We’re determined to explore every bit of Kyrgyzstan while we’re here so we headed down to Toktogul to squeeze in one last backpacking trip before the snow comes. Getting to Toktogul from our home in Balykchy requires a trip through Bishkek and we spent the night there to break up the long journey. In the morning, we headed to the taxi stand to locate a taxi. Normally we would take a marshrutka between cities but apparently due to a large number of accidents on the bad mountain roads they are no longer allowed. We found a Toktogul taxi driver who told us he’d be leaving soon, just needed two more passengers… maybe 30 minutes. An hour later the two additional passengers were sitting in the car but the driver was just strolling around and didn’t seem to be in a hurry. Another 30 minutes went by and we became increasingly aggravated as another passenger had taken a seat but still we waited. Finally enough passengers showed up for the taxi to fill and we took off, only to stop after 15 minutes so the ladies could spend 15 minutes buying bread. Just double the time you think you need to get anywhere in this country.
An hour later we were out of the city to a part of the country we hadn’t seen before. Turning towards the mountains we drove up and came to a toll booth, after this the road became twisty and climbed steadily. I struggled to make out the scenery through the limo-tint glass as the road kept climbing the mountains. I turned on my phone to see we reached 10,200’ at the top of the pass as we entered a very long and narrow tunnel. We entered the tunnel under sunny skies but 3 or 4 minutes later we popped out and into winter. Snow was falling and covered the roadway. We stopped here for a rest stop, it felt 30 degrees colder than when we left Bishkek. Heading down the mountain we reached a high plateau, technically in Talas Oblast, that seemed beautiful but I could barely see through the window. The next two hours were mostly uneventful except for the amusing incidents where the car is forced to slow and honk its way through herds of sheep moving down the road.
We’ve been sharing some posts from some fun events we’ve had but haven’t shared much about what our day-to-day life has been like here lately. For all of August we were stuck back at our training villages for the last part (Phase 3) of Pre-Service Training. While it was great seeing everyone it was really hot nearly every day (90+ often and the training center does not have AC) and the days seemed to crawl by. Plus, we were missing the best month to be back in Issyk Kul where every day the weather is perfect and the beach is just a five minute walk away. Besides being able to see the whole group back together (minus our one fellow volunteer who went home) we had some fun adventures. We invited 10 other volunteers to Ala Archa (blog post here,) had an amazing weekend in Bishkek, bought mountain bikes, held the first annual Issyk-Ata Regatta, cooked American food, explored an abandoned apartment and perhaps best of all, took the ‘Balykchy Express’ to get back to Krasnaya Rechka. We’ll write up some info on the world-famous Balykchy Express slow train that runs from Bishkek to Balykchy later but read on for more photos and stories from our other adventures the past month…
Being back in Krasnaya Rechka was fun even though training wasn’t because the kids are so much fun to play with. We spent many nights playing Frisbee and surprised them with a Frisbee of their own that Taylor’s mom sent from America (thanks Cindy!) There’s a big difference between the village kids in Krasnaya Rechka and the city kids in Balykchy. The village kids all know who we are and scream our names when they see us even if they are on the other side of the school yard. Much like cities at home, you lose a bit of the ‘neighborhood feel’ in cities here which has its pros and cons. Our language still seems terrible to us but we were able to talk a lot more with our PST family and learn things like how they met, when they moved to their house, where they originated from, etc. We also tried to cook more American food for them, not only to share American culture but frankly, we’re craving a lot of food from home. We made pizza and had to resort to using pre-made frozen crusts we found. They tasted as good as a frozen pizza from the grocery store but we had fresh ingredients and the kids loved it. Taylor also went with some of the other PCV girls and made apple pies. She said they were delicious but forgot to bring a slice home for Eric so things are a bit rocky between us, тамаша (that means kidding!)
We enjoyed a scenic drive down to the St. Petersburg area although the terrible Florida drivers (seriously, worst in the country) threatened to ruin it. After 5 or 6 hours we reached New Port Richey where we were staying one night with Taylor’s cousins Laura & Doug. We had a great night catching up and eating delicious BBQ.