The rain of the evening before had cleared, with sunny skies and cool, crisp mountain air. We continued our descent down the winding road, seemingly hemmed in by steep canyons. The shepherds were up earlier driving the animals up the road. And again the road surface was consistent, allowing us to enjoy the drive, and not have to worry about dodging potholes.
Toktogul is a small scattered town on the edge of a large lake. Around the hilled land scape was grassed, while the flatter land near the lake was intensely cropped. The whole lot ringed by snow capped mountains.
As we continued south the basin gave way to a narrow gorge and another lake. This one emerald green, while he cliff sides were a mixture of intense reds and deep browns. Although this was only a two lane road, the driving was exhilarating.
Tash – Komur is the coal mining centre of Kyrgyzstan, which by local standards is a large and rambling place with Soviet style apartment blocks set amongst the hilly landscape.
We had descended into the northern edge of the Ferghana Valley (more a large basin). The road turned east and ran along the Uzbek border. The traffic volumes increased as we drove through small towns. And with this came the police radar checks every 5k. I was the first to get pulled over, shortly followed by Goldie. We were not speeding, so had to get our guide to double back as we were having difficulty understanding the issue. In Kyrgyzstan you must drive with your head lights on whilst on the highway. We have installed LED daylight running lights, to save the power drain and preserve the head light globes. They come on automatically when the ignition is switched on. These are OK. The police had been intimating that we did not have our headlights on. I tried to show that we had the DRLs on. Akay had words with them and we were on the road again.
After lunch, I was pulled over again. American or German (this is what we typically get asked by everyone) the police enquired. When I responded that we were Australian, he smiled and we were allowed to proceed. Not sure whether the response of the police would have been the same if the answer was otherwise.
We were heading for Arslanbob, up a small side road and back into the mountains. The area is home to a large native, walnut forest. Reputedly Alexander the Great stopped here on his rampages east and took the walnuts back to Macedonia.
We arrived early enough to go for a walk in the forest. Firstly to a waterfall then along some horse tracks that the local villagers used. More stunning Kyrgyz scenary.
Our homestay was in a traditional Uzbek house. There are a lot of Uzbeks living in the northern Ferghana region. They are much more traditional and conservative in their Islamic practices than the Kyrgyz. The homestay was cheap, basic but very clean. The running water for a shower was a challenge. We were fed the local staples as we sat on mats around a large low dining table. The Tien Shan loomed over our shoulders.