Don’t be afraid of ‘the Stans’. We go deep into Kyr­gyzs­tan

Hid­den by the Tian Shan moun­tains, Kyr­gyzs­tan is home to the last true no­mads and lit­tle else. Here’s how to get there…

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Contents -

‘A shep­herd may of­fer the na­tional drink of horse milk’

‘Smile and you might be in­vited into a yurt for tea’

Imag­ine a land­locked coun­try in the heart of Cen­tral Asia. Sur­round it with lush green hills, rugged moun­tains and roads twirling their way up into the clouds. Pep­per it with thou­sands of horses and a sprin­kling of white yurts filled with no­madic fam­i­lies and you have Kyr­gyzs­tan.

It’s a long-for­got­ten world and dis­cov­er­ing it on a mo­tor­cy­cle is spe­cial, re­ally spe­cial. It will give you a proper taste of what it is to be no­madic – di­rect from peo­ple who have lived this way for thou­sands of years.

But first, you’ve got to ride hun­dreds of miles off-road, through ever-chang­ing scenery, cross a vast empti­ness, bat­tle sand pits, long gravel roads and moun­tain passes carved into cliff faces. And it’s go­ing to be the most un­be­liev­able ride of your life.

Our ride through Kyr­gyzs­tan started in Osh af­ter rid­ing in from Ta­jik­istan (an­other must-do trip). But if you opt for a fly-and-ride, catch a plane from the UK, head straight to the Muz­too garage and pick up your bike (see right). Fill out the pa­per­work, empty your ruck­sack into the soft pan­niers, kick the tyres and plunge into your ad­ven­ture. Within min­utes of cross­ing into Kyr­gyzs­tan we were soak­ing in bak­ing heat as we rolled across parched plains. But the road rises fast and tow­er­ing peaks soon burst out of the flats, no sur­prise as 93% of the coun­try is moun­tain­ous. As we soared higher the wind cooled our Yamaha XT and the hills turned from sandy yel­low to pretty green and the tar­mac into gravel.

Now it’s an ad­ven­ture rider’s play­ground. The coun­try is layerupon-layer of stair­cases with long, empty green val­leys at the top of each one. There’s noth­ing here but the odd yurt camp so pull-up, smile and you may be in­vited in for tea and jam!

A seem­ingly end­less rib­bon of moun­tain passes fol­low. When we’d had enough we popped up the tent nomad-style and cooked our din­ner while gaz­ing at some of the most re­mote vis­tas in the

world. If you’re lucky (or un­lucky, de­pen­dent on your taste buds) a friendly shep­herd will pop out of nowhere with a bot­tle of ku­mis – the Kyr­gyz na­tional drink of horse milk. There are no ho­tels, so to travel like a nomad you’ll need to be self-suf­fi­cient and pack a tent, food and wa­ter – and prob­a­bly get used to luke­warm horse milk.

Af­ter con­stantly rid­ing up and over moun­tains and dirt tracks cut into cliffs, the empti­ness be­came sur­real. It was just the two of us, the mo­tor­cy­cle and hun­dreds of miles of dream-like travel. The rid­ing can be tough, but mostly it’s easy-go­ing gravel. The only hard thing about rid­ing here is the con­stant need to stop and whip out the cam­era to cap­ture the star­tling views.

Our route took us to Song Kol lake. At 3000m high, the lake is pro­tected by a ring of jagged moun­tains and the sur­round­ing pas­ture is cov­ered with hardy shep­herds and yurt camps.

Pulling over, we propped the XT up against a yurt, swapped our iron horse for a real one and set off into the moun­tains for a few days (you don’t need a guide and rent­ing a horse for £2 an hour can’t be missed). We chopped and changed daily be­tween four legs and two wheels to cir­cle the lake, stay with no­madic fam­i­lies, hud­dle around dung fires at night for warmth and tend to their horses. It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence like no other. It’ll just be you, raw na­ture and only those who are will­ing to live there.

Kyr­gyzs­tan is one of the wildest places on earth and the last place in the world with deep-rooted no­madic tra­di­tions. If trav­el­ling like one is on your bucket list, then this is where you need to be.

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