On the mountain bike through the Tian Shan Mountains

Mountain biking Assy Plateau

On the mountain bike through the Tian Shan Mountains

First I have to say that Google Keep is no good to Keep data on your Android device. Because if you accidentally overwrite your data, it’s all lost. So it should rather be called Google Lose. I changed now to Evernote.

Anyway, I spent my last week in Kazakhstan in the Tian Shan Mountains on the border to Kyrgyzstan. My plan was to go with the mountain bike from Almaty to Kegen. As it is with plans, it didn’t work out the way I thought.
My new “friend” Nick, with whom I have planned the tour just didn’t show up the morning we arranged to leave. So I changed my plan and joined Madi and his group. Madi organised a two-day mountain bike trip from the Assy Plateau to Lake Bartogay. That was already two third of my planed route and the rest I would just continue hitchhiking.

The two days mountain biking was good fun but also quite exhausting. Madi took me and the group of about ten people to Assy Plateau where we started our adventure. The plateau is a huge open area surrounded by green hills. A river snakes its way through the land providing all the yurts with fresh water.
Constantly you can see huge cow herds followed by horsemen chasing them from one green to another.

Assy Plateau

Assy Plateau


Again Assy Plateau

Along the plateau there are multiple double track roads next to each other going up and down all the time. I was so amazed from the beautiful landscape that I nearly went off the bike with a highside once.

After biking all day we put our tents and had barbecue next to the river. Since I relied on Nick to bring a tent and a sleeping bag for me, I was without a place to sleep. Luckily someone gave me a camping mat and another guy invited me to sleep in his tent. Although I was wearing nearly all my clothes the night was damn cold and I kept waking up as soon as my blood pleasure fell down.
The next morning I left the camp alone since one group was already gone and another one stayed at the cars. The day started with some exhausting uphills and after a few hours I was happy that it went down again. The joy was short. After the first downhill I had a flat tire and had to get off the bike. The next bad thing was that I had no water with me because when I left the camp I took water from a 6l bottle out of the car. But on the bike I found out that it was some technical water and not drinkable. So after carrying and pushing my bike for several hours in the midday heat my tongue was hanging somewhere between my knees and I was already checking every empty bottle next to the road for a few drips of water. But suddenly the cars following us showed up and I was happy to put bike on the car. Madi said was only a few kilometres to Bartogay Lake and I didn’t bother fixing the tire.
At Bartogay Lake I said goodbye to Madi and his group. Madi was so nice and took the bike back to Almaty for me and I even got some money back since I rented the bike for six days and then needed it only for two.

Road to Bartogay Lake

Driving down to Bartogay Lake

Bartogay Lake

Bartogay Lake – almost dried out

From Bartogay I started hitchhiking again. A nice Kazakh guy stopped and said he can take me to Kegen. After a short chat he said he’s going towards Kolsai Lake to his firm. It was getting late already and although I had no idea if there would be a village or even a house where I could find a place to sleep or if he would just drop me out in the middle of nowhere. But since Kolsai Lake was on my planned route I said I’ll join him. When we arrived at his firm it turned out to be a farm and the farmers invited me to stay with them for the night.



The farm had its own little gold mine next to it but they said it’s not working anymore. What a pity! I wanted to go down get some gold and cast a ring for my love.
The farmer family welcomed me with open arms and lots of chai. Drinking is a very important social tradition in Central Asia. No matter if they serve you chai, vodka or kymys (fermented horse milk), if you have been invited to a table to drink, you have been show warm and friendly hospitality. And when drinking chai that the lady of the house sits at the end of the table waiting to serve her guests. As a sign of respect she will fill your cup only half full so that she can serve you more often. As soon as you empty your cup you have to reach it over to her again. And like a barkeeper she will refill your cup from her three kettles – one for chai, one for hot water and one for milk.
So after drinking chai I had to empty one and a half bottles of vodka with the farmer and my hitchhiking driver until the dinner was ready. When I came to the table my jaw dropped and I thought: “Seriously!? This is what you are having for dinner?” It was a pile of horse inwards burying a few noodles. It’s called Beshbarmak and is very traditional in Kazakhstan. There was a thick sausage, the gut from the horse filled with fat and some meat. Next to it was the liver and a piece of the spine with some meat. Traditionally the guest gets the best pieces. I was lucky that there were no eyes on the plate, so I only got the gut with lots of fat. I was happy that I got more vodka to flush it down.
The next morning my hitchhiking host drove me to the next village where I went to a magazin to get some essential food for the hike to Kolsai Lake. I bought some bread, half a kilo of Halva and traded half a kilo of buckwheat for half a kilo of biscuits.

Kolsai Lake

Kolsai Lake

Then I started walking towards Kolsai Lake and suddenly a car stopped for me. Some friendly Korean people took me to the lake and invited me to join them hiking up to the second of the three lakes. We had a great day hiking and at the second lake I got served Korean ramien noodles. In the evening they offered me to stay with them in a cheap guest house where they only pay 4000 Tenge per person. So I had a short talk with the owner and got a room for 3000 Tenge (about 16 USD). And after having a nice and warm dinner we went into the banya, the russian sauna which was very relaxing.

The next day we had breakfast and then the Korean guys gave me another ride to the main road from where I hitchhiked to Kegen. From Kegen the road goes 18km to the south through Karkara Valley where it reaches the border of Kyrgyzstan. Very few cars go this road and I knew hitchhiking wouldn’t be easy.
So I was lying on the green next to the road and jumping up every half an hour when a car came by. I was lucky and only waited two hours until I could stop a car that accepted to take me to the border for free.

Hitchhiking Karkara Valley

Waiting for a ride in Karkara Valley

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