The day after the grand final of the Roof of the World Regatta we were setting off from Kara-Kul to Saritash in Kyrgyzstan. Since the Chinese National Day with its ten day border closure was impending, we didn’t take much time to explore Kyrgyzstan with its vast rolling grass steppe, wandering nomad tribes and their countless horse herds. Given the dramatic drop in temperature we could already notice at the border pass, this might have been a good decision.
On our arrival in Saritash the light rain had turned into big snowflakes and we took the first opportunity to get a lift to Hypa, a run-down village at 15km from the border, consisting of around 30 completely identical prefabricated houses from the Soviet era., wedged between a snow sprinkled mountain range and the dirty stream from the Irkeshtam pass, the border crossing point into China.
By the time we arrived it was night and the weather had turned into a heavy snow storm and we were thankful that a friendly homestay was taking us in, even after we found out that the dinner was solely composed of 5 (!) eggs, a loaf of bread and a musical interlude by the father of the house playing the accordion. Along with the two eggs we got for breakfast the next morning and the one from the day before, this made eight eggs within 24 hours, best regards to our cholesterol level!
Bad news right after breakfast, the border was again closed for today, which meant that we had just two days left, before China suspends border crossing for at least ten days. What could have turned into a race against time was luckily resolved the next morning when the soldier behind the Kyrgyz gate bar was friendly waving us through. A short climb up to the Irkeshtam pass along dozens of trucks that were waiting here since days and some more passport stamping later, we crossed the entry gates into China! Almost six month after we had left home, we had nearly crossed our whole continent and were setting foot on Chinese ground 🙂
Unfortunately our happiness was quite short-lived as the border police took our passports and let us – and all the other tourists – wait for seven hours. They refused to let us setting off with our bicycles until we finally managed to grad one of the “official” taxis to bring us to the customs office which is 150km from the actual border. Even then the return of our passports was delayed due to a critical incident – in form of a two hour lunch break! We were making the best out of the waste of time and made friends with a group of Omanis on motorbikes that were accompanied by a remarkable well equipped escort jeep, supplying us with rare delicacies like fresh dates and spicy beef jerky 🙂