The flight was ok, change over in Moscow and whilst there realise I had chewed through my data allowance on my phone. If planned to get a Kyrgyz phone sim anyway and apparently they hand them out free at the airport. Flight arrived early and luckily my bags and importantly the bike had also taken the same flight. A number of riders arrived in Bishkek with bike bags supposedly lost so I was relieved to see mine. Cleared immigration passport control and then into the concourse to get greeted by loads of taxi drivers all touting for business. A race Heller, Victor, introduced himself, persuaded me to change my money in town and choose me a taxi driver who spoke as much English as I spoke Russian. Out of the airport with plenty of horn bibbing and off down the centre of the dual carriageway, moving out to the outside with lots of lights flashing if anyone was in his easy. This guy meant business! Then just as we were making good progress a Kyrgyz policeman stepped out with an illuminated nation and signalled my driver to the side of the road. A but of putting and he got out to see the policeman, a few raised voices and the driver was back and off we go but somewhat slower and with less liberal use of both lanes.
First stop the money changer, everyone is a money changer although there send to be little difference in the exchange rate for dollars, my guy was selling at 69 Som to the dollar. However, that rate is if you present hundred dollar bills. If you offer new twenties the rate dogs to only 62 som, they are not interested in small denomination notes. I pulled my 20s back and changed the few hundred dollar bills I had. The big stack of 20s would be a problem.
Anyway the Russian taxi driver got me to the Tunduk hostel without burning out his clutch or getting pulled over again. Bonus
I thought I was going to be in a shared room but the girl at the desk said she’d charged me for a single room, $24 for three nights, bonus!!
To impatient to sort things like phone out I got my bike out of its bike bag cocoon and put it together in about 15 minute flat. I wanted to get out and up the hill
Bishkek is not known for the sensitivity of its drivers, cyclists don’t exist, there is no 1.5 metre rule, it’s dog eat dog and cyclists are just a bunch of chicken bones waiting to be crunched up
Exhaust emission laws haven’t arrived here either so a horrible smell of pollution from exhausts quickly screws up your lungs.
I got out of town and began the crawl up the Ala Archa valley with the aim of getting as high as possiblee and giving my body as best a chance to acclimatise to the lack of oxygen at the heights we will be riding at as I could in the time available. For a sea level dweller the first day of the race would be very tough. I knew a lot of riders either live high up or had been up high in the weeks before the race
Ala Archa is quite beautiful
I rode up to 2200m to meet up with a couple of silk road riders, Alina and Fay who were camping up there. After a couple of hours chatting and getting baked in the sun I set off back down to sort the phone mess and hopefully get some white gas or clean petrol which I had been assured was easily available
After getting comprehensively lost and more and more tired I gave up on trying to sort the phone out and opted instead for a meal somewhere and early bed, I’d had a long, for me, flight, and no sign that staying up with be of any use in fixing the phone sim issue. I was sure the next day would be better. First evening in Bishkek and I was quite a bit frustrated and not in the frame of mind for this big challenge. Sleep and food work wonders