Today we made our way across the border and into Kyrgyzstan, the country I have been looking forward to ever since seeing that photo. It is a shame that we didn’t see more of Uzbekistan as there is so much to see but it Dragoman do offer a segment of overlanding between Turkmenistan and Tashkent for people who want to see more. I would have loved to have done the entire month between Ashgabat and Bishkek but unfortunately I can’t take that amount of time off work.
We had an early start in order to give us a head start with the border crossing and I’m glad we left when we did as it took a long time to cross. It didn’t take time as the border guards were lazy it took a long time as they were very, very thorough. We had our passports checked several times before getting to the immigration desks and, after filling out lots of forms, we joined a slow queue for the final passport and customs check. This wasn’t the end of the process, however, as we had a detailed bag search before we were able to leave Uzbekistan and walk across no-mans land to Kyrgyzstan. I assume the checks were to stop drug smuggling but I can’t be sure.
There were a number of passport checks on the Kyrgyz side but the whole process went a lot quicker. We were through immigration and stamped into the country in no time and as a result my first impression of the country is exponentially better to that of Uzbekistan. The people seem friendly too – after being stamped into the country I was making my way out of the building and a Kyrgyz Army officer was attempting to come in at the same time. I stopped to let him pass first, naturally, but after enquiring whether I was a tourist he said “No, you are a tourist to my country. You first” before stepping to the side to let me pass which was really nice of him. If only border guards and officials could be this friendly everywhere *cough* America *cough*.
It took a while for our truck to go through the border so we had a chance to get to know our local guides before finally resuming our journey. Our first stop in Kyrgyzstan was Osh, the second city of Kyrgyzstan. It seemed a nice place but we only spent enough time here to change some money, have lunch and stock up on personal supplies for the trip. I changed $140, thinking this should last me until I am able to work out how much I’ll need for the entire trip, but judging by the price of lunch I don’t think I’ll need to change any more – including drinks and tip I only paid $5!
As we drove from Osh towards Arslanbob, where we are staying tonight, the scenery kept changing so quickly that I almost didn’t have time to take photos of everything. Due to the delays at the border we didn’t have a chance to stop and take many photos, unfortunately, except for having to stop for 20 minutes next to a lake so that the President of Kyrgyzstan could drive past. No I’m not joking.
The last leg of today’s journey was the final ascent into Arslanbob, after one more quick stop to buy supplies. We are staying in home stays for the next couple of nights and the house I’m staying in is really nice. It has a little stream passing through the garden, has lovely views, a working power supply, nice beds and the family seem really nice. The food is plentiful too, judging by dinner tonight, and I definitely won’t go hungry!