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Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Sunday, September 23, 2012

After a wonderful time in Karakol and Song Kul, we were headed to Almaty, Kazakhstan.  It lies directly north of the Lake Issyk-Kul area and crossing the border through the Karkara Valley would have been the most direct route. But we found out that there is no public transport available to this border and you have to either hire a taxi or hitch part of the way. Evidently there is another alternate 4WD road to the border, but there's no border control there and without an entry stamp in our passport, we could anticipate all kinds of trouble when in the country and definitely when getting out. So we resigned ourselves to taking the well-trodden path which meant retracing our steps back to Bishkek and crossing through the border control post just north of it.

The shared-taxi ride back to Bishkek in the afternoon was uneventful. By this time we were used to the maniacal driving, and this driver was not much different. Like every single one of his brethren we met in this country, he had a distaste for wearing a seat-belt while driving.  But Kyrgyz highway police are an active bunch. On a 4 hour drive, you can expect to be passing at least 4 to 6 highway police checkpoints and they definitely would like to think that they are enforcing seat-belt laws strictly. So the vehicles drive at the usual insane speeds right up to the point they can see a highway patrol car on the horizon and suddenly the seat-belt goes on and the vehicle will slow down to a crawl (well below speed limit). Frequently vehicles are stopped, the driver's license and vehicle registration is checked. If foreigners are detected in a vehicle, passports are checked too. Sometimes small bills change hands, we are not entirely sure why. But the minute the vehicle passes through, even before it is out of sight of the checkpoint, the seat-belt is unceremoniously pushed away. (This is somewhat akin to the behavior in some south and south-east asian flight where most people unbuckle the seat belts just after take off or immediately after the plane touches down, well before the seat belt sign is switched off). We have seen this drama play out on every single long distance drive in the country and it is puzzling why seat-belt phobia is so widespread around these parts.
It was a bit like coming back home as we trudged 7 floors up a dark staircase to Bishkek Guesthouse where we had stayed earlier. We were looking forward to getting back on the internet to post some blog entries. We were falling behind and needed to catch up. While we did have our wifi fix that evening, there was a major power breakdown sometime that night that affected large parts of the city and power was still not restored when it was time for us to leave late next morning.


Hello Malini, just by reading your blog entries giving me a feeling that I've been to all those places. I can imagine how amazing your experiences can be out there experiencing the truest, wildest & beautiful form of the nature. Waiting for more updates..... From Gopichand, on Sep 30, 2012 at 10:15PM
Writing comes to both of you the natural way enriching the posts more than the adventures, which are narrated after extensive background research, observations, supporting facts, photos - all interspersed with a bit of humour! Thank you both for sharing these free-of-cost. I have become addictive enough now to check periodically for fresh updates. Great going indeed. From TSB, on Oct 1, 2012 at 07:13AM
@Gopichand - It is wonderful to hear you enjoy reading the blog. Thank you for taking time to comment! From Malini and Venkatesh, on Oct 1, 2012 at 05:35PM
@TSB : Thanks for a lot for your post. Delighted to have appreciative readers which is a luxury. From Malini and Venkatesh, on Oct 2, 2012 at 11:14AM
Onwards to Kazakhstan - practice saying hail Nazarbayev full throatedly and with lots of diligence.

Can't resist wondering how you are getting back west on to the Silk Road. Samarqand, Bukhara, ... Sigh. And then what route to Constantinople - with Iran, Iraq closed are you headed to Armenia ?? From Ramesh, on Oct 3, 2012 at 01:38PM
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