Saturday, August 1: Orto-Tokoy Reservoir
6:45 I think I’m first up until I notice a small figure in the very still and I imagine very cold lake. It moves. It could be a deer. After a minute I determine by the cough that it’s Rodney. He’s a brave bloke.
7:10 My cook group prepares grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast. I’m in charge of buttering and grilling. The sandwiches are crispy and golden brown on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside, and absolutely perfect if I do say so myself.
8:45 We set out for Bishkek. Helen claims it will be a three hour drive, plus or minus a few hours. I think the “minus” part is highly unlikely.
11:40 We make it through the mountain pass without incident so it should be clear sailing from here. Driving along a two-lane road, through small towns and mostly scrub farmland, I’m reminded of the area near my old family cottage north of Beaverton, Ontario.
11:50 Elmira, our Kyrgyzstani guide, stands up on the truck and announces that we are about an hour away from her hometown, Bishkek. She has made a lunch reservation at Tyobeteika – a popular restaurant serving local and western food. We’re all loving the local food but most of us will admit to having the odd dream about pizza, steak, ice cream, bacon sandwiches, cheesecake, and assorted dishes that only moms can make.
13:00 We try the front door at Tyobeteika but it’s locked and from what we can see through a front window, the place is under construction. The concrete pad at the front door appears to have been poured within the last few hours. I base that conclusion on the squishy sound emanating from the wet and heavy Nike on my right foot.
13:03 We find a side entrance guarded by square-headed Russian enforcer wearing a very shiny suit. I’d guess the suit to be about a 36R. Vlad’s proper size would be closer to 52 Tall. He’s standing just inside the door, knuckles resting on the ground in a way that emphasizes the fact that he’s taller and wider than a standard door. At the bottom of the very long set of stairs we make a right turn and enter a double-height room that is obviously a nightclub. Tables and chairs are arranged on two levels overlooking the dance floor and dozens of speakers and amps are stacked on a large stage. A disco ball hangs overhead, waiting for the laser show that will probably be the main entertainment on a week-night. The floor is an intricate pattern of marble and polished limestone, the walls decorated with large framed panels of two-tone velvet wallpaper and a liberal application of stick-on “stone” tiles. The place has more linear feet of crown mouldings, chair rails, elaborate baseboards and plaster niches than your average Home Depot. It’s the kind of place Carmella Soprano might have had a hand in decorating. And speaking of the family Soprano, two middle-aged men are seated in a dark corner of the restaurant, talking quietly and occasionally looking over their shoulders in our direction. One looks a lot like Tony and the other could pass for Paulie Walnuts. I wouldn’t want to meet either in a dark alley (or a dark nightclub for that matter).
14:20 The bill arrives at the table. I pay 484 com or about $8 for my pastry shell with beef, mutton and vegetables, fresh bread, a large bottle of water and a small dessert.