Day 57 – Bishkek to Tamga via Burana Tower (320km)

Day 58 – Tamga to Tamga (circa 50km)

Bishkek to Tamga was a whole heap of rather dull main road riding. There is nothing special to report about the Sunday drive other than it clearly wasn’t Howard’s day for biking. He managed to drop Edward twice, both occasions for no apparent reason. 

The first we were on a samsa hunt (we’ve learnt to go to a bakery or really small corner shop just before lunchtime and they will be hot and fresh, lovely). Having purchased our  straight-from-the-oven bread and samsas, excited to find a spot to eat, we turned in the road to a green traffic light… Only for me to hear an eek from behind. A quick look in my mirror and there is Howard on the floor, stopping all the traffic from going through the light! 

He and Edward were fine, just the ego bruised. 

The second time he just dropped him at the side of the road.
Burana Tower was interesting and worth the small detour but more for the Sogdian carvings and mini museum at the site than the actual tower. 

Howard went inside and to the top of the tower, I had a little claustrophobic moment and decided against it in fear of a freak out mid climb.

Never guess who we bump into?!

We were about 2km from Tamga when we turn a corner to see a black Defender with a yellow passenger door heading in the other direction. ‘No way, that’s the Swiss guys!’ Howard excitedly shouts down the intercom. 

We stop and turn, see they stopped too and went to meet them for a quick road side catch up and chin wag. It’s amazing how uplifting it is to see a familiar face (again!) on the road! 

Next a German motorcyclist passes, he too stops out of curiosity. We learn he is also staying in Tamga and he takes us back to his guesthouse to stay the night.

Only a BMW pro

We have dinner together and find out that Thomas is a mechanical engineer at BMW in Munich. He tells us how cool his job is (it is very cool). 

At breakfast Thomas decides to come riding with us for the morning instead of his original plan of heading to Naryn. It was exciting to have someone join us for a day playing in the mountains!

A well laid plan

Our aim was to ride up a valley to view a Tibetan Om petroglyph then continue along a ‘red dotted line’ to meet the Tosor Valley road and back. Following this short 60km play we would go view the waterfall up Barskoon Valley and see how close we could get to the gold mine. Then simply head for Kyzyl Suu where we would find somewhere to sleep.

The first of many hurdles

The track wasn’t exactly plain sailing. We hit dirt and sand straight away,Edit but that was fine, as we are comfortable with that and it makes a nice, entertaining track. 

Soon though we came to what looked like a pretty deep, fast flowing river. Oh no, was this going to be the end of our playtime already? 


We checked the depth and decided to go for it. All went smoothly. Phew!

We had another two or three fords to cross before our next obstacle.

How could we get over this? It was a 1 meter deep, 2 meter wide gully  made from rain washing the road away. No way accross.

We went around. Down a steep earth hill. Potential to fall = almost certainly. Did we? No. Phew again. 

We had a few more crossings where the water had washed the ‘road’ away but all were easy in comparison.

Next we have a whole section of road that’s turned to river. Our only option is to take the footpath then drop down into the water and plough on through…

That obstacle also overcome, we next climbed up a dirt track, not dissimilar to the rough side of Penrose Walks around Loe Bar, dodged some cattle and some ruts and were eventually rewarded with the beautiful view of a jailoo (pasture/meadow). We stopped for a rest.

It went downhill from then on
We asked the sheep farmer for the best route. He pointed up a hill that looked to have very little track  on it! We followed via a footpath instead of the marginally longer faint 4×4 tracks. 

A most excellent fall

As I realise the camber on the hill, the tiny narrow path I’m on and the consequence if I fall, panic sets in. ‘Why are we going this way, it’s too narrow, I can’t do it’ I start down the intercom to Howard. He tries to talk me though the task with some sense but it’s too late. I’m looking down the hill. 

Number one rule on a bike, look at where you want to go.

Before I know it I’m tilting. ‘I’m going Howard, I can’t hold it!’. Slow motion fall down a stonking hill. I roll a little, slide a little and eventually stop on the tilt. Scrambling back to Gurtrude to hit the kill switch and stop the fuel pouring out, it’s me who now has a bruised ego. 

With the sheep farmer looking on (this must be the most entertainment he’s had in these hills!), we all heave the bike up and get on the way. 

(I fell about three meters behind Howard on this hill/ track)

The track turns worse. In places it’s deep, deep rutts. In others there is just nothing, no clue at where we should go other than a purple line on the GPS.

As we approach another area of blindly following Rose’s purple line, Howard directs me up a steep climb. Gurtude just isn’t man enough for it. I give her  everything I’ve got but she stalls and starts running backwards. Front break on as I try to search for ground under my feet but the hillside is too far from me and I fall again. 

All three of us heave her up again and Howard takes the honour of getting her to the top of the hill. By now Thomas must be really regretting coming out with these two novices!

And it gets worse

The track became totally non existent. We thought we can see the path… Or maybe it’s a cattle track. What looks like an old 4×4 track winds its way in front of us but it’s not a track we can ride and it looks like no one has used it for years. The clouds started rolling in and we breach the conversation no biker wants to have. 

Do we turn back?

After much walking around trying to find a path we thought we might be able to cross, Howard deduced there was no way to cross the next river. We decided to go back the way we came. We were 14km from the Tosor Valley road. It was so frustrating turning back!

Venturing home

Each obstacle seemed less daunting on the way home… Apart from the earth hill. Thomas breezes it first time (naturally). Howard took two attempts.  Gurtrude and I took two tired attempts + one from Howard and eventually the pro glided up on Gurtrude with no effort at all.

On getting back to Tamga and seeing the time, we realised it best to stay at the same guesthouse and start tomorrow with the waterfall at Barskoon.
The boys headed out that evening to see how far up Tosor Valley they could get. Apparently if it wasn’t for that river we might have made it. It wasn’t all about the destination though and we had great fun trying. It was fab to have Thomas with us too – an extra pair of fun & experienced hands!