4 passes to Issykul

Kyrgyz men drive like they are on a race track and they don’t leave a lot of room for cyclists. It was 60km uphill on a busy paved road from Naryn to our dirt road turnoff so we treated ourselves to a 40 min drive.

It was worth avoiding and so much more pleasant to be spinning up a small quiet road after the drop off. There were permanent farm cottages in the lower section of the valley, abandoned temporarily for the summer jailoos, or higher grazing lands. The winter stockyards are dug up and are drying in blocks for winter fuel.

After a lunch break in the sun we contemplated sheltering in a culvert as a thunderstorm quickly approached. Sense prevailed and we pitched the tent for the half hour downpour. Onwards up into the summer jailoos with yurts and caravans dotted around and happy horses, sheep, goats and cattle grazing – I personally think grass was invented in Kyrgyzstan. The barking dogs forewarned our arrival and usually backed off with a harsh word or flying rock.

The first pass was gentle, with a smooth descent to our hillock campsite overlooking the river. Next morning we skirted the edge of a large basin before another sweet climb to a high point, lunch and a steep descent to a wide valley. 6km before our 2nd pass of the day Alan’s Brooks leather saddle lost its fore-aft tensioning and securing bolt when it sheared in half- hmmmm. In field repairs involved the shaft of a tooth brush and cable ties.

There were nice views from the pass and we camped early not far below. In camp I laced the saddle with strong string to get some tension back in the leather. Mr Brooks will be hearing about this!

We had a beautiful 30km downhill ride after breakfast and being opportunists we got ourselves invited to a 2nd breakfast from a luxury tent camp setup who’s clients had just left – tea, pancakes, doughnuts and tomato/lentil soup. That fueled us up for the steady ascent up a beautiful valley towards tomorrow’s Tosor pass (at 3950m)

It was interesting undulating riding up to the pass next morning. The road condition was variable, very good to very bad and all the southern side valleys featured glaciated peaks which are part of the Tien Shan range

The walking gear was needed for the final stretch to the rocky, alpine pass and the backside of the pass was very rugged – steep permanent ice slopes were shedding pebbles and a small glacial lake surprised us. The 4wd road was rough for the whole of the 2500m descent (over 30km) and it took a lot of focus to stay upright and maintain speed. It was probably the longest continuous descent of all our trips and would have been unpleasant on skinny tyres.

Down thru a thunderstorm, down and down some more to the warmth of 1500m and the very large Issy Kul lake, 160km by 60km. It feels like the ocean when you are lakeside but you can just make out the skyline of the mountains on the northern side. We stopped at the small town of Tosor and scored the last room in a small Guesthouse that is on the beach. Of course we had to go for a swim…

Next morning after an amazing sunrise we realised we could not rush this beach side location, so we treated ourselves to a day of beach sloth and gear maintainance. We left the following morning at 6am to avoid crazy traffic and had a short day to Kyzyl Suu where we will take local transport to the city of Karakol and restock supplies before heading back into the mountains.