BIKEPACKING KYRGYZSTAN
A Swiss girls' bikepacking adventure through Kyrgyzstan
bikepacking story
January 25, 2024
by Birgit Matt and Karen Fuerst
photography Birgit & Karen
Embarking on a bikepacking adventure through the enchanting landscapes of Kyrgyzstan was an experience that exceeded all our expectations. The friendly and helpful nature of the locals, breathtaking mountain passes, abundant water sources, and the most beautiful wild camping sites made our journey truly unforgettable. The gravel roads of Kyrgyzstan are a true gem for bikepackers. The ever-changing landscapes, from rolling hills to mountainous terrains, provided a diverse and thrilling riding experience. The route, inspired by Silk Road Mountain Race and bikepacking.com's Tian Shan Traverse (but in reverse), led us through the most beautiful gravel roads, each turn unveiling a new stunning vista. To do it in reverse was in our opinion the best decision we could have made, because it's a lot less exhausting as we learned from the riders we met who were doing it in the original direction.
The crown jewel of our journey was undoubtedly the awe-inspiring Pereval Kegety pass. Riding through this mountainous
wonderland was a real test of our endurance, but the panoramic views of snow-capped peaks and lush valleys made every pedal stroke worthwhile. The challenging ascent was rewarded with a thrilling descent, creating memories that will stay with us forever. We also fell in love with the captivating Karakol valley and the enchanting Arabel pass, adding another layer of magic to our Kyrgyzstan adventure. At Song Kul lake, we were treated to a 360-degree view and a beautiful panorama. The night skies were awe-inspiring, with stars so close that we could see the Milky Way in all its glory. We also experienced the stunning Kel Suu lake on horseback. This added a new dimension to our adventure, providing spectacular views and a connection with the natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan that goes beyond what we could experience on two wheels.
One of the highlights of our bikepacking journey through Kyrgyzstan was the warmth and hospitality of the people. From the bustling streets of Bishkek with its lively Osh bazaar to remote villages along the route, we were greeted with smiles
and open arms. Numerous times, locals invited us into their homes, offering not only delicious traditional food but also a cozy place to spend the night. The locals also helped organize taxis effortlessly, accommodating our bikes in every type of car. Kyrgyz people, resourceful and inventive, found solutions for every challenge we faced. These genuine interactions provided a deep insight into the rich culture and kindness of the Kyrgyz people we will always carry in our memories and
hearts.
Kyrgyzstan proved to be a wild camper's dream come true. Every evening, we found ourselves surrounded by impressive landscapes as we set up our tent in the midst of nature's grandeur. From serene alpine meadows to the shores of Issyk-Kul lake, each camping spot was more picturesque than the last, making every night under the stars a
romantic and unforgettable experience. One of the concerns when bikepacking is finding reliable water sources, but in Kyrgyzstan, this was never an issue also thanks to the support of Malik. Crystal-clear streams and rivers dotted our route,
providing a constant supply of fresh water. This not only eased the logistical aspects of our journey but also allowed us to appreciate the untouched beauty of the Kyrgyzstan wilderness. We had no issues with digestion, thanks to the brilliant, reliable and easy-to-use Katadyn Befree water filter. Nearly every small town boasted a quaint market called magazine. The food, though basic, offered staples like rice, buckwheat, cucumbers, tomatoes, and potatoes. Magazins also stocked soft drinks, chips, and other sweet, albeit unhealthy, treats. Outside of big towns we had to pay everything in cash. Credit cards are not accepted.
Riding through Kyrgyzstan presented its own set of challenges - the heat, dust, altitude, weight of the bike with luggage, varying road surfaces, and unpredictable weather. Despite these hardships, the stunning landscapes and rewarding experiences made it all worthwhile.
After riding our bikes for three weeks from Bishkek to Issyk-Kul lake, we rented a car for 10 days, driving from Bishkek to Osh and exploring the Pamir Highway near Tajikistan. The sight of 6000m mountains was truly impressive.
Our adventure through Kyrgyzstan provided us with invaluable lessons. Here are some of the key learnings from our bikepacking experience: A plan is just that – a plan. Our journey taught us once more that plans are meant to be adaptable. Embracing change and being open to spontaneity added an element of excitement to our adventure. We learned not to be rigid with our plans and to adjust them according to the ever-changing
circumstances on the road.
No matter how fit we were, the Kyrgyz mountains presented a unique challenge. It is crucial to recognize and adapt to the distinct demands of the terrain. Taking it easy in the initial days allows to acclimatize to the altitude, road and weather conditions. This adaptability ensures a more enjoyable journey.
Engaging with the local culture and people enriched our experience. The hospitality and warmth of the Kyrgyz people became a highlight of our journey. Learning about their customs, sharing stories, and appreciating their way of life added depth to our adventure. It is not just about the destination but the people you meet along the way.
Preconceptions about food availability were dispelled during our journey. While we initially worried
about food supplies, we discovered that every small town had its own market or 'magazin' where we could find essentials. Adjusting our expectations and trusting that sustenance would be available
allowed us to focus on the ride itself.
During the journey preparation, Malik emerged as a valuable resource. His detailed responses to our
numerous questions were instrumental. Meeting him in Bishkek for coffee provided a chance for a
pleasant chat, enhancing our understanding of the region.
This is the tale of our Kyrgyzstan bikepacking odyssey – an adventure filled with lessons,
unforgettable landscapes, and the warmth of the Kyrgyz people. Even now, several months post-trip,
our discussions frequently circle back to those remarkable days, each recounting filled with fondness,
shared enthusiasm and excitement for the unforgettable experience.
Follow us and our adventures on Instagram: @we_on_our_bikes
Agile Coach
The best views come
after the hardest climbs.
Birgit Matt
Karen Fuerst
Technical Writer
Biking is the answer.
Who cares what the
question is.
bikepacking kyrgyzstan 2023
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