31-Aug-2004 -- 42 N – 75 E Kyrgyzstan
Visit Date: August 31, 2004
This is the first line-hunting in Kyrgyzstan by Ray of the Yip-Bannicq group together with John Spika as part of their 2nd annual bicycle expedition of the silk roads in Central Asia.
This is also the first successful line-hunting for John. He had a previous visit to a point in Belarus but when reached the point his digital camera failed to function.
Both Ray and John flew into Almaty, Kazakhstan, from opposite directions (Ray from Beijing, and John from Copenhagen), and met up in Karakol, near the eastern end of the famous lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan to start the bike trip.
As it turned out, we both encountered substantial headaches in trying to get a second visa for Kazakhstan in order to depart from Almaty after the bike trip. Visa for Kazakhstan became the most expensive item of our trip, not counting the airfares.
The route we planned for our bike trip pretty much followed the southern slope of the mountain range parallel the south shore of lake Issyk-Kul and required crossing a couple passes over 3500 meters. Our route followed pretty much 42 N from 79 to 76E. The plan was to do one line hunting if at all possible.
The mountain road we followed starting from Lake Issyk-Kul was pretty remote and had very few side roads. Based on the topo map, 78E, 77E, and 76E were either too far off our route or required so much substantial climbing that we would not have time to complete the hunt within a day.
We pretty much completed the main part of our backcountry biking in 6 days and ended up in Naryn, a key town of the Silk Road connecting northern and southern Kyrgyzstan. The option for the 3 remaining days was a visit to another alpine lake called Song-Kol in central Kyrgyzstan. The 150 km distance required us to hire a car to go to the lake.
The Community tour office in Naryn assigned a nice driver with an old Russian Lada which had a roof on which we were able to tie our bikes. The catch was that, there was a 2000 meter climb a few kilometers before the lake, and the Lada pretty much had to run on first gear. After a few stops for emergency cooling down of the engine with water from nearby streams we made it to Song-Kol. It was a minor miracle.
Song-Kol is located at 3200 meters and surrounded by grass covered hills. We had a great visit with a nomad family who spends the summer there grazing their horses (photo 10
42N-75E is located about 20 km north of South shore of Song-Kol on the other side of the mountain range surrounding the lake. It took us over 3 hours in the Lada to reach the small town near the confluence point – Kazzat. It was raining and dark when we found a place to stay in town.
The next morning, we reassembled our mountain bikes and started toward the point. The 3-4 km ride took more than half an hour because we had to wade across a cold and swift stream twice, once carrying the bikes. When we reached 700 meters from the confluence point, a hill with a 40 degrees slope, over 100 meters high, forced us to abandon the bikes – dashing our hope of riding our bike to the point.
After climbing up the hill we reached the object of our hunt at 9.30 am. The confluence point was located on a wide plateau, at least 2-3 km wide. Toward the south, it was the range separating us from the lake Song-Kol. This was an example of a distance which would have taken a crow only 20km to fly to and took us almost a good part of the day to reach – a fact of line-hunting in mountainous areas.
We made our way to Bishkek, the capital, on the same day and concluded our annual silk road bicycling expedition with line-hunting added as a new feature.
Note – we had not learned about the Degree Confluence Project last year when we concluded our first silk road trip from Kashgar in Xinjiang, China to the Hunza valley of Pakistan (Karakorum Highway). In retrospect, we found out later that our first silk road route had come near some of the western most confluence points in China.
Rating of this hunt:
Degree of Challenge: 3 – a long way to reach but the actual point is only 3 km from a main highway (Scale: 1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
Scenery: 4 – on an open plateau overlooking a valley and mountain range – classic central Kyrgyzstan scenery (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
Culture-social factors: 4– Kyrgyz culture and people are colorful and most friendly (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)