Kyrgyzstan # 3 – Kochkor – August 2014

April 3, 2018

Leaving our camp on Ysyk-Köl, where we wished we could have spent a month, the pressure of our exact date to enter China was not to be ignored. We had kept tabs on the progress of our Chinese Visa back in Bishkek and all was going well. We needed to hurry now, but we didn’t need to rush. It was a short detour up to the beautiful Karakol Valley National Park. Great camp sites were everywhere and even a clear creek babbling by. Unfortunately, Kyrgyz picnickers, like their Russian counterparts, leave their trash behind. We took the time to set up our MSR backpacking tent that would be used by our Chinese guide. Coincidently, the color was “green”, our guide’s working English name. She chose it because she was born on Earth Day.

Little boys like their baseball caps.

Little boys like their baseball caps.

Not knowing what conditions lay ahead nor how much time we would have on the road in China, we did a full lube and oil change on The Turtle V, including our Dual Amsoil Oil Filter System, With the filters, we needed 15 quarts of Amsoil 15W/40 Synthetic Heavy-Duty Diesel & Marine motor oil which we took from the 14-gallon oil reserve tank built into the rear of the camper. Years ago, we realized that finding quality lubricants in third world countries could be a problem.

A phone call confirmed that our Chinese Visa was ready to be picked up so we headed back to the town of Karakol to buy a few more supplies and empty my oil drain pan—a plastic bag in a cardboard box—containing 15 quarts of used oil and two used oil filters. That turned out to be somewhat of a comedy. We did not speak Kyrgyz and only broken Russian. There were no recycle places in town. At length, we were directed to a small shop that sold oil. The owner talked about $5. We thought that he wanted to charge us $5 to recycle the oil. After some debate, it turned out that he wanted to pay $5 to buy the used oil. Mystery solved, we gave it to him with an Amsoil hat.

We headed for Bishkek with a smile on our face. The road was familiar and traffic was normal; horses, sheep and goats. We quickly found a relatively quiet parking place on a side street a few blocks from the visa office. Was it safe? Well, looking around at the Range Rovers, Mercedes and BMWs parked all day on the same street, we made a calculated guess.

These beautiful felt carpets and hand-embroidered wall hangings are typically used in yurts but are also an attraction for tourists.

These beautiful felt carpets and hand-embroidered wall hangings are typically used in yurts but are also an attraction for tourists.

Back out of town with visa in hand, (YEAH!!!), we headed west again on A365 and took the turnoff onto A367 towards the historic Silk Road caravanserai, Tash Rabat and the Turugart Chinese border. At a junction, we stopped at the friendly village of Kochkor to visit their wonderful yet somewhat dated Regional Museum. The interesting displays gave us a good feeling about the traditional Kyrgyz way of life. One room contained a full-size yurt decorated as it might be used in the countryside. Nearby we also found the Altyn Kol Shop, (Golden Hands), a women’s co-operative showroom and shop selling beautiful handmade felt rugs called Shyrdak, (made from the fine wool the region is famous for), and hand embroidered tapestries traditionally hung in yurts. Proceeds of all sales go directly to the individual artists.

We still had a few days to explore this friendly country so we took the turn off to Song-Köl, at 3,016 meters, (9,895 feet), the second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan. As we climbed into the mountains, hay was being harvested, mostly by hand. The evidence of human labor was amazing.


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