I’d heard the road heading west and south from Bishkek was stunning, but even that didn’t prepare me for majesty of the trip. It was impossible not to stare out the window in awe at the scenery rolling past, and also not to feel somewhat depressed I wasn’t riding through on a motorcycle.
Leaving Bishkek, we immediately found ourselves winding through narrow gorges and traversing switchbacks up the sides of mountains. We came to a pass frozen with snow, with clouds clinging to peaks nearly level with us.
Immediately after the pass, we entered the scariest tunnel I’ve ever been in. Dimly lit by token florescent lights which did little more than announce their presence, the 2.6 km tunnel was dark, crudely constructed, and clouded by exhaust. To make things even less scary (not), I’d read the day before about several people dying from carbon monoxide poisoning in that very tunnel several years prior. Yay.
Narrow, it was just wide enough for two trucks to fit side by side, but that didn’t stop our idiot driver from attempting a few blind passes. For the first time in my life, I cried ‘uncle’ in a taxi, yelling, “NO, NO!!” in Russian as he swerved out in front of a big truck. Luckily, he listened.
Shortly after the pass, we stopped for a delicious lunch. I ordered randomly, getting roasted chicken and onions served with ubiquitous flatbread. It was delicious.
Soon, we reached the huge Toktogul reservoir. The brilliant blue water contrasted starkly with the dusty hills behind it.
Finally, as the sun was setting, we reached Arslanbob. It had been an exhausting day, exacerbated by the stress of sitting in a car driven by a maniac, but we could relax at last. Little did we know just how relaxing the village of Arslanbob would be…