Disclaimer: Due to the number of comments that have been received it has been felt necessary to clarify that this trip is in no way based on "The Long Way Round" which the authors of the trip were not aware and nor was it first broadcast of at the time at which this trip was drunkenly conceived. The authors of this trip would like to distinguish their intended trip from the journey undertaken in "The Long Way Round" in that unlike Charlie Borman and Ewan McGregor they are not experienced riders (they have both only been riding motorbikes for just over one year), they are not receiving sponsorship and they will not have a support crew with them at any point on the journey. Just to avoid any further confusion it has been thought that it would be helpful to point out that Tom Horovitch and Peter Caley are both fictional characters and are not famous film stars.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Osh, Kyrgyzstan - 9193 miles from London

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We had hoped to make it to Sary Tash last night so that we could make the crossing into Tajikistan this morning, but the road to Sary Tash, which showed as 90 miles on the GPS from where we camped the night before, actually turned out to be more like 300 miles through winding mountain passes. Unfortunately the GPS no longer recognises roads and always plots our routes "as the crow flies" which makes for interesting distance estimations which we always need to check against the paper maps that Peter is carrying. It also didn't help that at one point, due to a complete lack of sign posting, we took a wrong turning and ended up at the Uzbekistan border and, somewhat confused, had to turn back. So, with night falling, we arrived in Osh, an historic Silk Road city and Kyrgyzstan's second largest, bustling with bazaars and street life but with no street lights, not even on the two main roads! Osh lies near the borders with China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and whilst in Kyrgyzstan has a mainly Uzbek population, giving the city more of an Arabic feel than other places we have visited.

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The aid agency vehicles belonging to the UN and Save the Children that I saw in Bishkek make more sense after the drive yesterday. Whilst not an unhappy looking place, this region is certainly poor and the people in the main are clearly dependant on subsistence farming. Passing through breathtaking countryside, we had to stop every half mile or so to negotiate shepherds with their cattle which were often drifting across the road. All the children seem to wave or throw stones at us now which makes for an interesting riding style.
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We have raced around Kyrgyzstan, covering nearly 1000 miles in the last five days. It's been a fascinating experience. We have seen Lake Issyk-Kul in the east of the country (the second largest alpine lake in the world), stayed in a yurt camp (yurts are the tent like homes of the nomadic Kyrgs), camped in the mountains and visited a surreal soviet sanatorium which was falling apart against the backdrop of stunning mountain scenery.
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The sanatorium and the pool which apparantly contains healing radioactive waters!
Partly as a result of waiting for tires in Almaty and a part for Peter's bike in Bishkek, we are a week behind schedule and we must cross into Tajikistan tomorrow to stay on the bearable side of the weather. Once across the border, we will be in the Pamir mountains and riding the Pamir highway. The climb up to the 4500 metre plateau is meant to be fairly difficult and we are aware that we are probably about to undertake the most challenging riding so far. It is at this point that we regret our lack of any off-road training! We will be skirting the Afghan and Chinese borders on a route that is only taken by 100 or so tourists every year, but this mountain pass is said to one of the most beautiful in the world.

The area is also said to be very poor and lacking in even basic facilities in parts. Needless to say, we will be out of contact for between ten days to two weeks. We will put another entry on the site when we reach either Dushanbe (in Tajikistan) or Tashkent (in Uzbekistan). There has been a change in our plans due to travel restrictions imposed in Turkmenistan. When we are in Tashkent we will be applying for another visa for Kyrgyzstan and a visa for China. With the help of a travel agent in China we hope to avoid Turkmenistan and instead travel the Karakoram Highway through China into Pakistan.
Written by Tom

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