Saturday, August 2, 2014

Day 20 and the long break

Day 20-23

I left my broom closet at sunrise, said my goodbyes and set off for the Kyrgyzstan border and Bishkek. The road started off urban but soon passed through farmland and eventually a mountain pass over relatively smooth mountains. The roads today were much better and my ass was much happier.

I arrived at the border around the middle of the day. The crossing actually went very smoothly with only one minor problem that I didn't really understand at the time but now realize was actually potentially catastrophic. The border control officers kept asking for a paper that I thought I had already given them. So after trying to argue a bit with them in Turkish and rushing around to the different offices I had visited for a while to try to find this mysterious paper the police at the border just gave up and let me through.

My plan was to stay in Bishkek and get my Uzbek and Azeri visas. I knew I could get the Uzbek visa in about 10 minutes but had planned for the Azeri visa to take a few days. So I found a good hostel and settled in for a nice relaxing break. I found the BEST hostel I have yet stated in. The owners are great and there is a garage and even a pool. I've met quite a few interesting people here, two in particular: The Dutch BMW rider and the American state department intern.

Anyway, the next day I toured the city and found the two embassies I needed. The Azeri embassy was closed until the 11th of August, so the plan has become to apply for that visa in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and if necessary pick it up at the consulate in Aktau. The Uzbek Embassy required an appointment. Later in the day, the Dutch BMW rider and I went in search of a good parts store rumored to be located in a market where all the stores were built of shipping containers. We eventually found it but by the time we arrived the parts store was closed. So that day I found everything, didn't get anything done, but was ready for tomorrow.

The next day, I got my visa and found the store. They had almost everything I needed. So I went back to the hostel to prepare my motorcycle for the second half of the trip: new tires, new chain, new oil etc. The BMW guy helped me out with this but soon we discovered that my rear bearing was nearly destroyed. So I wasn't leaving the next day.

That day I met the American State Dept. Intern. He was a great guy and it was nice to finally hang out with an American again and let my accent return a little. He was stationed in Astana Kazakhstan and when I told him about my border crossing he was shocked. Apparently, foreigners are supposed to register with the police somewhere once they enter the country and I had forgotten to do this. This has become a huge problem at the Embassy as many American tourists don't know about this rule. Once they finish their vacation and try to leave the country they are denied and forced either to pay 400USD or spend 10 days in jail. They form that the border police kept asking me for I in fact never had and could have been stuck in that terrible situation. Maybe it was my Turkish, or maybe they thought they had lost it, either way I was incredibly lucky.

The fourth day including my arrival to Kyrgyzstan (which is actually today! first time I'm actually caught up with this thing) I spent repairing my motorcycle. I took the rear wheel back to the shop to get new bearings. Luckily they had exactly the right size but when we tried to remove the broken one, we discovered that the outer rim of the bearing housing had fused itself to the inside of my wheel. The shop owner and I went from shop to shop in the motorcycle market where he was located to find a way to remove this little ring of metal eventually ending up about two hours later at a shop owned by a very Russian car mechanic. While I waited there, half a dozen other mechanics stopped by to try their hand at smashing the ring out of the wheel. Eventually, another hour later, after the blow torch, electric saw crow bar and various home made tools had failed, a couple of mechanics managed to knock it out with a bit of metal tube. We installed the new bearings and 3 hours and  4 dollars later I was on my way back to the hostel to install the new wheel. They all refused to take any extra money from me. I guess they liked the challenge.

So thats the end of the break. Tomorrow I'll set off to see the rest of Kyrgyzstan and then on to Uzbekistan.

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