The climb to Song Kul lake was to be our highest yet. We were a bit anxious as we have experienced problems with the troopy overheating at altitude on big climbs. I decided at this point that it would be a good idea to adjust the fuel mixture for the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes. The thinner air causes the fuel to burn hotter and overheat the engine. We traveled a couple of hundred km from Issyk Kul lake on good paved roads before we turned off and hit the gravel preparing for our climb to Song Kul. We were at almost 2000m above sea level before we started the climb. When we got to the foot of the mountains and could see the track Zigzaging it’s way steeply across the mountain face, we knew that we would be having problems. Turned out we needed to stop 3 times to allow the troopy to cool down.
We topped the pass at 3500m, as we came over the mountain we were greeted by the most spectacular view if Song Kul Lake surrounded by vast grassy plains and snow capped mountains. After stopping for lunch and a brief chat with the locals we were on our way again. We were able to take a different route down the mountain which proved to be even more scenic. The road twisted and turned back on its self through rugged stone cliffs and forests of pine trees. Half way down the mountain we bumped into our mate the Russian cyclist. We saw him before at the Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan. This time was the same as before, his only water bottle was empty. When we offered him water he jumped at the opportunity. We told him it was crazy to travel with so little water. His response “is normal” haha crazy Russian.
That night after looking at the map and aware of the mountain passes that were to come I decided to get to work on the overheating issue. We had already taken so much fuel out of the mixture it was almost undrivable. Because the car has been converted to automatic so I can drive we had to place transmission coolers in front of the radiator and air conditioning condenser. Basically there was not enough airflow reaching the radiator to cool the motor. I got to work removing the A/C condenser as it is the only thing that is not essential. Upon doing this I discovered it was almost blocked up with dirt, insects and road grime. This had to be the problem. I returned the fuel mixture to the previous setting and looked at tomorrow’s passes with much optimism. That night a local boy wearing a traditional Kyrgz hat pulled up on his donkey curious to see what we were all about. We pulled out one of our camping chairs and signaled for him to join us. He was well stoked, jumped off his donkey and slumped into the chair with a big sigh and a grin from ear to ear. He hung a round for a few hours watching how we cooked our meals and prepped up the troopy.
We started the next day with a 2800m mountain pass. The troopy killed it, temp needle didn’t even move. God we were both so stoked and all doubt of overheating problems in the Pamir’s soon diminished.
It was perfect timing as we were presented with numerous mountain climbs that same day up to 3000m. The troopy went on with out a hiccup.
Osh was the next destination and our rendezvous with the rest of the crew Bessy and Boson the names given to the other two 4×4’s owned by Simon, Georgie, Tim and Nic.
We just randomly chose the Biyordo guesthouse in Osh which turned out to be overlander HQ there where a number of motorbikes, push bikes and a car all doing it rough. Lucky for us we were able to squeeze three more 4×4’s in the compound. generally we sleep in the troopy and use the facilities of the guesthouse, works out cheaper and we always find the troopy easier and more comfortable. The next day Boson and Bessy were with us at the guesthouse after working their ways across Kyrgyzstan on different routes.
We restocked in Osh and tweaked the vehicles with a quick look around town. Simon and Georgie had a busted rear leaf spring on their 4×4, it was a 19 year old Hyundai Galloper, an identical copy of a Pajero (shogun). They were given a contact by some one of the guests and wound up having a blacksmith make them a new leaf spring. First I’ve heard of that, but whatever works. After sharing some stories with other travelers as well as road conditions and border info we checked out of the guest house and were off. Back on the road again but this time in convoy, the troopy made two new friends!
Heading to the Tajik border was a one day drive with some nice changing scenery on the way. The Kyrgz really stick to their nomadic roots with many yurts scattering the countryside. We stopped just short of the border as it was becoming a little late for a crossing. We found a nice open grassy valley with a few yurts and livestock sprawled around to set up camp for the night. It was our first night together and we were all interested to see eachother’s setups.
As we begun cooking dinner a family arrived on horseback, mother, father and daughter. The lady was so kind and had the most genuine smile, after dismounting the horse she offered us the reigns. Nic had a go first, I expressed some interest but was unsure of how to mount the beast. My concerns were soon put to rest when the husband came along and picked me up on his own. Nic was quick to jump in and help him hurl me onto the saddle. It was great to be sitting up so high, much higher than everyone else for once, balance was a little tricky, I had to keep one hand on the saddle and one on the reigns. It was a great feeling, another mode of transport much more mobile than the wheelchair but unlike anything else. I had the most massive smile on my face which I think brought a tear to of happiness Jess’s eye. Tim, the most seasoned of us travelers made a comment “that’s one of those special travel moments which you will never forget.” I couldn’t of agreed with him more!
We woke the next day to be greeted by the same bloke on the horse. He brought with him a big thermos of tea some bread and cream and a bottle of fermented mares milk. Your typical Kyrgyz breakfast. All this hospitality with out asking for anything. He then invited us to come down and check out their house. After packing up we headed down to check it out, they were keen to show us their farm and how they went about milking mares and fermenting the milk. It was quite interesting, they were keen to have us over, share more stories and drink more tea but we had to get going. It was off to the Tajik border.
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