After the ceremonies in Bishkek, Damira and I took a taxi to the huge autovuzal (bus station) where busses, mashrutkas, and taxis leave for destinations all over the country. We ended up with a really comfortable taxi to take us practically the entire 200 or so miles to Kara Suu for 1100 som ($18.33). We left the city going west on a modern four lane highway with lane striping and everything. After a while though, it narrowed down to the more familiar two lane on which cars pass one another with the expectation that any oncoming traffic will just get out of the way.
We turned south and entered the first of two passes we would cross to get to Talas. It reminded me of the road to Estes or Boulder in Colorado with steep cliffs on either side of the road and a rushing mountain stream next to it. When we finally got to the top of the pass there was a line of cars waiting to enter a tunnel for reasons I’m still not sure of. We waited for twenty minutes or so before the militia guards opened the gate and let us through.
The road width inside the tunnel might have been a little generous as a single lane, I’ll admit, but as two lanes, the way it was being used, it was a lot scary. In any case none of the oncoming traffic was particularly wide, so we made it through without a problem.
On the other side of the tunnel we popped out in a wide, shallow, high-altitude, mountain valley. We were well above the tree line, but there were big boulders studding the landscape on top of the short, green grass. In addition to that, there were yurts and herds of sheep and horses all along the road too. Every once in a while our driver would have to slow to dodge one of the herds or a herder waving, hoping we would stop and buy some kymyz (fermented mare’s milk) to quench our thirst.
We stopped for some dinner at what would have been a very American style road-side dinner if not for the Kyrgyz food. Damira and I had some delicious lagman – kind of a spicy stew with thick, hand made noodles – my favorite Kyrgyz dish.
We got on the road again, passed through the second pass which reached a total height of 10,500 ft, and wound our way back downwards into the Talas Valley. We went through some of the other Volunteers’ communities along the highway, passed through Talas City, and then, seemingly at random, we stopped, got out, and my host Dad, Nurkalyi, stepped out of his car to meet us.
The less than comfortable tunnel
While waiting there was even time for a photo shoot with: (from left to right) LeAnne’s counterpart, LeAnne, Andy, Sarah, Me, and Sarah’s counterpart.