So here we are, stuck in a post apocalyptic hole just over
the Kirghistan boarder. The three of us are skulking behind a pile of old truck
tyres, trying to keep warm , and its only midday. Been through the boarder half
an hour and looking for a lift to Osh 240km away. Taxis none, Cars none ,
trucks none. Micks heads of to find a loo, while Omer and I shelter fom the
wind. Eventually a woman appears and motions us forward with the words Cha
(tea). I look a t Omar. Anythings got to be better than this, off we go. We
arrive at an old russian army caravan with magazine (shop) painted on the side.
Funnily enough everything in town seems to have magazine painted on the side.
In we go, the stove, an exposed glowing element has heated the place up a bit. We take off our shoes as is the custom and sit down on the mat. Soon Chi is produced, and the woman starts to cook some thing, but we tell her not to so she produces some bread with margarine and sugar. I go out and find Mick and drag him in. The chi is good, the lady disappears and we discuss the situation. We have none of the local currency the som. Where inside, so a truck is not going to pick us up. Not that we have heard any go past in the last hour. A bit more Chi and I decide to go have a look around town. There is one permanent building with a few mangie dogs, and the obligatory magizine sign. The roof is missing a bit and there are at least two broken windows but for here it looks pretty habitable. Outside is a Busted jeep and decript Lada. Inside I find a young bloke and an old babushka ( grand mother). " Taxi Osh" I say. They look at each other. Da (yes) I pull ot a bit of paper how much I motion . 4800 som I offer 1000 som ($30), doesn't seem to have impressed them. I wander around a bit more still nothings happened so its back to the Babuska. Stuff the som I dont have any anyhow but Im a walking UN of small amounts of other stuff. USD, Swiss franks, Yuan, HKD, Euro, GBP even the Aussie. I seem to have accumulated 20 bucks worth of them at at one time or another. I'll try the trusty old greenback. "Osh $50" The kid looks at me $60 he scribbles. We have a winner. He points at his watch 3. I point at me and hold up three fingers.I go off and rejoin Mick and Omar for a bit more Chi.
The lady returns, it's only about one, so we sit around for a while longer. Mick thinks it might be rude to offer her money for the tea. I reckon she wil tell us if she wants any. We get up to leave, the hand comes out. I give her 10 Yuan. A bit more. another 5. Happy. Off we go to the Magazine.
Once there we take a table. No one seems very interested in us, Mick falls asleep. The odd truck heading towards China goes past. The cops turn up buy some stuff , chat and leave. 2.30 goes past. Finally the young guy returns. Its the Lada. We throw our stuff in the back. The trip to Osh should take about 6_ 7 hours so we've been told. That will get us ther about 10 with a bit of Luck. The road to Sarritash is very bad, the one from there to Osh is good. No Problem. The dude needs lunch so we sit down again and he disappears. 3.15 he reappears . Three large gringoes are squeezed into the back. The packs come out. Go back in. The Babuska gets in the front with a kid. A kid gets in the back. We Leave, drive 50 meters. The babushka gets out, another woman with a child gets in the front. The packs are rearranged. The babuska gets in the rear. Another child is pushed in. For those of you not familiar with the Lada 4wd, its not very big. We now have 9 people in it, plus bags. Off we go. The road is good Sealed, with the odd large crack or dug up bit. We get 5km down the road we stop . Phone calls. We get out. The babuska is not happy. The other woman is bumped to wait for the next truck, with child. The derelict jeep turns up. The tyre is flat on my side but still drivable. I'm told to swap seats with Omar as I look heaver. 15 minutes later where off again. Up a couple of big hills , I look down and can see crashed trucks that haven't made the turns in the valleys below. I thought the boarder was the pass but we seem to be going higher.Another ten km up the road and there is another check point. Passport. OK.A bit more of a chat. We back back and a truck pumps up the offending tyer. Through the gate, the seal stops and the road gets worse.
Much worse. All of a sudden the lada is bouncing around like a cork in a bottle. Where getting higher and soon we are near the snow line. Trucks covered in mud, are passing regularly the the other way, the russian Kamaz variety seem popular. The scenery is great , like Switzerland . High passes and beautiful valleys. Finally the snow begins to cover the road. The odd truck is stuck but most seem to make it through. The lada makes hard work of it, bashing through the truck sized pot holes. After an hour or so we come to a stop. Dude ges out and washes windscreen while a loader clears snow ahead. There are a couple of trucks in front of us and the cops which dude talks to. The cops take off, a couple of trucks come past. We take off, there are trucks cumming up so we back up again and wait. Off again, More bogged trucks in front of us being puled out. The Dude zips past them. then past a line of 20 more waiting to be towed up the hill. For the next couple of hours its more snow, bogged trucks, stops to wash car, and potholes. We stop at one stage to help a bloke dig out a truck. Mick loses his Monash hat when it gets blown off, in the blizzard. Finally we start descending, and eventually we spot a valley with a long straight road running through the center of it. The place looks a bit like the Antarctic, very pretty but desolate with flat snow covered valleys and huge mountains on either side in the distance. The Straight bit of road turns out to be pretty long. It takes about an hour to get to the other end, ducking and weaving round the potholes like a boxer.
Finally Saritash. the place looks a bit more(but not much more) like a town. Its taken us 6 hours to get here, not three. The good news is the road gets better from here. The dude stops to speak to some locals, the Babuska gets out. The cops stop. Half an hour later where on our way again. We stop and put petrol in the car. The cops are stopping people at the edge of town. We get waived over, amazingly we dont stop. The dude points at the other cop car, and drives past the madly waiving cop. First time for everything. The road gets much better. Well much better Kazak style. Just as rough, as many pot holes, just less snow and bogged trucks. We stop and was the car again. The dude has washed his car more times in 100km than I have washed mine in eight years.
Over another pass. The lada develops a nasty Clunk Clunk sound going down hill. We stop. Look Keep going. Surprisingly the good road is not much better than the bad one. Another big wash beside a stream, another look at the clunk clunk. We pull up at a restaurant, by now its eight o'clock. We go inside sit down, no food. Back on the road. We cstop more gas."What time will we get to Osh"?. about one comes the reply. We stop at another restaurant, and i trade the babuska $10 for some Som at a reasonable rate. Chicken, Chi, and some sort of noodle soup appears. Not Bad. Off Again. We've been awake 18 hours at this point so the novelty of being jammed in the backseat is starting to wear off.
I doze off, We stop again. The dudes not happy. The babuska has taken off for a chat. Where all tired, even him, she reappears half an hour later after we've given the car a wash. Off to sleep again. I awake and its one oclock but still no Osh in sight.The road at last has got better, its sealed and there fixing it. this means you can get to eighty kmh, the terminal velocity of a Lada. We only strike the odd huge un announced pot hole. I'm awake by now but the dude is getting sleepy. Im watching him like a hawk in case he falls asleep. At last at two o’clock we see lights that look like a town. Qsh at last We've been on the road for 22 hours. I ask about a hotel but the Babuska says something about her dorma(home). I don't care. We pull into a garage, unfold ourselves from the back seat, and into a nice but bare home. Shoes off and into the spare room. I pull out the sleeping bag hop on the rug and head towards oblivion. Just before I drop off I glimpse out the window. I see the Lada. It’s covered in mud.