“Crossing from Tajikistan was no problem at all”, remarked a fellow backpacker as he slung his ancient backpack on the rock-hard beds in Osh Guesthouse. “This is Kyrgyzstan. It’s nothing like the hassle we had getting into Uzbekistan”.
A helpful warning from this Antipodean. At least I wasn’t being turned back though. A few weeks ago the border was closed to all those heading west to Uzbekistan, and nobody had been able to give me a straight answer over the past two weeks as to whether I’d be able to make it or not. It seems ludicruous and all blamed on Kyrgyz muslim extremists. For those who have ever been to Kyrgyzstan, the whole concept seems ridiculous. Most Kyrgyz i had met were more than happy to chill around the yurt all day and too much organised religion simply made them nervous.
The cab drivers in the bazaar were convinced I’d be able to make it through however – of course – and all ‘actively encouraged’ me to sling my bag in the back of their Lada and whizz off to the border. Fine.
Except the first taxi driver was clearly on auto-pilot, and took me to the airport instead.
“Nyet, pal” I countered. “Now take me to the border right now, my man, and don’t think you’re getting any more som out of me than we’d already discussed” was what I would have said had my command of the local lingo been a little more than the first two words. Instead I went for the more direct “Uzbekistan! Granitsa! Davai!” which seemed to do the trick.
The Kyrgyz seemed genuinely sorry to see me go through the gates at Dostyk. “Send dollars!” the driver (half-) joked as I turned and perfected my Central Asian semi-bow with right hand on heart by means of a farewell. Continue reading