South of Barskoon, Kyrgizstan - Part One Week 126 August 31st 2013
Between Tong and Barskoon, on the south side of the lake, is a stretch of pink granitiy sand.

Numerous stopping and camping spots.

The mountains on the other side are just visible.

To add to the seaside atmosphere are the inflatable swimming aids. 
The ground is dry beside the lake. Any surface water has disappeared into the sand.

So we get arid zone plants.

Barskoon was a military staging post.

When the Russians and Chinese played with borders.

We headed south from Barskoon.

There's a long loop which gets to Karakol.

This first stretch is the road to the Kumtor Mine.

Superbly maintained gravel road.

The trucks move in convoys of a half dozen or so.

They stop for a break every so often.

In the valley bottom the road is watered. We counted about 5 water tankers.

Further up the dust takes over.

There's another convoy in front of us.

The truck in the foreground broke.

Carrying six tyres for big ore caryying dump trucks

One of two we saw broken.

Its a long steep hill with more than 30 hairpins.

A bit of second gear for us.

The convoy in front of us stopped for a rest.

Before a long level stretch.

And then we made a minor mistake.

The road to the mine veers left. Its not marked on the map.

We should have gone straight on.

But not to worry.

We drove quite a way up the creek bed for lunch.

And admired the glacier on the other side of the valley.
We'd intended to stop for the day. About a km across the gravel creek bed from the road. But just before we stopped a red engine warning light came on.

Not a clue what the red "side on engine" icon meant. I need an operating manual not the maintenance manual I have!

An oil change has been on the agenda for a while. Checked oil with dipstick (instead of dashboard switch). Ok. And there's a separate oil pressure warning light that's off. 

Engine temperature has been ok and no water loss. Alternator volts ok. Air filter seems ok after shedding a bit of dust.

Air filter a bit dusty but a quick clean anyway.

Engine starts ok but red light still on.

Thought it might be altitude, 3768m, so headed for lower ground. I didn't want to get up next morning and be unable to start.

After a we wus here photo.

For some reason I thought to switch fuel tanks. There's not much left after air, oil, temperature and electrics.

The light went out after about 30 seconds..

Very confusing. Fuel starvation usually means the engine stops, but never a red light. And there's still a couple of hundred km in the low tank.

After a while switched back to the bad tank. No light (yet). But we need to know what it meant.

This is as close as we got to the Kumtor Mine. Gold. Its big. The ore must be processed near the mine. We haven't seen any gold shipments. 

We think two "pits". This is the second one.

Around 4,000m.

Gold explains the bit of security at the base of the pass - passports and vehicle duly inspected and recorded. No we don't have guns!

Also explained the liquid chemical in one of the supply convoys - probably sodium cyanide. 

Yup, they had an accident in 1998 when a truck carrying 17mt of same fell into the river. 

Its majority Canadian owned though Kirgyz government have taken an increased interest. Between 1997 and 2006 it produced 180 tonnes of gold.

So we left our nice gravel road for a track and headed south.

We'd seen a German motorhome earlier. We met them returning.

We were one step ahead, they didn't realise they'd made the same navigation error we did. We are on a track marked 20 km east of the one w'd planned on. Showed them the gps mark on Oziexplorer. 

It doesn't really matter. Being "lost" is partly a state of mind. Its all beautiful.

They are on their way home after a circuit through Russia, Mongolia and China.

The glacier looked interesting.

There was a bridge, and the track we wanted went that way.

It took ages before it seemed to get closer. We have little concept of distance at this altitude and clear air.

And we are getting tired - after a 5am phone call with daughter!

This is yet another glacier we can see.

We had turned east, and eventually expect to travel south. The straight ahead track followed this valley south west, on the right of the river.

We've seen only isolated evidence of grazing.

Another junction and we followed the dead end track that headed further east towards the glacier.

Taken from the window of the truck after we stopped for the night.

Terminal moraine in front of us. Obvious from the lateral moraine the glacier has receded a lot in recent times.

No, not photoshopped.

We've pinched ourselves and we really are here. Magic.

On a technical note, we are camped at 3,720m.

Our high camps in Mongolia, for comparison, were around 2,300m.

Apart from a nice place to be this is a good test and a bit of aclimatisation. Lhasa in Tibet is 3,595m.

This is the highest Ali has been. I've been tramping above 5,000m on two occasions many years ago. Once to 5,900m for a few hours. The top of the thermos flask froze.

So far we are simply out of breath and a bit muzzy headed at altitude. Headaches to be expected a bit higher. The cooker struggles a bit to start but works.

But aren't we the lucky ones!

As the sun sets slowly in the west (behind us!).

We suffered a bout of nostalgia! Reminiscent of NZ tramping and looking down on the Dart Glacier. About 30 years ago!

South of Barskoon, Kyrgizstan - Part Two Week 127 September 1st 2013

Sorry, comments closed.