At last...the riding starts.
Filled my hydration pack and bought a few snacks for the day and set off about 10:00. The plan for the day was to ride to a small town called Shonzhy (on my map though the sat nav has it as a different spelling) via the Turgen gorge, Assy plateau and Charyn Canyon.
It wasn´t too difficult getting out of Almaty from the hotel and I was on tarmac all the way, through Issyk and into the Gorge. As I entered the gorge itself, there was an army (wearing combats) checkpoint to charge me 461 Tenge (361 + 80) for the privilege. That's about €2 and a bit.
The tarmac continued for a few kms through the steep sided valley, along a river most of the way. The tarmac stopped at a turning place and a rough track continued on and began to rise sharply climbing to the plateau. My first minor off of the day was on this section....no real problem and was very low speed.
I took a slight detour at the top to visit the Assy Observatory sited at around 2600 meters. See below.
The place was completely deserted. It actually looked as it did in many other pictures I had seen on Paramio so I am wondering if it was actually an abandoned project?
This is looking the other way, across the plateau in the direction I was intending to travel.
After descending a couple hundred meters again, the track continued across some grass land and alternated between good and bad sections. I passed a few 4x4´s and a truck driven by Kazakhs coming in the other direction. There were numerous Kazakh camps (summer?) tending to grazing cattle.
I rode through a few minor water crossings, but eventually came to the point that I had to cross a wide river, though split into several streams for the most part. One section, however, looked a little fast so I walked the bike across with the engine running and in gear. Half way across, in the deepest part, I lost footing and the bike went over on its right side (exhaust on the left). Much of the airbox was covered in water but the engine kept running, with me desperately trying to reach the kill switch under water. I managed it eventually....must have been lying there for 10 seconds though and not before before burning myself on the exhaust.
Photo is 2 days later
Anyway, got the bike up....took a breather and while changing sides to start pushing it out, dropped it again, this time with me sitting down in the river too.
So, got it up for a second time, finally managed to change sides and then took some time pushing it over some largish stones and out onto dry land.
btw, I was being watched by 3 Kazakhs on a hillside not far away while this was going on, none moved to help.
btbtw, I can vouch for the Wolfman panniers keeping water out.....all remained dry including the one that was completely submerged.
The bike started
No photos unfortunately....was rather busy at the time and I forgot. Eventually got going again, this time to a much tougher track.
The picture below shows the bike on what must be a 30-35 degree uphill section. I came off 5 times trying to get up this part. If I had a heavier bike, I simply would not have made it. The picture does not really do it justice and the bike is in gear, the only thing keeping it there.
Not too long after this section, there was my first glimpse of the reservoir that marked the end of this section of the trail.
Still need to be very careful as the track was washed out in many places with deep and wide holes. The next photo doesn´t really do the hole justice.....would have been a new front end if I´d gone into that at any speed.
The down hill starts in ernest...though there were still plenty of surprises in store.....
Finally arrived at the bridge over the river out of the reservoir at 18:30, must later than I had hoped.
The track from here was gravel and sand, reasonably quick, for about 4 kms back to a tarmac b road leading to the main road to the Charyn Canyon turn.
I had to make a decision. Did I go to the Canyon today and camp or try and find some lodgings? Opting for the former, I set off on the 50 ish kms to the canyon turn off then a further 10kms to the canyon itself. The sun was getting ready to set by this time.
Then disaster....... just as I was riding along the track to the canyon, my hydration pack went dry. Hoping that there was someone still there, I continued on. Nope, completely deserted. I had no choice, I snapped a few quick photos and continued along the track towards Shonzhy in the north.
The sun had set and I had about 20kms to do in what remained of the light. Giving it some gas, I had a crazy and dangerous ride in fading light hoping to get to tarmac before the light went completely. Made it, but only just.
Arrived in Shonzhy about 22:00, parched. Got to the first store and downed a bottle of water and only then realised I had not needed the bathroom all day......hmmm, this was not good!
Eventually found a small hotel.....I use the term very loosly. A group of young kazak truckers were also there, piled in 6 to a room. I got my own room with a matress that put steel to shame for hardness. The owner, and the trckers, were good, one had a few words of english.
The owner and I managed to get my bike inside as it was the only secure place that it could go.
A few minor repairs were necessary, like putting my hand guards back into position following the off´s. This is my remodeled brake lever....still functioning as it should so not touched.
Finally got to bed after treating my burns from earlier in the day. During night woke up with severe pain/cramp in my left leg. Got up to walk it off and went very light headed. Sat on the floor and next thing I remember is waking up flat out. Pain had subsided. Thinking it was dehydration still, I drank plenty more water and went back to sleep. Felt fine in the morning....except every part of my body hurting and totally stiff. It appears I had over done it.
to be continued......