Hi.

Welcome to our blog. We are starting to document our Silk Road journey.  We will start with some of the planning and preparation!

K9 - Let the adventure Recommence

K9 - Let the adventure Recommence

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26th August 2018

We had a fab break in Beaubery France during August and were visited by Tomas, Sarah, Nora, Marilyn (her friend), and daughters Jess and Grace.  These did not overlap so we had company throughout.  Both daughters were working from “home” and were plugged into their laptops after breakfast of croissant and pain chocolat.

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A mention of Beaubery cannot pass without mention of Saint Veran,  Pouilly Fuisse, Epoisse and Comte, without which life would be the poorer.

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The WiFi was not at its best and the air was blue as a consequence but we really enjoyed family life reasserting itself. Playing cards with the girls and checking out the pool.  

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The Kyrgyz hats we had purchased in the Osh Bazaar in Bishkek had been well received and many photos of family and friends in Kyrgyz hats appeared subsequently.

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 The only sad thing was the Beaubery garden which had suffered from the very dry summer.  Note to self, get that well pump ordered!  

We were chuffed with our arrival and departure from Beaubery which went very smoothly without being exorbitant.  Tomas and Sarah, who were staying in Beaubery, kindly met us at Lyon Airport from our Bishkek/Istanbul flight.

On leaving we chatted up a French neighbour who by chance, was taking his neice to Macon Ville Gare on the same day and she joined us on the train to Lyon Part Dieu which was only a short hop to the Exupery airport by Navette.  One to remember for the future.   (I mention this as flight and train to Macon Ville is a real alternative to the train via Paris for visiting friends without cars.)

I can hardly contain myself, because the next mission critical news is, that the car is ready and functioning! Yes the new Landy gear box arrived to Bishkek from Abu Dhabi in time and, as promised, the car was up and running when back from France, we went to collect it today.  We said our goodbyes to the Toyota Kia garage team.  (The girls with the long lashes had gone on a coffee break).

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Our wallets were considerably lighter,  but we are now all set to link up with the China contingent and tonight we will dine with David and Jenny at Chicken Star, and I expect them to feature over the next month along with Mélody and Matthieu that we  narrowly missed at our Bishkek hostel.

On arriving this morning we had news that they had pitched up with dog and Mum and were now whizzing around the massive Issy Kul lake before linking up with us all in a few days in Sary Tash.

Much of our last day in Tunduk hostel was spent napping as we recovered from our overnight flights and the following morning we had to load everything back into the car from the hostel garage!  We were quite exhausted before we had started and it was 12 noon before we finally said our goodbyes to Az, Temir and the rest of our hosts at the Tunduk hostel and hit the road.  This Dutch couple had taken our place in the Tunduk parking spot and amazingly knew about our gear box travails through the Overland Sphere FB website!  The tiny Tunduk lawn now had 5 tents erected and we knew it was time to leave.

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The plan was to drive to Sary Tash via Talas and Osh.  Talas is much vaunted because it hosts the legendary tomb of the legendary Manas, an 18th Century (or much earlier) Kyrgyz hero whose statue is to be found throughout Kyrgyzstan.  Jim frequently likens him to King Arthur in the UK, who may never have existed.

However the journey to Talas was supposed to take 5 hours and as we snaked our way along many ravines and passes, (stopping to cool down) we realised that this was wildly optimistic.  Landy was forced to climb up to 3,600 metres (no altitude sickness hurrah) and the omens for Landy were not great as she was slow and we had to stop to prevent overheating and catastrophic breakdown!  

We were feeling a bit nervous by now and wondered whether we should ditch Talas and head for Osh directly in case Landy needed further mechanical investigations.  Jim was particularly worried that Landy’s top speed seemed to now be between 50-70km/h and not the usual 80-100kms on the longer stretches, which we had come to expect.   

I tried not to panic and surmised that it was probably the high altitude effect on the diesel fuel system.  We could not Google this to check as we had no signals, so regretfully we took the Osh turning when it arrived and kissed goodbye to our plans for Talas.  Needless to say that a couple of hours later, we had descended and Landy had quite perked  up and my theory held good.  

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The amazing roads, ravines and the sunset more than took our mind off our worries and we reached Toktagul Lake as the sun was setting.  We snuck down a very rough dirt track to the waters edge and set up camp among the crops lakeside.  We batted off the mosquitoes and played bridge on our phones until the night took us into its embrace.

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Unbelievably we slept until 10.30am on the lake shore and by then we were aware of a small number of families busying themselves close to the car. On closer inspection they were picking ripe water melons alongside the track and they handed a large water melon to Jim to take on our way. 

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On returning to the road (now the M41 which had taken us through much of the Pamirs in Tajikistan a couple of months earlier), we sped on towards Osh.

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We reckoned that if anything did need sorting out on Landy,  we could try and get it fixed on Monday before taking off for Sary Tash, our rendezvous with our travelling companions and our three car convoy to the border with China.

So far the only real worry was the blooming speakers on the car radio which were only vaguely connected to the radio.  Every song was now being broadcast in short snatches before cutting out on every bump in the road - of which there were many! 

The journey time and distance to Osh doubled when we realised that the Sat Nav had ignored the Uzbekistan border which was the most direct route.  As we did not have visas etc we had to take a one hundred kilometre detour, which rather put back our arrival time.  

What we did find time to do though was take Landy to a car wash before the big day.  And there waiting our turn, Jim made a new friend who was a Judo Teacher.  

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Just before we reached Osh, Jim realised that he had booked us into a hotel in Dushanbe in Tajikistan rather than Osh in Kyrgyzstan.  There were a few squawks from Sonia who had been looking forward to a comfy bed, WiFi and convivial surroundings.  

The problem was rectified and another place found, in the middle of Osh but Sonia was still not happy with the accommodation which was expensive, lacked sufficient light bulbs,  had common areas piled with junk and many other things which would put you off particularly at the price paid!  Jim went out into the night to find some dinner and came back pleased to have sampled Collective Farm Soup!

In the morning we decided to visit an Osh Garage before attempting our rendezvous at Sary Tash with the China contingent.  On our way to the garage, the gears started seizing up again and we were in total dismay.  Our worst fears were coming to fruition despite replacing our gear box.  The Osh garage suggested replacing the Clutch Slave and we closeted ourselves in a coffee bar for three hours searching out part numbers and placing an order for parts to be delivered in China.   

We then limped on to meet up in Sary Tash, with Melody and Matthieu and their Landrover Defender with a roof top tent and Jenny and David and their VW California camper.   

We arrived first at the homestay where we planned to sleep in our vehicles and take food in the homestay.  We were at 3,200metres surrounded by views of the snow capped Pamirs and we knew we were in for a bleak chilly night.  

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The following morning we left in convoy to rendezvous with our Uighur guide at China Gate, the entrance to China.

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We were relieved to find that the beautiful road from Sary Tash to the Chinese border was well maintained and undulating rather than precipitous. We were going to make it and our exit from Kyrgyzstan was totally uneventful and did not fortell of things to come.

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C1 - Arriving in China

A Holiday from the Holiday