August 3: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
9:15 We leave the hotel in Bishkek and have a two hour drive to a national park in the Chong Kemin Valley where we will camp for one night. We have doubled the size of the group so the truck will be more crowded but possibly a lot more fun. Most of the new people are very upbeat. First impressions are very good. I like them a lot. Oh, did I mention that they brought us chocolate from Belgium?
11:30 Speaking of upbeat, we arrive at our campsite in the national park and find a roaring all-ages party in the adjoining campsite. Russian techno music is pumping through a massive stereo system but I It’s not an issue for me. I feel like I’m on the top deck of an Atlantis cruise!
11:50 We get the tents up in record time. Some people are planning a four hour hike to a waterfall. I elect to stay at the camp and listen to Diplo and Skrillex.
21:00 Well, that day flew by. I accomplished absolutely nothing. If I do say so myself, I’m getting pretty good at this.
August 4: Chong Kemin Valley, Kyrgyzstan
11:00 We return to Bishkek to submit applications for our Uzbekistan visas and to shop for groceries and liquid refreshments. It’s all about staying properly hydrated on a hot truck, folks.
11:15 Some people opt for cold salads from the supermarket. I have my eye on a double cheeseburger from a kiosk just outside the market while others have their hearts set on KFC.
Not that KFC, of course. In Bishkek it’s “King oF Chicken.” The intellectual property police have yet to swing through Kyrgyzstan.
11:34 The double cheeseburger comes to 120 com or about $2 CDN. It’s easily the best burger I’ve had since Australia. Okay, it’s the only burger I’ve had since Australia, but it’s pretty good nonetheless.
14:30 We are about 80km east of Bishkek and arrive at the Burana Tower, a 9th century minaret in the Chuy Valley. The tower and a large mound of earth are all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagan. We squeeze into a narrow opening at the base of the tower and climb the even narrower enclosed stairs to the top. The tower was originally about 45m tall but several earthquakes, the latest being in the 15th century, have reduced it to about 25m. I buy a pair of wolf teeth from a vendor in the nearby museum. Wolf teeth go for 100 com or $2.15 these days. They’ll go on the necklace that I’m planning to wear to Burning Man in 2016.
18:15 Everyone is back on the truck after a two-hour whitewater rafting excursion. I wasn’t really feeling it so I decided to stay close to the truck. I know that sounds bad but I just wasn’t up to being jostled around in whitewater for two full hours. Six hours of being jostled around in a hot truck will do that to you. The 15 people who did go rafting all came back very wet but with big smiles on their faces.