Bishkek is a nice city. It's the capital of Kyrgyzstan. It
has wide tree filled streets , with cafes, and people wandering around
town . There are lots of parks, and the obligatory fading soviet style
monuments. Lenin is gone from the main square, but otherwise the rest of the
soviet heroes seem to be intact. An opera house, and quite a few large public
buildings with a square ,and a non working fountain that seem to have lost
there reason for existence in the post soviet world. There is quite a few
bombsites, and the place has had a bit of a building boom that seems to have stopped
when the cash ran out. Of course the communists are still in power , they've
just changed there names to some thing more democratic, and adopted crony
capitalism as there mascot. All in all though the place seems to function
and the people seem happy.
We got here from Osh, which was a 35 dollar, 12 hour cab ride along good roads, with the odd stop for food.You go to the cab stop, negotiate your price. them wait for the cab to fill up. We got there at 7.45 . Our friend got to the stop at 12 the day before and left ten minutes later. We had another passenger, it only took 4 hours to find another three.We took off along a good road and our trip went through a couple of scenic passes, and past a whole pile of huge hydro lakes with holiday houses scattered around edges..We where pretty much settled into the drive when stopped behind a row of cars. All of a sudden everyone piled out. Up the road there was a bloke and his misses frantically pulling things out of there Lada.Every one poor drives a Lada. The rich drive Mercs but that a different story. Lada's are cheap and theres plenty of spares. There not that reliable, they seem to breakdown pretty regularly, but then again no one seems in a great hurry, and every one stops to offer help when one is stranded on the side of the road This one was gently emitting smoke from under the bonnet. Lots of hands where being waived and the traffic stopped in both directions. They where all waiting for the huge hollywood style fire ball that everyone knew was going to soon erupt from the barley smoking lada. Possessions removed, the bloke grabs an old fire extinguisher which you have to bang on the ground to set off. Bang, nothing. Bang Still nothing. He tries for a couple of minutes, by which time flames are starting to appear from under the bonnet. Eventually the extinguisher works spraying forward a great pile of powder. Unfortunately by the time hes run to the car it's just about empty. He sprays the last puff under the bonnet, well at least it went off eventually. I debate pulling out the camera, and eventually the tourist gets the better of me. The car is going quite well now with a huge plume of black smoke rising into the sky. The woman who was in the car is beside me, and she pulls out a smick video camera to document the scene. Soon every one has there phone out either taking pictures or ringing a friend. The crowd moves back, and our taxi driver backs up a bit more, even though where a hundred meters from the action. Its really going now. The windows are popping, and the boot is on fire. I get a smile with a joke about the Ladacue to the bloke next to me.We all watch for another five minutes, then someone gets bored and drives around the flaming vehicle. Eventually a few more cars go past, then there is a traffic jam with people in both directions trying to get past the half blocked road. The driver and his friend pile there stuff into another car to finish there journey. We pile back into the cab and race past the still smoking hulk. A couple of hours later we stop for dinner in a pretty mountain pass.We get out the phrase book and exchange the usual pleasantry's over dumpling soup, greasy chicken, bread and tea. One of the other passengers insets on picking up the tab, and Mick gives him one of our Australia key rings.
The only problem with leaving at noon is we will get in at midnight which is not a very good time to find accommodation in a city we know nothing about. As we get closer the driver grunts at us. We say something about dobra (good) hotel, all seems settled. We turn off the road down a dark lane for ten minutes and drop one bloke off. Another turn off and we end up in the backblocks, I think where looking for something for us but god knows where we are.The driver gets out, walks up a lane, looks, scratches his head, the finally knocks on a door. A short conversation later and where off. Half an hour later where getting closer to the centre of town. We stop and talk to a taxi driver then up a side street to the train station. The bloke who bought us dinner gets out and says drastvdanya (goodbye) , and the driver points up the road and says "hotel". We get our bags and head off down a brooding side street, past a couple of sleazy looking closed down cafes. I'm cold and tired, it's dark, and nothing is even looking like a hotel.. We head back and bump into our driver, he's taken pity on us. He cant see a hotel either so its back to the car, you wouldn't think it was so hard to find a hotel but I haven't seen any around yet. Another couple of corners, we pull up beside a cab for a quick chat then off again. we stop beside depressing looking blocks of flats beside a Bunnings style hardware store. Down the lane, nothing looks promising, back to the car. The security guard stops us, more talk., a phone is pulled out We wait. Out of the gloom a bloke in a black leather jacket appears and we head back to the block. Into the tiny lift and up a couple of floors . Russian flats always look like nothing has been fixed in the last 20 years and this block is no different. To a door and inside. Where in a neat little on bedroom flat with a kitchen, bathroom and most importantly a western toilet. LUXURY. The decor is a bit, Saturday night fever, other wise it a gem. Our new friend Yurie says some thing. We pull out the note book and write tomorrows date. 1500 som about $35 US. I hand him my passport he give me a key , we say goodbye to our driver with a handshake. It all sorted. It even has a telly with a couple of english channels. It's 1.30am and we fall into bed exhausted - Mick has the double bed and I have the couch. I think we've found our new home.