Friday, August 29, 2008

Aug 27 - Andijon UZ to Osh KG

Carol woke up with daylight, showered quietly, and waited for Mike to wake up so she could wish him a happy 36th anniversary. The problem is the anniversary was yesterday. After what we went through while traveling, we can probably put up with anything in the future.

Routine breakfast in the Hotel Elita. Walked across the street to the Yangi (New) Bazaar. There we found a great assortment of fresh foods, and took some nice pictures of vendors. The women at the dairy stalls even posed for us, making finger horns behind each others' heads. Bought two splendid peaches, but passed on the pomegranites, which were too first-season to be really ripe. Also passed on some beautiful nectarines - you can only carry so much soft fruit. With great reluctance, we passed on the freshly made raspberry juice. It was too late in the trip to try a potentially risky beverage. But boy it looked good.

Checked out of the hotel. We were uncertain where to catch the bus to the border, and a kid at the hotel offered to walk us to the bus station. He actually walked us to the shared taxi stand, where one driver was sufficiently desperate to drive us the 40 or 50 km to the border for 1000 sum each, without waiting to get the other two passengers necessary to fill the cab. So for $1.50 we had luxury, a cab all our own. We left Andijon at 11 am Uz Time.

We got to the border, filled out the Uzbek forms in duplicate, got our stamps, walked through no man's land, used our last UZ squatter, got our Kyrgyz stamps, and were in Kyrgyzstan. Unlike on Aug 14, when the trip was a true nightmare, the whole process took only one hour. So at 1 pm KgTime (time zone change of one hour, remember), we hopped on a local bus to take us back to the Stary Gorod Hotel, where we had stayed before.

This time our old room was not available, so we splurged and stayed in the 1200 sum fancy suite. ($34 US) The proprietor was glad to see Mr. Santa Claus and wife again, and even offered to wash our clothes for free.

At about 2 pm, we walked around the corner, found a busy restaurant that sold only laghman and manti. We enjoyed a portion of each, with tea, bread, and two beers, and a glass of peach sharbat (juice). Total price 190 sum ($5.50). Mike changed the last 16600 of his UZ som for 400 KG som. (KG som are much closer to real money.)

We need to digress now. From Osh we wanted to get to Song Kul, a rural alpine lake in the center of the country. If you look at a map, the simplest way to get from Osh to Song Kul is (1) Osh to Jalalabad, (2) Jalalabad to Kazarman, (3) Kazarman to a road going north into Song Kul. This is totally unrealistic. Part 3 has to be replaced by Kazarman to Naryn, then Naryn to Song Kul. However, Osh to Jalalabad is on flat roads, has frequent service, and takes 2 hours. Jalalabad to Kazarman goes over a mountain pass, is barely worth being called a road; the Lonely Planet author noted that when he went over that road, his car died 27 times. The trip would take 4 - 5 hours, if you could fill a taxi. However, you might have to buy the whole taxi. The Kazarman to Naryn stretch is not quite so bad, but is still pretty dreadful. We scratched that option.

The alternative is to go from Osh to Bishkek, Bishkek to Kochkor, and Kochkor to Song Kul. The Osh to Bishkek taxis are easy to fill, and the road is not that super bad, but the trip takes 12 - 15 hours.

Sitting over lunch, we decided to fly from Osh to Bishkek.

We made it to the air ticketing office, which is one woman sitting at a 1970s airline reservation computer and handwriting tickets. She showed us a screen with 5 alternative flights from Osh to Bishkek, and masochists that we are, we picked the 8 am flight for the next morning. The cost is $75.50 USD per person, which we paid. After a few minutes, the woman wrote out our tickets, (and explained to us in Russian at least 5 times that we had to be at the airport at 7 am, and that we were limited to 15 kg each), and we were in possession of our tickets.

We were near the bazaar, so we spent two hours shopping for souvenirs, seeking out more outrageous shirts (such as Miokfy Mouse), and looking for some local clothing for Carol (no success). Either the dress and pants combination was too long, there were strange sewn-in rubber shoulder pads, and/or the material was something never made for contact with human skin and totally unwashable. This makes the pictures we have of these women wearing these outfits all the more amazing.

It was getting on toward 7 pm, and time for an extended internet session. After 9:30, Carol went back to the hotel. She discovered that the wash was hanging on the line outside still wet; the proprietor assured her that all would be dry by the morning. On the way back to the hotel, in lieu of the dinner we skipped, Mike bought two sticks of kabob for 75 som, waiting for them to be cooked. By the time he had eaten them (10:20 pm), the hotel gates were locked shut, and he had to wait several minutes for the night watchman to come to the gate, and let him in.

To bed for a very early start, figuring in morning time to fetch the wash.

We were beginning to feel the battle fatigue of a long vacation. Too many hours spent in transit. Too many new toilets, dirty toilets, and where-the-hell-is-it toilets. Too much guessing whether the hot water was on the left or the right, or whether the proprietor had to turn on the gas to warm up the hot water. Too little fiber in our diets. Too many times when we couldn't make ourselves understood, or understand what was happening.

And waaaaaay too many little kids parroting "Hello Hello" as we walked down the street or alley, and too many people dropping everything they were doing to stare at us.

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Too many days away from home ... I know the feeling. And the toilets! Yee-hah! Makes traveling an adventure! But the sights ... somehow makes the uncomfortableness worth it and maybe disappear for a bit.

Love it so far!