Away from the hotzone called Osh

I dreamt my room mate was playing a war game on his computer. Why would he do that in the middle of the night? I woke up and the sound of gunfire remained. It dawned to me the shooting was actually happening outside. Did war break out?

Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan and is located in the very south of the country on the border of Uzbekistan. Half the population is Uzbek and generally this group run the more successful businesses. The guesthouse were staying in is Uzbek owned. There are different theories about the cause of the violence. In Kygyzstan it is believed it was arranged by the dismissed president Bakijev. Others think the outbreak of violence is caused by the class differences between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Unofficial reports claim more than 2000 people have been killed in the clashes. Half a million people fled the country and are cut off from water and food.

The gunfire kept on going, helicopters flying low over the city and we could see plums of smoke very close from where we stayed. There was even shooting in the street. How on earth are we getting out of here? Luckily myself and a few cyclists had enough food and camping equipment to ensure food for a number of days.

Meanwhile one of our fellow travelers Mike, an American who is married to a Kyrgyz woman, started an evacuation plan. Lot's of calls but no clarity yet. The next morning suddenly a car was arranged and we had to pack quickly and go. In front of our car was another car to escort us out of town. What we saw was worse than we imagined it would be. Many businesses were burned down, cars as well. Groups of young men with guns and improvised spears dominated the street. A dead body. It only took 10 minutes to get us out of town but they were long. There were still some hurdles to take but we got out of the warzone and were on our way to Bishkek where things still remain stable (tomorrow 26 June the referendum will be held).

Return Jiptik Pass

After having to change the itinerary of the Pamir Alay trek (due to snow expectations and insufficient border permit) I took off with 35kg on the back. Following the course of Ak Bar Suu the green rolling hills suddenly change in jagged, snowcapped mountains. The river is big this time of the year and brown coloured due to all the soil that's being disposed. The map showed a number of side rivers, but dispite the large amounts of rainfall no side river to be found. I struggled with the weight of the backpack, and water was running out. Just before dusk I found a place to stay with a Kyrgyz farmer and his daughter. The legs, shoulders and hips hurt...

The next stage was going up gradually. I passed villages that result inevitabily in invitations for tea. People are very generous and hospitable. The last bit of dirt track goes up steeply and finally I walk into the wide valley of Kojo Kelen. The first inquiry about places to stay was a lucky shot: the lady is the English teacher of the village and invites me to stay. The family is clearly rich: lot's of land, big house for themselves and many beautiful blankets. The meal later that night (a rice meal called plov) was excellent. Her husband teaches me to pray muslim prayers. May come in handy some time...

Day 3 was going to be a tough one. The plan was to camp at 3200 metres which means an altitude gain of 1100 metres. After Kojo Kelen the track narrows and not long after there's no habitation anymore. Alpine marmots announce my visit, yaks are lazing around on the jailoos (summer pastures) and the 4000m peaks become clearly visible. Man, there's a lot of snow on the summits. I climb up to 3200m and pitch the tent. Finally I get to sleep in my nice little crappy Chinese tent. And then it started raining, pooring I should say. Is the tent going to hold or not? The rain remains for a good 12 hours and the inside of the tent is completely dry. Sweet! I spent my time talking to myself until I fall asleep.

The next morning is dry. Without a pack I'm walking up the path to have a look at the pass. Last night tons of snow were dumped on the higher bits of the surrounding mountains. The path up the pass is invisible. It would probably mean a lot of ploughing through deep snow to get to the other side. I decided to go back: being alone and carrying a rucksack that's very heavy was to much risk to make an attempt. I descended 1400 metres and stayed another night with another family. The next day I took an early morning taxi back to Osh. Back to cold beers and juicy sashlicks. Things would turn out slightly different...


A trekking packlist

Last night I arrived in Almaty, at the foothill of the Tien Shan. I unpacked my stuff that all together already weighs around 28kg. And I have to add food, petrol and water....

Here's the complete list I'm dragging along on the treks.

Packlist Trekking in the Pamirs project

Mammut Haute Route Rucksac 95 litres
WX Tex daypack waterproof 20 litres
Drybags (30L, 15L, 10L, 7.5L, 2.5L and waterproof Event compression bag)
Document pouch waterproof

Haglofs Rugged Mountain pants
Quicksilver boardshort (cause you never know...)
Mountain Designs thin merinowool top
Mountain Designs merinowool underpants
Icebreaker 260 merinowool top
2x Icebreaker merino wool 190 t-shirt
2x t-shirts
4 pairs light weight hiking socks
1 pair Icebreaker midweight hiking socks
1 pair Teko expedition weight hiking socks
2 Icebreaker thermal boxers
4 pairs normal underwear
Haglofs fleece gilet
Mountain Hardwear light fleece jumper
Gore Windstopper jacket
Patagonia Stretch Element waterproof jacket
Peak Performance Black Light Down Jacket (EU 750+ fill)
Salamon midweight fleece jacket
Light weight cap
Bolivian beanie
Warm Barts beanie

Other protection against the elements
Lowe Alpine gaiters
Berghaus waterproof mitt shell only
Fleece gloves
Merinowool liner gloves
Windstopper gloves
Barts Balaclava Windstopper
Julbo Cat. 4 sunglasses
Hypothermic rescue blanket (foil)

Mammut Mt Trail GTX XT walking boots
Crocs (fake)
2 Leki Makalu walking poles
Walking axe 75cm

Rab Quantum 250 sleeping bag (-2 comfort temp)
K2 Summit trekking tent (2kg)
Kaikialla inflatable sleeping mat
Mammut Bivi Bag
Cocoon mummy liner
Ear plugs

Sigg water bottle 1L
Nalgene water bottle 1L
Camelbag 1.5L
Thermos bottle (0.5L)
Katadyn Hiker water filter
Chlorine water treatment tablets (72x)

MSR whisperlite petrol stove (kerosine and petrol)
Large fuel bottle (970ml)
Small fuel bottle (650ml)
Lighters plus water/windproof matches
MSR maintenance kit
MSR 2 piece stainless steel pan set
Lightweight cuttlery and spork
Plastic storage jars, different sizes
10 pack 1 person freeze dried food, Adventure Food
2 pack 1 person freeze dried food Mountain House
2 packs Lavazza espresso!
Small pergulator

Tech stuff
Samsung netbook
16gb USB stick
16gb Memory card
2gb Memory card
Integral card reader
Solio Rocsta solar charger
Garmin Extrex Legend GPS
SPOT satellite messenger
Trackstick mini GPs tracker
Nokia (no clue what type)
Panasonic Lumix TZ5 plus spare battery and mini tripod
6 Duracell AA batteries
4 Energizer Lithium batteries
2 universal adapters
Suunto Altimax wrist watch

Other trekking essentials
Silva Field 7 compass
Gerber multitool
Petz Myo XP headtorch
(Wire) lock
2 Bever Zwerfsport straps (150cm)

Sports tape
Tie rips, different sizes
Seam tape plus goretex repair patches
Pair spare laces 180cm
5 metres prusik (3mm)
5 metres nylon cord
Sewing kit

Body care
2 sunscreen sticks factor 30
Lip balm factor 25
Desinfecting gel
Tooth paste (2 small units) and mini tooth brush
Neutrogena hand cream
Tail clipper

Staying healthy
Paracetamol (24x)
Ibuprofen (24X)
Multi vitamine pills (90x)
Augmentin (21x) (anti biotics - bacterial infections)
Ciprofloxacin (14x) (more anti biotics - bacterial infections)
Imodium (6x) (blocks diarrhoea)
Fucidin Cream (anti biotic cream for skin infections)
Plenty of plasters, band aid, injection needles etc

Read, write and talk
2 notebooks plus pens
Trekking maps (7x) plus aditional info
Lonely Planet Central Asia
LP phrasebook Russian
LP phrasebook Central Asian languages
Novel Call of the Wild and Wild Fang by Jack London

Not to mention the stuff I squeezed in an XL TNF duffel bag for climbing expedition this summer! Did I forget anything? I'll find out the hard way then!