Жолунар шыдыр болсу. ’May your journey be smooth’. I had spotted the road sign through frosted van windows earlier in the day. It was -13°C. Fast forward to midday and our smart looking Mercedes Sprinter 4 X 4 had front nearside wheel and disc lying on the ground, axle on a piston jack. Wheel bearings finished. Road travel in places such as Kyrgyzstan is often anything but smooth.
In a pre-trip email Gordon had asked whether he should bring his big PHD puffer jacket. ‘Good idea for when the bus breaks down’ was my flippant reply. Tempting fate?
The driver’s son was dispatched to fetch replacement bearings, so we waited, surrounded by orchards, with a lovely view across Lake Issyk Kul and nothing else. After a couple of hours it was time to do something. The only place to eat was in Barskoon and that was way too far to walk so we asked them to send us taxis. An old Lada Samara duly arrived and took half the team. Another vintage banger followed and with relief the rest of us headed for civilisation. We had only just set off when it too broke down and grumbled to an undignified halt. Surrounded by more orchards we had a different view of the lake.
The concrete, bare-walled place to eat was freezing but it did provide most welcome steaming hot soup, dumplings and tea. It was warmer out than in so we wandered around until the sun set. Back inside and with another round of tea, we learnt the good news – replacement bearings were being fitted and the bus would soon be on its way. Spirits rose until Andrey’s phone rang again – the bus had broken down. Wrong bearings.
Another Sprinter was ordered from Karakol but that was going to take two hours to arrive and the ladies were closing up. Where were we to go? The kindly manager Nazik took the lot of us to her home where she and her husband Termirkul and their boys plied us with more tea, delicious homemade bread, jam and blackcurrant and apricot juice. A memorable experience for all.
Eight hours after our initial break down our replacement van arrived driven by Sasha With The Gold Teeth. Its 9pm and we drive off into the night. Pretty scary and you can see why from the photos……