after a rain or snow, then you would be able to look across the lake and see beautiful mountains. Unfortunately, during the whole time we were there, the other side of the lake was covered in a dusty haze.

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Another notch on Hodori’s belt…22nd if anyone is keeping count. Look how far we have come, we stopped putting flags upside-down or blatantly messing up the colors on flags. If we continue to travel around Central Asia soon we will run out of space on Hodori. If we ever go to Africa….where will we put all the flags?

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Thats the official beach that gets super crowded on weekends and later in the day. Luckily we camped a bit away from it. Oh and the lake…very nice. The water just perfect to wake you up in the morning, no not cold like Baikal…just perfect for refreshing yourself.

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We had a choice to make, we could go to Bishkek(North) or Osh (South). We thought that we will hit by Bishkek on the way back to Kazakhstan, so lets go to Osh.

On the way to Osh you can stop by the mountain lake Songkul. To get there you will drive on a paved road towards Naryn, then turn off and drive 60-70 km on a nice gravel road. Right before you reach the lake the road will start to climb higher into the mountains…and you get a chance to touch snow…in August. We haven’t seen this crazy white stuff in a long time and like little kids ran out to touch it….only to get back in the car as fast as we came out. Damn….its freezing cold here, makes sense why the snow is still going strong here.

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Drove up and up…finally got to the lake. Okay it is very…very pretty. The lake itself is small enough that you can look across it and see the mountains on the other side. It was super windy and it looked like it was going to rain or snow any moment. So we drove around the lake, looking for a cozy spot to camp, when we came upon this family procession. Nothing out of the ordinary here….for Kyrgyzstan. Its just so cute, look at the grandpa and baby on that tiny little donkey!

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Found a pretty view…there is no shortage of these here, but no wind cover. While walking around…being my neurotic self, i decided to check how our front-end suspension is doing after a bit of off-roading. Damn it…i dont know whether to be happy that i looked or upset for making me worry. The front right CV axle is leaking grease…thats not good…add it to the growing list of things to fix in Bishkek.

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For now Ivan, just relax and drive down this beautiful mountain road. If you go to Kyrgyzstan, this place has to be seen. It feels so remote and isolated that your butt cheeks clench a bit tighter at the idea of having to repair your CV axle boot here.

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But you guys…don’t sweat it…its not like it started to rain as soon as we took this picture and the gravel road started turning into a gravel river as we continued our descent.

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You drop from 3200 meters of Moldo Ashuu pass down to the bottom of the valley almost a kilometer down.

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Just a bit past the rain…double rainbow. Wasn’t there a youtube video of a guys flipping out over seeing these?

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If you come to Kyrgyzstan, then double rainbows will be an everyday occurrence for you. Remember that in Mongolian “korea” is “solongos”, meaning rainbow. So both of the above pictures have double rainbows.

Wow…too much Ivan, we were with you until that one.

Worried about the ever increasing list of little issues with our car we asked around for the road to Osh and were told that its going to be about 250 miles of dirt/gravel roads. Not really wanting to risk it, we postponed our trip to Osh in favor of going straight to Bishkek and fixing our limping Hodori.

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Fast-forward a couple of days later we find a mechanic in Bishkek who will look at our car. I thought that while he is fixing our CV boot I would get the battery looked at.

Turns out that he has no idea why the there is grease coming out of the CV axle. The boot doesn’t have any wholes, so we opened it up, examined carefully, stuffed it with grease and put on a clamp. Hoping that would be fixed. In the meantime i dropped of the battery at a battery shop to be charged over night.

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Came back to the shop and was told that our rear brake pads are done…no worries, lets change them i got spares. The right side went smooth as can be.

The left side for some reason the wheel nuts RUSTED on to the bolts and we stripped 2 of them getting them off. Mechanic did not worry, we just went to the market, picked up new studs and exchanged them.

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In the process we opened up the drum brakes and discovered (well…I…knew) that our hand-brake pads were sorta crumbling to shit. Soooooo….lets replace those while we are at it.

You see where i’m going with this? The issues are piling onto the “to-do list” as fast as we remove them.

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Here is a question for all of your car fans out there…why would the nuts on the left rear wheel rust on to the bolts? Here is a bit of info that might or might not be of use.

In Vladivostok we swapped the spare tire that hangs under the land cruiser and put it on to the left rear wheel. Remember that accident in Chile? Yeah, that wheel was scratched by all the roots, rocks and dirt when we plowed through that ditch. Okay, then somewhere around Ulan-Ude the nuts on the same rear left wheel started coming loose and the wheel was a bit wobbly when we drove. Back then i jacked up the car, tightened all the bolts and moved on. Once in a while i would go and check for loose bolts…and a couple of times i had to tighten them again…just a little.

Then we went through all that mud and rivers in Mongolia and arrive at current day of rusted nuts. What can we conclude from all of this?

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Im not sure…but i can tell you that we have spent more time fixing the car after Mongolia than any other country. So far i feel like we changed all of the suspension parts on the car…and now this.

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I think Mongolia is the great shakedown for any cars, trucks or motorcycles. All the suspension parts that had broken rubber boots before Mongolia were fine, but as soon as we started crossing rivers and mud everything went to shit. The sand from the water and mud get inside the joints and in no time wash out the grease, leaving metal on metal action with a bit of sand in there. A few hundred miles and the metal will turn to dust. On the beautiful roads of US and Europe you would probably drive around for years without realizing that half of your suspension needed to be replaced a long time ago. Mongolia just works out all the little issues your car has, it brings everything to the surface.

Once more I am thankful for my friends Mike and Jan for suggesting to go with a Toyota Land Cruiser for this expedition. Since Vladivostok these cars are ubiquitous and most importantly spare parts can be easily found even in little villages. All the mechanics know the Cruisers in and out and can probably fix them with their eyes closed. This is definitely not the case for a lot of motorcycle riders we have met. Their spare parts are rare and sometimes required month long wait times for delivery. Just for reference…in a month you can EASILY drive from Japan to Europe. So far the only country where we didn’t see a single Land Cruiser was South Korea.

Dont worry we fixed everything we thought we needed and to make sure everything works as planned, we are going to do a little shake down trip down to Osh to see Pamir Mountains.

1 Comment

  1. Ivan,
    If you are interested you can read our blog (wellingfamily.waarbenjij.nu) of the area you are driving trough now. I can also send you a spread sheet with all my camping spots. They should als have been uploaded to ioverlander.com. Have a great trip.
    Rudy Welling

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