Kyrgyzstan # 5 – Tash Rabat – August 2014

April 13, 2018
Dirt tracks to yurt tracks were tempting but China was calling.

Dirt tracks to yurt camps were tempting but China was calling.

As we picked up the highway coming out of the valley below Song-Köl lake, we figured we’d better top up our fuel before we hit the Chinese border. The last possible place was the town of At-Bashy. We weren’t the only ones with same idea. Trucks, buses, cars and people with jerry cans were all waiting in line. Half an hour later, we finally made it to the pump and nudged ourselves in front of a line of well used cans, interestingly enough, mostly NATO style, the same as we have used for many years. The imported European pumps measured fuel in liters and cost-per-liter in Euros. The actual price was converted to Kyrgyz Soms. After we filled our two tanks and our two reserve jerry cans, much to the annoyance of the waiting line, it worked out to 219 liters or 58 gallons at a cost of $ 3.05 per gallon. It was a seller’s market to be sure. We took a quick spin through town. There were some interesting monuments, with horses of course. After picking up a few last-minute supplies in a small corner store, we were back on the highway, which was excellent or under construction as usual.

Tash Rabat

The Turtle V is parked in front of Tash Rabat, a Kyrgyz caravanserai.

The Turtle V is parked in front of Tash Rabat, a Kyrgyz caravanserai.

The turn-off for Tash Rabat was good gravel as it climbed to just over 11,500 feet into a high mountain valley, and there it was, one of the most impressive caravanserais we would see on the entire Silk Road. Surrounded by mountains, this 15th century stone fortress is truly a lasting monument to the famous trading route we had been following for over a year. Originally built as a Nestorian monastery in the 10th century, the interior included 31 rooms and chambers in the main hall where merchandise could be safely stored. There were long benches, probably for sleeping. The rooms were dome-shaped, making an interesting transition from a quadrangular frame. The entire building was made of stone with a clay mortar and gypsum mortar to seal the joints. Being a popular tourist attraction, there was even a pit toilet outside, but not one you might really want to use. Before there were physical borders, border guards, customs, immigration and visas, caravans of camels and horses laden with goods from both east and west would stop here to rest and trade their treasures.

This cozy guest yurt at Sabyrbek Yurt Camp in Tash Rabat sleeps four.

This cozy guest yurt at Sabyrbek Yurt Camp in Tash Rabat sleeps four.

We drove out past the tourist home-stay yurts and found a perfect spot near a clear running creek. A Kyrgyz family was preparing a serious picnic near us with a small wood-burning stove and two more big pots steaming away. A few buckets of water from the creek made The Turtle V presentable for the border crossing and we enjoyed a long hot shower.

Before leaving Tash Rabat we decided to check out the nearby Sabyrbek’s Yurt Camp where we met the friendly owner, Tursun, who spoke excellent English. 

For several of our sponsors, we took some PR photos of The Turtle V "yurt" parked among other yurts. Gates received this hilarious version, courtesy of an internet transmission fluke!

For several of our sponsors, we took some PR photos of The Turtle V “yurt” parked among other yurts. Gates received this hilarious version, courtesy of an internet transmission fluke!

She runs the camp and her husband organizes horseback tours throughout Kyrgyzstan. Tursun invited us for tea and we exchanged much information about Kyrgyzstan and the puzzling behavior of tourists. Heading south, first on a good highway, then more construction and finally the road just turned rough gravel. We said goodbye to the snow-clad mountains and herds of yaks, sheep, goats and horses peacefully grazing around tidy yurts. Chinese guard towers welcomed us.

At a small blue trailer perched on rickety stilts they checked our passports and we paid the $50.00 (US) exit fee. A guard opened the gate to let us out of Kyrgyzstan into no-man’s land. Somewhere near the top of Turugart Pass, 3,752 meters, (12,909 feet), we arrived at the first entry into China where we were supposed to meet a guide who would take us to the first immigration station. Our official guide who would travel with us across the country was waiting for us in Kashgar. The first guide was not there yet, and the crossing was closed for a long lunch break. We waited. It would not be the first time. This was China.

 

 

 

One Response to “Kyrgyzstan # 5 – Tash Rabat – August 2014”

  1. Monica and Gary. I really enjoy reading and looking at the very interesting photos of each section of your trip. It seems strange or un-usual that it was so easy for you to travel through this part of the world, with little of not trouble from the governments. I’m not sure if we are going to make it to Baja this spring as mentioned in the past. My wife is selling a house – which seems to be taking longer than anticipated. We do hope to make it to the Overland Expo in Flagstaff this May. Safe travels. Roger B

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