Wanderlust | Part 6
Our entire reason for visiting Kyrgyzstan, was to secure visas into China. Arriving late at night, we woke early next morning and headed to Miss Lu - apparently the only person capable of securing us Chinese visas from the nearby embassy.
Sitting in Miss Lu’s office, we completed the paperwork (always paperwork in these countries) and handed over our passport photos. Miss Lu looked at Jane’s photo and said “good photo, no problems”.
Miss Lu then looked at my photo and the following dialogue ensued:
Miss Lu: “This photo no good. Big problem for you”
Me: “Why? What’s wrong with this photo?”
ML: “You have beard. The Chinese will think you look like Al-qaeda”
Me: “What? I’m a caucasian male with Australian nationality”
ML: “You may not get a visa for China. Come back in 5-days”
After handing over a wad of US dollars, we walked out into the cobalt blue day and pondered what to do for the next few days.
As luck would have it, a pretty decent mountain range wasn’t far away and after a visit to a local map shop, we found a red dashed marked route over an alpine pass. We had no real idea what condition the route was in, but figured let’s go and have a look. The trip turned into a 3-night, 4-day trip and to say getting down the back side of the pass was tough, would be an understatement. It took my years’ of track finding skills to find a route down, but we eventually reached the valley bottom and the gravel road out.
Back in Bishkek, we picked up our passports with freshly minted China visas (yeah!!!!), then headed for Osh and onto Sary Tash, a village in the Tian Shian Mountains on the border of Kyrgyzstan and China. In Sary Tash, we spent a couple of nights in a yurt, where we both picked up a stomach bug, which would stay with me for much of China. Joy.
These photos show: Driver dropping us off at the start of our alpine pass trip; Jane on day 1 of alpine pass trip; Jane packing up camp as a horseman turns up out of nowhere; climbing steep terrain to the alpine pass; Jane reading the map and our supposed route (marked in red); Jane on the pass with an electrical storm coming down the valley; Jane negotiating the way down; dinner in the valley bottom; on the road to Osh (625-km and a 13 hour day); the village of Sary Tash; locals at Sary Tash; yurt camp; eating typical cuisine in a yurt; the road to China; the last we saw of our driver at the first of many checkpoints on the way to China. After this photo, military told us to get out of the car, they turned our driver around and the guards then bundled us into the next car going to the next checkpoint. You feel pretty powerless in these situations, but often have to trust that things will turn out okay.
Next week’s post: China.