Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Return To Kashka Suu

Saturday found me with nothing pressing to do so, with a bike in the apartment, I decided to take a ride up to Kashka Suu. I’ve driven up there, walked from there and now decided to bike the 25 kilometres up to my Kyrgyz Shangrila. Now dear readers please don’t tell my mom that I was on a bike without a helmet riding along with cars whizzing by on a country road in northern Kyrgyzstan. Oh shoot! I forgot—she reads my blog. Oh well mom there it is!!
Anyway, on a bike that was technically too small for me and with one pedal semi broken, I gradually made my way up the road. The ride goes slow because heading up into the mountains, one must take into account the gain in elevation, and as we say on Mt. Kilimanjaro “Pole, Pole”—go slow. So up the first hill I went, the steepest part of the road, through the village where I’ve stopped to buy black currants and other fresh fruit from local gardens many times. I stopped for some water at the top and met Andrei and Sasha, two guys also biking their way up to Ala-Archa, the national park. We pedaled together for awhile but I left them by the ostrich farm and headed my way up the hill. The road wasn’t that busy and the cars that were on it knew how to deal with bikers so it wasn’t a huge risk.
Slowly, slowly up the road I went, stopping for water in Baitik, the village with the mosque we’d visit with the Afghans, having a bite of lunch at a store in Kashka Suu, the village from whence the name of the ski resort comes from. One thing I didn’t take into account was the hardness of the seat so by the time I pulled off the asphalt road, my ass was I pain. Bumping along an unpaved 6 kilometre road with a sore butt is not my idea of fun, so I took breaks from pedaling by walking the bike. I stopped at my little green house, that stands to welcome me at the beginning of the dirt road. I love this little house and spent some time resting my weary bones and butt in the shade of the walnut tree in front. The gate was closed in a rudimentary way—tied with twine, which was easily untied. After all these years of looking at it from the inside of a car, I finally went up to the little green house and looked inside to see what it looked like. A very small place—one big room, a small tiled front room and a teeny kitchen with a wood burning stove. Weeds surround the place but I could see the potential of making this a cute little country home. Apparently, it could be bought for under $5,000 rather tempting I must say.
As I got to the big turn in the road where the chebany (local farmers) live, the sky turned dark, thunder rumbled in the mountains, a cold wind blew and it began to rain. I could see Kashka Suu waiting for me up there on the hill but at that point I couldn’t imagine getting up there. Part of me wanted to turn around and head back to town, but after 5 hrs on the road I wasn’t going to give up. Luckily, at the fork in the road, a white minivan stood. I asked the driver if he was going to Kashka Suu and he said he was. He wasn’t quite sure how to get there and I said I’d show him the way if he gave me a ride up the hill. And so, within 15 minutes I had arrived at Kashka Suu just in time for a delicious lunch of soup and meant and potatoes.
My initial plan was to spend a few hours at Kashka Suu and then head back to town in the evening. But once Tom Toomey arrives at Kashka Suu, he can’t leave that easily. After lunch I had a much needed nap. I was wakened from my nap by the sound of the chair lift starting up. Sergei yelled for me to come take a ride, so up the mountain I went. Then I went to see the girls in the kitchen. It was someone’s son’s birthday (and Chynara’s too) so after the third shot of vodka, I decided to stay the night. Plus there was a group of gay boys coming up for a weekend seminar so there was more impetus to stay. We ate, we drank, we laughed as per usual around the big metal table in the kitchen. The gay boys were late so we had extra time. Tamara pulled out a big cucumber and the laughs ensued. After awhile, I wasn’t feeling too well. I think it was too much too soon-itis. The biking in altitude plus good food and bad vodka was a bit too much for me. After the kitchen party, I had to dine with Lyubov Ivanovna and Viktor Yakovlich, the heads of Kashka Suu. More of a diplomatic dinner really, to tell them why we didn’t come to Kashka Suu this year (visas, timing, etc.) and not because we didn’t like them. Still I had to eat plov and drink more bad vodka (I sipped it symbolically) when I’d rather be out talking with the gay boys. They were a nice lot, a little too femmy for me but nice guys all the same. By 9:30 I was free of all my eating and drinking duties and headed to my cabin. I threw up all that food and vodka and hit the sack feeling a little better.
In the morning, I was still a bit woozy. Food was the last thing on my mind and the idea of sitting on a bike and riding back to Bishkek was second to last. Still after a few cups of tea and two of Tamara’s boorsuki (fried dough balls), I was ready to go. 5 hours up and 1.5 hours down—what a difference. Along the way I ran into other bikers, waving a hello to them. I don’t think I pedaled more than 5 times as I sped back down the hill to Bishkek. Man was I glad to get off that hard seat and have a nice long shower. Casanova and Tulip snuggled with me as I napped, our last snuggle together. A quick trip to Rassvet, the place where I get my haircut every summer, and Cale (my assistant), Aida (his wife) and I were off to the airport to catch our flight to Dushanbe. No goodbyes in Kyrgyzstan, just til we meet agains.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gosh! I want to buy that green house. I know nothing except Kashka Suu photos, but it's so picturesque.

How about if I bring some Tito's? Can I come visit you, Mr. Toomey?

Thanks for the wonderful picture-words. And the artsy photos accompanying them.

San Antonio Rose