Kyrgyzstan 2013

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Kyrgyzstan 2013

The initial reason that we chose to go to Kyrgyzstan this year was an invitation from one of the local groups that want to begin promoting the region as a flying destination and their lodge as a base. With the promise of having just under a month of provided backup, transfers and accommodation free we booked tickets and left Europe. They had mentioned that one of the projects had been cancelled (we could have lived with that, as we were still to get full support during the stay till and during the 2nd project). However once we arrived we discovered that the remaining bivouac project had been cut down from 10 days to 3 with the excuse that the weather was not good enough and you can manage on your own from here.. (if we had known this we would have cancelled our tickets and lived with losing the cash for them and would have stayed in Europe visiting family and friends for the summer), cancelling a Bivouac because of weather WTF thats what bivouac is all about you take the good with the bad. Just because your too lazy to walk up a hill and your car can’t take you to take off is no reason to cancel a bivouac trip, which by definition is all about WALKING, Camping and flying not DRIVING from hotel to hotel looking at hills from the bottom saying aww the car can’t make it up i guess were not going to fly today. 

What was to be a promotional visit to the guys of www.fly.kg we can not in all honesty recommend to other as they won’t deliver what you will end up begin overcharged for. During our stay with them at pretty much every step what had been promised was far from delivered and at every step we were more and more out of pocket. I won’t go through all the things that had been promised as the list would be long.

Don’t get me wrong, we will be going back to Kyrgyzstan at some stage as the area has amazing potential and space for exploration we simply won’t be making the same mistake of trusting the guys from www.fly.kg ever again.

So lets put the bad initial experience behind us, once separated from the above mentioned guys we discovered during this trip that there are other cheaper and more reliable options for those interested in a trip to KG wether it be for normal flying, bivouac, not to mention ski holidays in the back country during the winter months. 

Once we completed blowing off the bad juju from the earlier experiences we decided to hire a car and go out and explore the country, we drove in the areas between the two main lakes of the country which are Toktogul and Issyk Kul, here is some of what we saw along the way.

after sunset views
  
most of the places that you will fly are only accessible by hiking up so be prepared for some exercise, after the first couple of days walking most people start to have fun and even look forward to the morning walk (one of the charms of hike and fly, Bivouac flying). Walking alone in this part of the world you discover views to kill for, within this country you have 4 fairly distinct climate regions with completely different landscapes. From the rolling grass covered slopes around the Tian Shan to the dryer rocky take off’s covered in sharp boulders waiting to cut you or your gear up in the South, if you venture deeper into the mountains the options for valley landings begin to decline dramatically. Additionally most valleys don’t have any roads, most will however have a trekking path of sort running along the course of the river that the local horse/goat herders use.

Issyk kul:

 

a great place to relax in one of the highest “larger” lakes in the world, amazing views of the surrounding mountains both to the south and the north. A place that when your not flying you can go kite boarding or swimming (the water is pretty cool so you will be limited to the amount of time you want to spend in it), tourist activities are limited but if your not too bothered by having a day or two off due to weather then a nice place to spend the time walking around and relaxing.

Suusamyr Region:

a nice ridge line extending east-west with around 300kms of possible flying to be done, again very limited infrastructure if you choose to drive without a 4×4 your going to need a spinal surgeon to work his magic on you as the roads apart from the main highway are sub-par and not only the car will suffer from them. 

  
Takeoff is somewhere in the snow thats being blown over from the north.

Toktogul:
another lake region, this time the lake is slightly lower and warmer, you can actually stay in the water for more extended periods of time. Mainly a hike and fly region except for one takeoff where you can get to most of the way by “normal” vehicle. 
  

Bishkek:

This is the main flying region for both the locals and visiting pilots, as its the closest launch, north facing takeoff which starts working around 1030-1100 during summer, with the flats out the front feeding it warm air rolling from Kazakstan. You have a couple of possibilities here, you can fly south further into the bigger mountains, fly east towards issyk kul or west towards the Kazakhstan boarder, make sure that you have it marked on your device as an accidental landing on the other side of it may cost you some time in lockup and some interesting negotiations. 

looking back towards the ridge line that the takeoff “1000” belongs to.

evening view of Bishkek from one of our camp sites. 

some remnants of an era gone. 
On the good days you can expect turbulent, strong thermals developing from midday with chances of overdevelopment by mid afternoon, relatively high cloud base with some days going above 5000m along the Tian Shan, not to mention the even higher base to the south east of the country. 

almost zero infrastructure and a very low (where any) population in the back country. So you need to be very clear about one thing, you are on your own out there, even with a spot you might not get the assistance you require out here. (during our time in KG we heard of a kayaking trip (from memory) in Tajikistan where someone had pushed the SOS button and no one came so relatives had to hustle money and resources while being abroad to organise search and rescue themselves).

we got used to getting our days cut short by over development or high level clouds not to mention the gail force winds, non the less we will be back a little wiser as to what to do, where to go, who to trust and more importantly who not to. The country is amazing and i hope that we get to discover more of it one day.

 
typical takeoff just below the rockline above. 
a look over the back.
     
looking north to Kazakstan,
the main HW joining the north and south Tian Shan regions,
Walking: it takes time and you will probably do quite a bit of it during a trip here but don’t worry there are plenty of straight bits of road which make covering distance that much more monotonous. Now its normally hot with limited options for shade so you want to have at least some water with you if your planning to fly away from the “civilised” areas with a road, now if you stay around the road its pretty hard to starve or die of thirst as you will encounter traders in yurts selling local mainly dairy products.
  
Hitching a ride: unlike other countries the Kyrgyz have no concept of taking someone for free, pretty much every ride unless you find a “foreigner” (mainly Russian but you occasional encounter an overlander convoy of 4x4’s) it will cost you something, it won’t be an arm and a leg but your gonna have to pay and seeing that you don’t speak the language you’ll pay more. Roads are marked with signs in km’s from a centre point in the capitol city of Bishkek so if you have a base somewhere or a meeting point its good to know which km of the road your aiming for and a simple sign in Russian with your destination km is recommended. Very few people you meet away from Bishkek will speak english, but that won’t stop them trying to get along with you and the cool thing is, you never know what your gonna score a ride on. 
Mini busses: these run pretty regularly along most routes and you can get on one of them for a reasonable price, e.g. one of the 220km trips we paid the equivalent of 10usd per person. 

rent a car: we found a really good company with Russian owners based in Bishkek that had really nice cars in their fleet and very good prices, we were paying around 20eur per day for a honda odyssey. We wanted a vw sharan that they had for 15eur as its a soft 4×4 van but it was already rented out. Fuel is relatively cheap and doing around 1500kms we spent 170usd. (the link to the car rental company is autoprokat)

  

after around 1200kms the only problem we had with the car was a slow puncture which was a quick fix at one of the roadside repair workshops.

rent a driver with 4×4: you’ll pay around 50usd per day for a driver with their own car (some come with a mountaineering background, others are more than happy to drop you off, pick you up and go fishing in the meantime), we scored a really good one that spoke english and is a professional mountaineer/climber with knowledge of local weather, mountains and most importantly rescue procedures etc, additionally he was a great cook preparing awesome dinners for us every night, thanks Dima. If your interested in his contact number please send a private message. 

Big thanks go to Ivan from ASA Paragliders for providing me once again with an ASA EXO Prototype for this trip.    
                                               


2 Comments

Upcoming Posts | ParaKros

February 10, 2014 at 3:39 pm

[…] Kyrgyzstan,  […]

Rhys Fisher

October 7, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Great blog post Stan. Some very helpful remarks here, and the pictures are stunning. Keep up the inspring work!

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