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Catfish and Kyrgyzstan

August 8th, 2008 · 3 Comments

We spent most of the 7th sightseeing in Samarkand the beautiful but unfortunately also the beleaguered. Beleaguered by tourists in sensible shoes and 3/4 length trousers, we took the decision to move on to the Kyrgyz border via Tashkent and Andijan. We were reliably informed that Tashkent had little to offer the casual visitor and so we pushed on, hoping to make Andijan by nightfall. Once again the roads were against us. We battled through mountains, potholes, police checkpoints until we arrived 200km short of Andijan at midnight with a torrent of steam belching from the engine. It would appear that we have a leak in our radiator although Max refuses to acknowledge it and insists on filling it up every 100 miles. We pulled into what appeared to be a small village on the roadside, populated by enterprising restraunteurs and hoteliers. A very enthusiastic man in traditional Uzbek cap bounded off and returned with five litres of water for the radiator and enquired with wild gesticulation whether we would like any fish for supper. Max and Ed looked at each other skeptically as the nearest body of water was hundreds of miles away. The man thought we hadn’t understood, reached into a cattle trough and produced an enormous, live catfish. He beat it against the side of the trough and then set about cutting up fire wood to cook it with. This took us aback slightly, but we settled down to some midnight melon and catfish sans cutlery. After supper he showed us to our quarters. Jimmy would sleep in the cab in the hammock, Ed in the sitting room on a sofa and Max and Charles were to share a double bed with three other Uzbek fellows. Unrepeatable in Charles’ view but rather enjoyable for Max.

The sun rose over Andijan province and our short slumber was ended. Having paid the man in Jelly beans and dollars we tried to make up for time lost the night before. Finding Andijan was easy, a poker straight road without a turn for 45 miles, finding the Kyrgyz border was less so. When Stalin was reorganising central Asia in the 1930s he must have been blind drunk or blindfolded when drawing up the borders. We had to take a 150 mile detour on the way to Tashkent to avoid  a piece of Kazakhstan that dissected the Expressway into Tashkent. Little pockets of Tajikistan are isolated in Uzbekistan and vice versa. With no Tajik visa and only a single entry into Kazakhstan we had to meander through this political minefield. Jimmy abandoned all efforts with the local languages (if there were any to start with) and began shouting loudly in English and pointing, After a good 90 minutes of terrifying the natives, we finally struck The border just short of Jalalabad. We prepared ourselves for provincial queueing techniques and entered the foray. The Uzbek side was a standard melange of form filling excessive stamping and watching the guard with the least sandwiches to his picnic try and fathom why the word Ireland appears on the front of a British passport. Our Russian didn’t quite stretch to Anglo Irish politics of the last century so he just had to put up with it. The Kyrgyz side proved more original. An enormously fat, jolly looking man sitting in a hut examined our visas and asked us questions on everything from the quality of English vodka to the size of our engine. He then went into a gesticulatory rant about drugs. Max and Ed were in their third minute of protestation and denial before they realised they were being offered drugs. With that offer politely declined we found ourselves in Kyrgyzstan in 39 degree heat (105F) and on one of the great driving roads of the world. Endless hairpins and twists along the flattest tarmac since Serbia, set amongst the frankly breathtaking Kyrgyz mountains. A brief dip in one of the crystal clear lakes broke the heat of the day. Tonight we camp on the shores of the Toktogul resevoir, in order rest the old girls and ourselves for the rigours of the mountains that lie between us and Bishkek.

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mummy sara // Aug 9, 2008 at 5:50 am

    Emergency solutions for a leaking radiator:

    1. Chewing gum. Just place the chewed piece of gum over the hole in the radiator and be on your way.

    2. A piece of bread. All you need to do is press the piece of bread on the radiator where the leak is and you are done. The flour in the bread will plug the hole and the heat from the radiator will toast the bread keeping it in place.

    3. Ground black pepper. Dump a small container of black pepper, picnic sized ones work great, into the radiator. The pepper will not dissolve and will be directed to the leak due to pressure. This will plug most pin hole sized leaks.

    4. An egg. Simply crack an egg into the hot water in the radiator. The egg will cook in the heat and like the pepper be forced into the leak by pressure. Eggs will plug larger holes for a short period of time.

    The chewing gum and bread methods will not require a flush of the radiator system after the radiator is professionally repaired.

    It is important to remember when making an emergency repair to a leaking radiator to let the radiator cool at least 15 minutes before opening the radiator cap. You could be seriously burned from escaping steam if you open the cap before the radiator has cooled down.

    These repairs are not meant to be long term solutions, but they should work long enough to get you home or to the nearest garage!

    Failing that you will need a lot of mules to pull you, make sure you have visas for them


  • 2 Lisa // Aug 9, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your account igreat, your photos beautiful. Your dscription of tour-ons spot on. What a wonderful adventure!

  • 3 Vic // Aug 9, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Your narratives are wonderful…more, please.

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