The other side of the Tossor pass

Day 10 – 9th August – Naryn to Tossor pass junction on the Bolgart river to Naryn (200km)

When I got on the bike today I was not really looking forward to the ride today – the track on the GPS indicated about 90 kilometres to the point where the dirt track leading to Tossor pass started. If the road was the same as the one we had taken to Naryn on the valley, we were looking at a round trip of almost 200 kilometres on a boring road, under a scorching sun, just to get to see a junction and say ‘this is where we would have come out if we had done the Tossor pass from Issyk-kul.’

So when, barely 15 kilometres out of Naryn, the tarmac disappeared, and the road became dusty gravel, my mood did not improve – I was not looking forward to eating dust again.

But improvised plans often turn out to be the best, and soon after the road turned north and entered a narrow gorge with the Smaller Naryn River waters raging at its bottom.

From there on, my mood changed completely – the views were incredible, the road challenging enough to be interesting without being too difficult or dangerous, and the landscape changed from alpine ravine to andine plateau to high central asian pass.

This is a bulldozer that we found on the way up. It looked abandoned but it wasn’t – it bears witness to how hard it is to travel around in this country. Everywhere in our route we could see signs that there were constant rock slides that blocked the road, sudden rises in the amount of water coming down the mountains through the ravines that washed away the road. When that happens, someone must put fuel in this lump of metal, start it up and clear the road.

Absorbed as we were in so much wild beauty, before we realised we reached the turning to the Tossor pass route.

We could have tried and ridden it a bit, but it was already two o’clock and we had agreed that was the time to turn around. On top of that, some dark clouds were gathering and we could hear thunder, so we decided it was time to go – the route back was long and there some places in the gorges were rocks could easily fall onto the road in case of bad weather. No matter how beautiful this place is, it should be treated with caution.

It is still hard to adjust our brains to the vast distances here – by the time we were back in Naryn we had done 200 kilometres, 180 of which off road, which might be the longest I have ridden offroad so far.

At the CBT office, where we went to collect our permits for the border area, we met Katja, the German girl we had seen juste before going up to Song-kul lake who had told us that Tossor pass was too difficult. She was alone, having gone separate ways from her friend (boyfriend, riding buddy…? we don’t know) who she was meeting in Osh again in a few days and she also wanted to do the offroad route to Torugart pass, but she had to do it the following day, as she was on a bit of tight schedule to get her bike to a mechanic in Osh for a service. We wanted to do the short ride up to Tash Rabat tomorrow and then rest there for the rest of the day before doing the offroad route back to Naryn, as we did not know how hard it would be, but she did not want to do the route alone and tried to convince us to do the offroad route on the way up and go straight to Torugart pass and then to Tash Rabat to camp or get a yurt there.

In the end, we agreed to go up with her on the had route and postpone the hiking one day, as it did not make that much of a difference to our plans, so tomorrow we meet at 9am in the CBT office to head into the unknown!

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