2018 Tian Shan travel: Part 31

2018 Tian Shan

August-September 2018 travel to Kazakhstan reviewed in 2021

Commentary from 2021

This post originally comes from 27th of August 2018. Here I described why I decided to cancel Kyrgyzstan, which I had planned to visit as well. Truth be told, I only realised how close Almaty is to Kazakhstan just two weeks before the actual trip – long after all the hotel stays and train tickets had already been bought. Already in Almaty city I realised, upon visiting the avtovokzal (coach station), that it was impossible to go to Bishkek from Almaty on demand. Moreover, Kyrgyzstan had almost no internet activity that I could find, be it timetable of return buses to Almaty or otherwise. My Kazakh SIM card that gave me Internet connection would not work there. I realised there is high risk that something will delay me and I will compromise my dream come true, 3 night stay high up in the mountain hotel, among the stars. I was also all alone. I decided back then not to take the risk.

Original blog posts links:
Original post from 27.08.2018 is copied below.

Kyrgyzstan cancelled

Kyrgyzstan part of the trip is cancelled due to safety and logistical reasons…

The original idea came up to me very late in preparing the trip, in the literal last weeks before it. A beautiful mountaneous lake, Issyk-kul, is located in Kyrgyzstan just on the other side of the north Tian-Shan mountains, close to Almaty, while the small country’s capital – Bishkek – is located just 320 kilometres southwest off Almaty. That sounds easy, I thought!

In the actual place it turned out a little more difficult than in most such places. Kyrgyz Internet is scarce. Buses go there often, but there after arriving at the central bus station in Almaty, I discovered this is a dreadful place, many years backwards towards Almaty’s current standards. No tickets to Bishkek. Asked when they’ll be available, I heard only a loud “нету!“.

Train tickets are possible, but their availability is scarce and price is close to airplane tickets. There’s no normal railways connection to Bishkek (to my surprise), and all trains that are available from that point on are long distance ones (from Novokuznetsk in Russian Siberia).

Issyk-kul on the other hand sounds great – but for some reason, the brief distance takes 10 hours one way. Well, no wonder: two ways one can get there, one is possibly through the mountains, which probably takes that much long, and the other one is via Bishkek, which is, well, not exactly there, so it also takes a long time. There are tours to Issyk – but they’re organised only on weekends.

I suppose all that would be possible if the trip was organised around Kyrgyzstan, and not treating it as a bonus. At this point it is still possible to get there – but I have no reliable information that I will be able to safely return to Almaty, especially that border crossing and control has to be taken into account.

This poses a safety hazard I cannot agree with as a solo traveller. A tiny bit disappointed. On the bright side, I save some more money and time. For money, I will perhaps get myself a Barlow lens for my telescope to use in the mountains, and for time, I will today try to get into Shimbulak to survey the area – this is a mountain resort where later on I will spend 3 nights at 2700 metres altitude. Better not be wasting time next time looking for the hotel with full luggage while fighting mountain sickness that I’ve been known to get at as low as 2100 metres.


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