We finally tore ourselves away from Nomad Cafe after stalking the place for 2 days and headed off up the paved road that eventually led to China via Torugut pass.
Refreshingly the road was not busy and from the pass there was a good view of the At-Bashy range of mountains, through which the Silk Road caravans passed to the 15th century caravanserai of Tash Rabat, where we were headed.
We coasted downhill for 30kms to the drainage of the huge basin we were in, then started the very gradual climb up the other side to our pond-side camp.
Next morning, after a short section of highway we turned off up the road to Tash Rabat. We were warmly welcomed into the first yurt camp under the dramatic Dragons Teeth rock outcrops and after lunch and a tour of the camp and Russian Sauna we promised to return the following night to stay. The bikers discount was significant and the home cooked food was great.
We camped beyond the last yurt camp at Tash Rabat after a look around the historic caravanserai and had a lazy afternoon in the tent reading.
The forecast for the next day wasn’t great so we were walking by 7 in order to reach the 4000m Tash Rabat pass before the rain came. We enjoyed the multitudes of marmots and the scenery up to the pass and it was a good viewpoint over to the large Chatyr Kol lake that lies close to the Chinese border. It is a large lake that in winter gets temps in -40 range and freezes to it’s bed so does not hold any fish.
We chased the rain back to our tent, packed up and headed down to the yurt camp and a leisurely afternoon in a yurt. We enjoyed a Russian sauna, beating each other’s tired walking legs with oak leaf branches, that seems part of the procedure
Ignoring the bad forecast the next morning, we battled uphill into a strong head wind till the first drops of rain fell. We have standards, and biking in the rain doesn’t cut the mustard so we pitched the tent in a field of flowers and read.
Four hours later we ventured out and enjoyed calm conditions over a small pass with outrageous rock formations on its northern side. The rock got more outrageous as we descended and we were forced to camp when I discovered my camera was missing and I had to bike back up to find it, which fortunately I did – lying in the middle of the road where it fell off my bike.
Our day over MELS pass to Baetov was stunning (MELS comes from the first letter of the founding fathers of the USSR – Marx, Engels, Lenin & Stalin). I was expecting a good view from the pass but not the combo of alpine followed by a birds eye view of funky desert formations 1500m below. Wow. Couldn’t understand why this route was not on the tourist circuit as it is a logical link between the touristy spots of Tash Rabat and Son Kul, our next destination.
Baetov was a larger village than we were expecting, with a couple of eateries, good resupply options and a cheap hotel where we were able to throw all our dirty laundry in a device called a washing machine – beats hand washing when there is beer to drink and chips to eat, and of course a blog to produce…