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Kyrgyzstan

Lenin in BishkekI arrive by flight into Bishkek Airport in Kyrgyzstan on the 13th June in the surroundings of the nearby awesome Tien Shan mountains. The vast numbers of disillusioning villages seen from the air clearly indicated the economic situation of this former Soviet republic. The amount of uniformed men hanging around meant a lot of paperwork, registration of passport, registration of being in the country, clearance of luggage, X-ray of luggage, the latter being completely inefficient because not everyone wanted to try out the soviet era car-sized x-ray machine and just walked unnoticed around it.

Outside waited the gang of taxi divers for a good lunch - in the shape of a naive tourist and he paid $10 for an English speaking 20-years old Kyrgyz and his father. The 30 km trip to the center of Bishkek is rushed at high speed in a bad smell of half-burned gasoline smoke from the worn-out Lada with cracked windshield. The gravel highway marked with poplar trees, fields and the Tien Shan mountains south of Bishkek, remind me of my trip to Russia in 1994.

The massive presence of Russians who didn't escape into Russia after the collapse of the USSR, makes my status of tourist disappear immediately, as I am not the only white-colored person. At my hotel I share a hotel room with a 38 year-old Swiss, a passionate traveler who hitchhiked through West Tibet in the mid'80s with a dead wind-dried sheep in his backpack as provisions. Somehow we feel comfortable in each other's company. We hang around in town for five days with his just-arrived brother until I get the chance to join up with a Swiss couple crossing the formerly heavily-guarded Torugart pass into China on a tour - the only existing way at this time to do it. We use one day to drive to Naryn in an old Lada, driven by an old man who really knows his car and the road. The Swiss stay at a local hotel, while I choose a home stay with a local family, where I try alcoholic horse milk. The next day is dedicated to a surprising easy and nice farewell to Kyrgyzstan, but Murphy rewards us with an hour long wait for our Chinese minibus at the actual border and two hours (!) wait for stamps at the Chinese immigration center.

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