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17 August 2018
We had an incredible experience in Kyrgyzstan. I think this is a very good product and we would go back. The highlights were, in chronological order: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is easy to get to from Europe - one connection via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, who have 2 flights per day IST-FRU. On the way back, we had a long layover and took advantage of the complimentary THY Touristanbul (bus to the Blue Mosque area, walking tour and dinner). Very nice. the pick-up and transfer from the airport are well executed - no stress. Don't use the airport ATMs - I lost a credit card to the ATM. Bring cash and convert 100 euros to Son, it will be more than enough. Some of the new Stark bikes were quite good with precise shifting and good hydraulic disk brakes. They have Suntour XCT front forks - bring your own bike if you want a suspension that is better able to handle the washboard road sections. Bring bar ends to give yourself more riding positions on the long road sections. the first night's lodging (Kurchak) is deluxe and beautiful- you can see it on booking.com the second night's lodging is culturally interesting (former Soviet family vacation resort) The ride up Chon Kemin Valley is beautiful Kochkor - the shyrdak demonstration followed by dinner in the yurt (we bought two small shyrdak rugs from a French Kyrgyz woman who runs the place) the top of Kyz-Art pass (the ride getting there was beset by overloaded coal trucks burning unrefined diesel fuel on a very bad road - not fun). I will remember this for the wrong reasons, but I will remember it! the ride to Chilbel Pass - fantastic and strenuous climb, the most satisfying ride of the trip the descent to Son-Kul Lake (the best descent of the trip - like downhilling on a golf course - free ride on a mountain bike - you can go anywhere on or off the track) lodging in a yurt at Son-Kul Lake, horsemanship demonstration, dinner in a yurt, coal stove in yurt, fresh bread in the morning, the Son-Kul Lake scenery - vast beyond comprehension. This was the best day of the trip. The place is magic. I hope it never sees a jetski. ride from Son-Kul Lake back to Kochkor with transfer (thank god for the transfer! 60KM on the highway would have been a deal breaker). The switchback downhill is unforgettable. ride from Kochkor to Kara-Tala - amazing scenery, vast open spaces, and an interesting descent after an easy climb. Lunch by the river with a few locals passing by on horseback was interesting. Yurt building and bread baking demonstration in Kara-Tala - the people of Kyrgyzstan are special and were so proud to share their culture with us. Eagle hunting demonstration in Bokonbaev, I got to hold and pet a 7 kg eagle! Wow! It's worth mentioning that the support team was good and warmed up to our group after a few days. Alex was our bike guide and a joy to be around. He is super positive, speaks great English (with the exception of "mostly downhill" being a Kyrgyz translation for "there is one more difficult climb"), and was always busy helping both the clients and the rest of his team. His personality deserves special mention and he is a very interesting person to talk to. I'd like to emphasize that the cultural aspect of the program was of at least equal merit to the riding and scenery. These elements were not part of my Morocco experience and they really add value to the trip - not only did I ride across Kyrgyzstan, I got to participate and experience it. All these demonstrations were very well done in an intimate setting. I was a bit nervous about going to central Asia (now that I know where it is and what countries are there), but from a security point of view, I felt safer and less exposed in Kyrgyzstan than in Morocco. Yes, it's a "poor" country by western standard, but it doesn't seem to have the crushing poverty that I saw in Morocco. People in general seemed cheerful, greeted us warmly and politely, and genuinely seemed pleased that we were in their country. The children were delightful, waving and saying "hello" as we road by. Drivers seemed to respect speed limits, crosswalks and pedestrians. The state of the roads encourage drivers to use everypart to avoid pot holes, so it wasn't uncommon for them to be driving on the wrong side of the road. That takes some getting used to. The meals and lodgings ranged from deluxe to satisfactory and were a nice upgrade compared to Morocco. The hostesses provided a very nice dinner and breakfast each day and the support team put together a satisfying lunch everyday and a nice morning coffee break. We had a hot shower or hot water wash-up available after every ride. I'd like to point out that there were a couple of rides that seemed to me designed to get from point A to B. I would have enjoyed at least one ride up to a place where you could get a closer view of the snow capped peaks.