Go north, young man

This was how the conversation was going with Alex, a Hungarian I met in Bukhara. And so I am going north, via Kazakhstan to China, rather than via Tajikistan. I will miss out Kashgar, but I will see Urumqi.

“I’m 56 years old. I’m no longer scared of anything. I’ve seen enough. Death? No, I’m not scared of that. War, murder, hate, I’ve seen enough of it all. I look into your eyes and I don’t think you’re scared of anything either”

Now this is somewhat disturbing to me. It could be that I’m well on my way to developing the Thousand Yard Stare. If I can find an Internet Cafe that will let me upload some photos, I’ll try and upload the picture I took when I came out of the desert in Turkmenistan, after covering far too much distance without a break.

But different people seem to see different things in my eyes, or so they tell me. I’ve had people say they know I will make it home OK, they “can see it in my eyes.” I’ve also had women describe them as “magnetic.” Hmmm, all a bit much.

But enough of that, for Alex was a very interesting man. We had a long, wide-ranging geopolitical discussion, covering many topics. He currently lives in Almaty, and he strongly recommended that I visit Almaty (“Go north, young man”). I had been thinking for a while that I didn’t feel like going through Tajikistan, and I had recently met three other cyclists all going via Almaty. So I decided, why not? One of the nice things about what I’m doing is being able to change my plans, to take a 1,000km detour if I feel like it.

So I’m going to spend quite a bit more time in Kyrgyzstan, making my way from Osh to Bishkek, and then looping around Issyk-Kul. Hopefully the bit higher elevation will lower the temperatures a little, and from what I’ve seen, it should be all grass-covered valleys, washing in melted-glacier streams, and sleeping in felt yurts with nomad families. Or something like that. I hear there’s also some good bars in Bishkek too…

When I loop back to Bishkek, I’ll go up to Almaty, and then across to Korgas on the Chinese border. North of the Tien Shan range, and along to Urumqi, before coming south a little to rejoin my original planned route east. Of course, things could always change again, but probably not too much for the next month – visas are a pain.