The Stans become The Stan

Day 21 – 20th August – Sary-Tash to Osh (179km)

The morning did bring an answer, indeed.

I had slept rather well, but when the time came to get up and start packing, my foot hurt more than the day before. Not only that, it was visibly swollen.

Even so, I managed to pack everything, dress up and put the boots on. It felt better inside the boot, although putting it on had been very painful, but no matter how better it felt with the boots on, it was too much of a risk to ride into the Pamirs – the road would only deteriorate, I could barely hop on and off the bike and I had hundreds of kilometres of emptiness before reaching a town by the end of the day. And the closest hospital in that direction was not in that town, but three days away.

Since Osh was only a three-hour ride away, I decided that the sensible thing to do was to go back there and have my foot checked. If all I needed was a few days rest, I still had time to recover and then head into the Pamirs.

So almost 200km and some mountain passes later, I was back in the same X-ray room I had visited a week before.

They took two X-rays of my foot and half an hour later, sitting in a chair in a room next door, I listened to a doctor speak Russian very fast and point at a developed X-ray that showed that my foot was broken in three different places. The only thing I understood was ‘traumatologist’, so that’s where we went next.

They gave me no cane, no crutches and no wheelchair, so I had to hop my way with Marc’s help through an underground corridor to an adjacent building and find the traumatology wing, which looked even more depressing than the one I came from.

They put me on a stretcher in a tiny room, and by the look of the place I had my doubts whether I was going to be treated or interrogated and sent to a goulag in Siberia. Next, a very slow exchange started using Google translate. The guy who was seeing me said that, because of one of the three fractures, the foot needed an operation. I tried to make him understand that if I had to be operated, I wanted that to be back home, not there, but he seemed reluctant to let me go in that state. After a lot of frustrating exchanges on the mobile, he seemed to conclude that if I agreed to be released as I was, he would immobilise my foot so I could travel on condition that I had it seen by a doctor back home as soon as possible. Then, to my surprise, he said that they had run out of plaster to make a cast and that he had to go get some more to the pharmacy and I would have to pay for it. I ended up paying 30€ for the cast, most of which I suspect went directly into the pocket of the ‘traumatologist’.

After that, they finally had the decency to put me into a wheelchair and push me to the front of the building, where Marc was waiting for me with the smallest taxi in the city, a Nissan kei car recycled from Japan. Once I got to the hotel, however, I was back to hopping around on one leg, as I had no other means of support.

I had an old walking pole attached to the luggage rack on my motorbike that I had intended to use as a telescopic mounting for a GoPro and had turned out to be a failure, as it vibrated too much. Luckily, I had not thrown it away, so I took it off the bike and used it to prop myself.

Next step was to arrange transportation home as soon as possible, so I got on the phone to my travel insurers, who told me to make travel arrangements myself and then claim expenses. After contacting Turkish Airlines and finding out that the cost of changing my flight back home far outweighed the cost of buying a new flight, I found a flight from Bishkek to Barcelona with Ural Airlines that left the following night, giving me 24 hours to get to Bishkek. There are flights from Osh to Bishkek, but they were all booked for the following days, so I had no other option than book a private taxi for the following morning to drive me all the way to Bishkek.

Finally, the only thing left to do was to arrange transport of the motorbike to Bishkek also, where it would be stored at the hotel where we had started our journey until the guys from ADVFactory shipped it back home in September. Muztoo were very helpful and provided a truck that would pick it up the following day at midday.

Having done all this, I crashed in my bed to try and recover some energy for the long trip home. That was that. End of the holidays. I had seen most of what we had planned to see in Kyrgyzstan, but that was the only -stan I had ridden. No Tajikistan, no Uzbekistan and, most frustratingly, no Pamir Highway.

Ex-soviet healthcare

Day 14 – 13th August – Osh (0km)

Two days after the accident, I finally got to see a doctor. I was lucky enough to have a health center right across the street from hostel, so that was teh first place I went to.

As expected, nobody spoke any English, but they pointed me to the door of a doctor’s office who invited me in without any queues or appointment. With a combination of gestures and Google Translate I explained what happened, and he made me take off my shirt and examined my back.

He then pointed at an X-ray he had on his table, and I understood that he wanted me to get one. The nurse was kind enough to write down the name and address of the main city hospital in a piece of paper, as well as the word for ‘X-ray’, and I got a taxi to take me there.

The hospital was a sprawling comlex with several buildings, but thanks to the piece of paper I had I now knew how to say X-ray in Russian, so it did not take long to find the right place. The entrance was a ramp that led one floor underground and from there and through corridors and stairways that looked more appropriate to missile launching facility in the middle of Siberia than a hospital, I found the X-ray section.

I did my mimics routine again and they immediately made me go in and took an X-ray of my left shoulder, which apparently revealed that nothing was broken or cracked. They gave me the X-ray and a medical report written in Russian and told me ‘kacca’ which is like ‘checkout’ or ‘till’, so I understood that’s where I had to pay.

I found the place on the first floor, showed them the X-ray and report and tried to make them understand that I wanted to pay for that. They seemed to discuss the situation for a while and then told me to just go without charging anything for it, so great service! If I had had the accident in the US they would have charged me 20,000$ or not even admitted me into hospital because language teachers are lowlives who don’t make enough money to pay for treatment.

Back at the clinic, the doctor was happy with the X-ray and the report, and through Google Translate again told me that I did not need to immobilise the arm or anything, he just prescribed some antiinflamatory pills and two injections in the butt, the old-fashioned way, and some rest. I had at least four more days until Marc got here, so that was perfect. There was a pharmacy right there in the clinic, the nurse helped me buy what I needed and then another nurse gave me the first injection. I was told to go back tomorrow for the second one. They would have just let me go like that, but I insisted on whether I had to pay something to the doctor, and in the end they charged me 200 soms, which is about two and half euros. By the way, that was the same amount the taxi to the hospital and back cost.

I spent the rest of the afternoon resting in my room and at night I went out to a very nice restaurant near the hostel and treated myself to a huge pizza to celebrate.