Tuesday September 30, 2014, 74 miles (119 km) – Total so far: 5,651 miles (9,094 km)
Tuesday September 30, 2014 74 bicycle miles; 220 truck miles We are in Osh, Kyrgyzstan after a long 220 mile 12 hour truck ride. Kyrgyzstan is our 21st country and we are glad to be here and off the road since Jocelyn is sick and we are both very tired. On the 3rd day after leaving Murgab, Tajikistan Jocelyn was really struggling on the road north. She was stopping every few miles to lie on the road and rest from nausea, continued diarrhea, and lack of energy. The weather was getting very cold and our last two camps uncomfortable. The last morning there was ice inside the tent and all of our water bottles were frozen. Our MSR Huba Huba tent is a three seasons and not at all suitable for winter temperatures and wind. The basic tent itself is just netting with a thin rain cover. It is great for biking due to the light weight but not at all warm at 13,500 feet. Fortunately our Sierra Design -29C sleeping bags somewhat made up for that but then it isn’t really comfortable and almost claustrophobic to be cocooned inside the bag. The last morning was a real struggle to get going as we didn’t want to leave our bags and Jocelyn was exhausted. But we did and rode a few miles down the road before we heard a truck approach. In the last three days there were only a half a dozen vehicles going our way. So here was a truck and I stuck my thumb out. The driver immediately stopped and said he was headed to Osh, our destination. We loaded the bikes and soon realized that we were very lucky as the road was worse and there was snow and ice everywhere. It was a 100 mile 5 hour bumpy ride to the border where we had an adventure checking out of Tajikistan.
We were called into the border police office to check out. When we flew into Dushanbe we filled out two customs forms. Both were stamped and one was collected leaving us with the second one. I stupidly threw mine away but Jocelyn kept hers. At the border the officer wanted them. Jocelyn presented hers but I told the officer mine was gone. He said “problem, problem” and started in on a dramatic scene shuffling through papers and kept saying “problem”. That might have been the only English he knew. This continued for quite a while with me asking what I can do. He said I would have to return to Dushanbe, my entry city. That was completely out of the question as it would have been extremely difficult. This continued on and on until I produced my wallet and said “fine?” I pulled out some Somoni’s (Tajik currency) and he just ignored that. The entire time I was thinking maybe I would be arrested for trying to bribe an officer. I then told Jocelyn to go into our panniers a pull out two bills – a 50 and a 100. She came back and I handed the officer $50 of which he immediately pocketed then continued into dramatics. I kept the $100 just for a last ditch effort that fortunately wasn’t needed as he decided the $50 was good. Another officer came in, checked us out, and we were on our way. Now that I think about it this could have turned into a nightmare going back to Dushanbe.
We continued climbing on the increasingly disappearing road to the Kyrgyzstan border. All that I thought was it is such a miserable duty station way up in the mountains and so cold and windy. The driver had a friend there and was invited into a warm hut for cay while we stayed outside during the truck inspection. Our bikes and gear were in the open back and just completely covered in dirt. Jocelyn climbed back there to get in the food pannier and returned filthy. After crossing the border we drove another 7 hours into the Kyrgyzstan Mountains until we reached the city of Osh in the dark and rain. We were let out on the street and as the rain continued everything we had was soon mud. We were wet, cold, dirty, and miserable as we walked the crowded streets with our bikes looking for a hotel. After talking to several people we found a nice one. As we unloaded our panniers to take up to the room the hotel clerks just stared at our mess until one of them came and helped us as we must have looked pretty pathetic. I locked the bikes downstairs bought four beers and that was it for the day. We were so happy to be somewhere warm and to have a bed.
The next day we washed all the panniers, straps, helmets, and trunk bags in the shower and dried them on the floor by sitting them on our tent tarp. We then took a huge dirty load of clothes to the clerk for washing then washed our bikes. For a treat Jocelyn found a California Cafe nearby but they were all out of Mexican and beer so it was a bit disappointing as the pizza wasn’t that good. The last few days have been spent going to the China Consulate and a few travel agents inquiring about a China visa. Everyone said we would have to take a 12 hour ride to the northern city of Bishkek or stash our bikes and gear here and fly. Good news and bad news – we did eventually find a wonderful English speaking agent, Svetlana of Dauphin Travel, who could help us without us having to travel to Bishkek but the Chinese are on holiday until October 8th. This seems to happen a lot when we want a visa. It is the way of the world and patience is a necessary requirement for traveling. We then thought of flying to Bangkok, Thailand (a free country for Americans) and then heading north through SE Asia before entering China. After looking at time, expenses, and our goal to be home at Christmas we decided to stay put and hopefully have our China visas in hand on October 15th. In the meantime Svetlana found us a wonderful apartment close to downtown Osh where we will move to in the morning.
This afternoon we visited the local hospital to find out what Jocelyn’s medical problems are. It was soon apparent that this would be difficult until we ran into the hospital’s neurologist, Dr. Nurbek who immediately came to our help and spoke fairly good English. He took us to two doctors, one for Jocelyn’s ear infection and an internist for her stomach pain and weakness. After those two consultations he took us to a pharmacy, helped us get the proper medications, and wrote down in English the correct dosages. What a nice guy. This trip is all about the people we meet. Consultation fees: $4, medications: $40. We hope this sends Jocelyn on the road to recovery. These next two weeks in a completely furnished apartment ($20 per day) may be a blessing since she can rest and recuperate for our China and SE Asia journeys. Our Central Asia journey has been our most difficult to date. We are anxious to see what China has in store for us.