We fly back to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where our bikes and everything needed for nomadic life are waiting for us. We arrive at six in the morning. The flight goes smoothly, I was even a little less scared than usual.
The sensation left is weird, we do not perceive anything of the kilometers traveled, the different landscapes, the people changing.
Flying to the place a few months before you have reached overland, crossing slowly all the nuances of the landscape, the faces and costumes, undoubtedly gives a shock, enlighten on the schizoid nature of the flight, a sort of teleport that breaks down the cells of the universe and reconfigures them without continuity.
However, we are happy to be back and to finally set off again. We’re already a month late on our schedule. And yet we are not entirely convinced of the path we want to do. Or rather, we are not convinced about going to Mongolia with our bikes, which are not just ideal for off-road routes… we’ll see.
What is sure is that we returned to Bishkek without a Chinese visa we could easily have done in Italy, and instead we waited because we were promised a longer visa by our “video production”, a promise that didn’t realize.
Chinese visa in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Returning to the present, in Kyrgyzstan are 6 am, we take a taxi for $10 that takes us to our dear AThouse, the guesthouse for bicycle tourists where we left all our gear.
We pitch the tent, sleep a few hours, and then we’ll go from the legendary Miss Liu, once famous (at least up to a month ago) for its skills to provide a Chinese visa in three days for $100.
We reach the office, she is really an absurd chick, does 100 things at once and seems quite messy, but she’s Chinese so she knows what she says, and what she says is that now to get a visa to China without flight reservations is virtually impossible.
Let’s try another agency, in Manas Street but even there we are told the same thing.
Chinese restaurant in Bishkek
Quite dejected we stop to eat at a Chinese restaurant. Here they are not like in Europe, they have a lot of stuff but not the spring rolls. I take tofu with peanuts and Daniele ravioli stuffed with meat, but the portions are intractable.
I think I have at least a kilo of tofu and two or three hundred grams of peanuts, I can’t get even halfway, Daniele does a bit better but still… We do wrap everything and take away. The waitress asked “container?” Yes, it would take just that.
And for this evening we have dinner.
Chinese visa in Kazakhstan Almaty
When we get home we find the number of an agency of Almaty, in Kazakhstan, left by another Swiss cyclist before us.
We call, we speak with this Serik guy, and every question is answered with a “no problem”. It takes 3 days to get us an invitation letter and 7 for the visa. It seems that getting a visa from Kazakhstan is a “no problem”.
Now we just have to fix the mess with the bike and then finally we could go. The bikes are in the garage, covered by a blanket of dust, so as our bags. So we begin to put the stuff together.
Unfortunately, bad surprises are lurking and affect both our hub gears, so as our carelessness. During maintenance of the hubs the previous autumn, something went wrong. Both (the Shimano Nexus 8 of Elena and my Sachs 3×7) lack some micro-component, which must be gone astray…
We look for them everywhere but to no avail, so instead of re-assemble we have to re-invent. Fortunately Nathan has a rear 28″ back wheel perfect for Elena’s bike (Mavic rim, Shimano Deore XT hub, $110) and between the parts abandoned by other cyclists there’s a rear derailleur (Shimano Alivio) in decent condition.
So we buy the cheapest Shimano front derailleur, Shifters and cassette, find a three-speed crank in the leftovers and with a bit of inventive play the job is done. Elena is well pleased to have more gears.
With the President the question is more complex, is not a standard 26″ wheel, since the bike is 80 years old (is a 26 1 3/8). Unable to find the right size I adapt to keep the Sachs hub like a dead weight, moreover, the hub itself is geared on the heavy one, so all my gears are longer. Not bad, good legs training for the next Tour de France.
I use a crank and another Alivio rear derailleur from the waste (who knows why they have abandoned them), buy a SRAM front derailleur and levers and madness reaches its climax when, for two days, I can not adjust the gearing. Finally discovering, in my great ignorance, the incompatibility between levers and derailleurs from different brands…
Bicycle mechanics/bike shops in Bishkek
If you need a useful address in Bishkek to fix the bike / find spare parts:
Velopro tel. +996 555 835310 or 555 991137 +9.96 Bishkek, 158 Moskovskaya str. www.velopro.net firstname.lastname@example.org
They also work in mechanics. We do not know much but to make a wheel they ask 10 euro, plus of course the cost of rim and spokes.
Bicycle touring fellaz at AThouse
Meanwhile, the first guests begin to arrive: a couple of French heading to Mongolia, they also have a ukulele and are very funny, he (Pier) wants to change his butterfly handlebar, so, in the ecstasy of an amateur mechanic, I decided to try on the President, who becomes a Frankenstein, but gains a lot in comfort.
Then there are the Swiss around the world since four years, but without bikes, and, finally, to Daniele and Simona, of BeCycling, with whom we were in contact on the internet without ever meeting in person… so finally here we are, a small world of Italian touring cyclist.
We spent some nice days here, chatting about bicycle adventures. But now it is time to hit the road again, off to Almaty, where we should hopefully get our Chinese visa.
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