Having survived a long night of tent-rocking storms at 3.000m high lake Song Köl, Kit and Magda awake to find clear skies and 360 degree views of the lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Eager to make it around the lake and back down to drier elevations in case afternoon brings more storms, Magda sets out early to circle the lake shore and find the road descending from the other side.
Kit takes a more leisurely pace to pack up camp and then catch up with Magda at the southern gate to Song Köl, 3.300m Kurtka pass.
As they descend, the landscape changes as quickly as the elevation on Kit’s GPS. Alpine lakes give way to evergreen forest and finally arid plain as the two drop over 1000 meters to the valley floor. For once Magda’s Giant can almost keep up with Kit’s KTM.
Reaching the town of Ak-tal, the two cross the river Naryn into south-central Kyrgzstan. Kit refills the KTM’s saddle bags with food and beer, her tank with 80 octane. Paved roads lead further south, slowly climbing over the next line of mountains.
As pavement reverts to dirt Kit and Magda slow down a bit to enjoy the territory. After a few days making steady progress up Baetov valley, they cross Pereval Beurojlju into the Ak-Talaa district. At the pass they notice a lone sticker defacing a Soviet-era monument, evidence of other Ricks passing this same spot a few days earlier.
Magda enjoys the deceptively long descent into the next massive valley. A brief side trip to the remains of the Tash Rabat Caravanserai revel it to be nothing more than a tourist trap set in a idyllic side-valley. The two return to the main valley and decide to set up camp concealed from the busy highway in a river bed.
The next few days bring a turn to the East. Gradually the mountains begin to close in as they make their way up the big valley and eventually over a small pass and into the regional center of Naryn. As usual a guest house, hot meals and a couple days of re-provisioning and maintenance are in order.
Bodies and bikes all running smoothly, Kit stuffs the KTM with supplies and heads off towards the most remote part of their trip.
Clearing skies lead to incredible sunsets as well as increasingly colder nights. No trees to block the view also means nothing to burn to keep warm after the sun goes down.
Well almost nothing.. Kit tries his hand at making a fire from dried cow patties like the locals do. But only succeeds in producing incredible amounts of acrid smoke with very little flame or noticeable heat. Guess there is a reason the Kyrgyz lug around heavy iron stoves with their otherwise ultra-lightweight portable Yurts.
Making slow but steady progress deeper into the heart of the Tian Shan range, the road dwindles into nothing more than a dirt track cutting across endless valley grass. The only sign they are climbing is the streams turning from a flooded brown mess into the cold blue of glacial melt.
Finally the road crosses the river and heads off in a different direction. They are left with navigating up a deserted valley, continuing their way east towards 3.800m Pereval Arabel.
Joyful ripping across wide grassland quickly turns to panic as Kit found himself and the KTM stuck in a waist deep muddy bog. Having been days since he saw another human except Magda, who was hours ahead and not expecting to meet up until dinner, Kit knew he had to manage to get himself and all 250 kg of KTM + gear out alone.
With his well used K60 rear doing little more than making a muddy mess in the soft marsh, Kit stripped the bike down and proceeded to spend the next hour pushing, cussing, spiting and generally wrangling the massive KTM out of the mud. Not for the last time thoughts of a little wr250r with knobby tires (or better yet a friend with a Suzuki Samurai) crossed Kit’s mind.
Despite these blasphemous thoughts, the KTM Gods smiled upon Kit and eventually he made it back to solid ground. Catching up with Magda as the sun began to set, the two made camp and prepared for the final push to the summit of their trip.