In this blog entry I will tell you how did I make it to Karakol City.
I have never been to Kyrgyzstan before. This border country to Russia has a lot of mountains, most of its territory lies on about 6000-7000 ft. above the sea level. There is a big lake here called Issyk-Kul, and the lake makes the climate soft and nice, while the mountains keep the cold Siberian winds from entering here. Such conditions made the country a favorite place for many Russian athletes to train at. Kyrgyzstan is sort of like a local Colorado for us. And yet, this is the first time I am here. I often rely solely on my intuition, and many things that I do, I do out of nowhere, just because it pumped up in my head one day. So was with choosing a location for this training camp too. I basically just looked at the map of the big Issyk-Kul lake and picked a random place on it, knowing literally nothing about it. That place happened to be a town called Karakol in the North-West of the country and it is going to be my training camp for at least a month.
The capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, has an international airport, called Manas. The airport accepts flights from all over the world and it is easy to get here. I flew here by a direct flight from Krasnodar and the flight took me about 4 hours. Just like it is always the case with the Asian countries, once I came out of the arrival zone I was surrounded by millions… well, ok… by hundreds of annoying taxi drivers, who were offering me a ride wherever I needed to go. Kyrgyzstan is not the richest country in the world and offering private taxi rides is perhaps one of the most available and popular jobs here. But the way they meet you at the airport is simply ridiculous. They would surround you and wouldn’t let you go. They would follow you if you try to go somewhere. You can repeat it a 100 times that you don’t need a taxi cab, but sitting on your neck, they would not listen to what you say, they would just keep trying to convince you to take their taxi. This was the case with me too. I came here with no prior preparation whatsoever, and I did not know where and how I should go from the airport. One thing I knew for sure though is that I am not going to take a taxi cab. I like public transportation better because it is cheaper and because you can meet people, talk to them, and see everything slowly with your own eyes.
I somehow made my way through the crowd and walked to find a place to seat. One of the taxi drivers kept following me though. He was trying to get acquainted with me, asking me where I came from, what for, and where am I going next. He was trying to convince me to take his taxi. The guy walked beside me like if we were friends. He gave up talking to me soon and simply kept following me everywhere. So, two stranger guys walk together around the Airport… what a wonderful day! I thought that if I go to a bathroom now, this dude will follow me there too. I did some loops around a bench just to see how the guy reacts, but he did not even notice that we were making circles around a bench! He just kept walking beside me. I found a place to seat and opened my laptop trying to get online. He set next to me and kept talking to me looking into my laptop screen. I tried to search on how to make it from the Airport to the bus station and he started asking me why would I want to take a bus!? The taxi is right here! I told him a billion times that I do not need his service, thank you, but he wouldn’t listen. The problem got worse when I realized that even though there is a Wi-Fi at the airport, it is barely working at all, and the speed is like 16 bits per day. Finally, he asked me: «How long do you think this might take you»? 😂
I told him that I really do NOT, NOT need a taxi, and will NOT need it, thank you! And he said: well, I will come back in a second if you change your mind. He left, and I felt such a release, but not for a long, because he did actually come back in a couple of minutes and set next to me again staring at my laptop screen. We set like that for some more time and then he left again.
This was a funny story but I got tired of it. I got up and went to the currency exchange and changed my Russian rubles to Kyrgyzstani som (not to be confused with soma of the Brave New World, even though I can see how lots of Kyrgyzstani som could have the same effect on the Kyrgyz people as a lot of Soma taken…) and asked the lady how to get to the city from here. She showed me where a bus station was and I walked there. In a couple of minutes waiting at the bus station, a small minibus came and we all fit into it nicely. The cost was just about 40 som (less then a dollar), and in about half an hour we all were in downtown Bishkek. From there, I made it quickly to the city western bus station. It is not far from the last stop of the minibus which goes from the Airport to downtown Bishkek, and one can walk it from the last stop to the bus station. An alternative would be to ask the driver to stop as close to the bus station as possible, because the bus-station is actually almost on the route.
Anyways, I made it to the bus station and immediately got pulled by a police officer. He checked my passport and asked me to follow him. We made it to his room and at that moment another officer brought three other guys in. They asked me standard security questions and checked my luggage. Luckily, I smoked all the weed that I brought with me already during my flight to Bishkek, so they did not find anything and let me go. They were nice and polite to me, everything was ok.
I found the gate with the minibuses going to Karakol city and paid 300 som (about 5 $) for one seat spot in a minibus. I waited about an hour, while the minibus was getting filled by other people, and we hit the road then. The road was very picturesque indeed. We were going along a river in a valley at first. Beautiful 6-8 thousand feet mountains right next to us were very impressing. In about an hour we saw the Issyk-Kul lake, and the rest of the drive was along it. It was amazing and beautiful to say the least
The landscapes here are indeed wonderful. The weather was sunny at first, and the views around us were somewhat like New-Mexico. We drove in a very wide valley. Huge mountains with their tops covered by snow were right here on your left and the lake with sandy beaches here on your right, and huge mountains again on the other side of the like. I truly enjoyed the road. The drive took as around 6 hours, as it was about 270 miles, when finally, in the evening, we started approaching the end of the lake. Here it got dark and the mountains on your left got very close to us, literally, one could reach them with a hand. We were passing small forests; nice villages with local people and fantastic views were opening to us. These landscapes resembled the ones of the Middle-Earth of The Lord of the Rings. I even started doubting that the movie was made in New Zealand because this land here looks very similar to it too 😉
Anyways, we soon reached Karakol city and it was already dark by that time. My laptop and my smartphone were both dead at that point, and I decided not to risk it again in a strange city at night, and simply took a taxi cub telling the driver the address of my hotel. As it turned out later, it was a good decision of mine. My hotel was right on the other side of the city from the bus station, it took us about 15 minutes by car to get there. I paid 100 som, which was probably twice as much as a taxi cab costs here, but I did not want to bargain.
The way I usually choose a hotel room is easy. I sort the options by price from cheapest to highest, and then I choose a hotel by pictures that I like the most. This was also the case this time. The hotel I chose was one of the cheapest, but I liked the pictures of it. It turned out to be indeed the best place in the whole city! I literally could not imagine a better place to stay and I will explain why in the next blog entry. It is amazing where your own intuition can take you sometimes 😉
And so now… we are at the Karakol HATC, on the 6000ft above sea level 🗻🗻🗻😍
Let’s get excited 😜