Across Continents

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Road to Bishkek

The sticking point seemed to be that there was no longer a train across the border into the Kyrgyz Republic and the Capital Bishkek. Rioting had put a stop to that. In any case, I planned to cycle across the frontier. If things got sticky I wanted the flexibility, the self-sufficiency, a bicycle offered. Not trapped in a train. There also seemed to be a bit of a debate about how Emma might be carried, but I’d the advantage of having done this once before. Knew there was a separate baggage car, wouldn’t be a problem.Despite the fearsome heat I’d managed to cover two hundred miles or so, pretty much the length of Wales, in three days. Conditions had been much, much tougher than I’d expected. Suppose, under the circumstances, I was pleased with progress. But it wasn’t enough to make the Chinese border before my hard won visa became invalid and entry would be refused. Not without passing up an irresistible chance to visit Bishkek, or to spend a day or so in Kazakhstan’s old Capital Almaty.

When I’d originally decided to cross much of the Kazakh steppe by train, I’d toyed with continuing on beyond Kyzylorda, disembarking much closer to Bishkek. But I’d wanted to experience desert conditions, an environment I’d never cycled in before. Put the theory I’d been taught into practice. Develop and refine skills I’d need quite a bit before the expedition was over. Box ticked in spades. And I was really glad I’d done it. Learnt an awful lot.

The revised plan? Overnight train from Turkistan to the small town of Lugovoy, about thirty miles from the Kyrgyz Republic border. Puts me back on track. Practical necessity I tell myself. And it is, but it still niggles because I know that, but for visa constraints, I could ride the whole way. In the grand scheme of things I’m sure none of this really matters, accepted practice for long-haul touring cyclists. But I’ve never been very good at acquiescing just because others do.

So, I found myself back at a railway station, this time in Turkistan. Ainur had, once again, very kindly offered to help, taking me to the station late on Sunday evening to make the arrangements. How close to the border could I get? Where did the Bishkek train now stop? All sorted. Eventually. Arrived in town less than eight hours earlier. You never know quite how each day’s going to play out.

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