Friday, November 23, 2012

Hitching the Irkestham pass

"Arghhh Bozi Txa!" 

The truck driver shock his head and I didn’t have to understand Kyrgyz curse words to know what had happened. The truck had broken down again. For the third time.

It was getting onto 4pm and I was doubtful that we would still be able to make the border crossing. We were in no man’s land, 238 kms from Osh (the nearest town) and 250km from Kashgar (in China). Stuck on the side of the road trying to fix the truck’s ongoing problem, being passed by taxis and other trucks rushing along to reach the border before it closes for the evening, listening to an Uzbek girl band CD on repeat. Ahhh the joys of travelling.

After the difficult border crossing across China I thought it would be a smooth ride across the border into Kyrgyzstan. How wrong I was in many ways. The road itself (if you could call it that)was terrible. Pot holed and gravel made for a very bumpy ride. The truck itself was carrying a very heavy load and meant that we could not travel faster than 10kms/hr in case the truck with the weight behind it gained too much momentum and lost control. With an optimist’s approach it meant more time for me to enjoy the views. A lot more time indeed.

But at least the views were beautiful and made the ride somewhat enjoyable. Around each corner Kyrgyzstan continued to amaze me. The landscape boasted colours of blue, red, purple and pink and some were topped off with a dusting of snow. As we climbed in elevation, very slowly due to the heavy load, you caught glimpses of glaciers, and the peaks of huge mountains in the distance making you feel very small.

We arrived at the border at 8pm. The border had just closed.

“You sleep here.”

The truck driver pointed to his cosy cabin in the truck. I did not expect to stay at the border overnight, in no-man’s land. It was bizarre. Soon we were joined by other trucks that had also left too late. And not too long after, the police.

"Why are you here?”  “What are you doing here?” Questions. Interrogation. Handed over the passport, and didn’t get it back. It’s not like I could run very far in no man’s land anyway.

Finally after a rather uncomfortable sleepless night, the border was open. Quick to be first in line to get out, away from no mans land and away from a rather disrespectful truck driver who seemed to have the wrong idea about solo female travelers. 
And so after being turned down at the border in China, 2 days of hitch hiking in 3 different trucks for over 19 hours over the amazing Irekeshtam pass at over 3000 metres in altitude, breaking down several times along the way, sleeping in no man’s land and listening to an Uzbek girl band CD on repeat I finally made it across the border and into Osh. 

Hello Kyrgyzstan.

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