KYRGYZSTAN PART 1 – BUYING AN UAZ BUKHANKA IN KYRGYZSTAN

Although we have done a lot of things just slightly different than expected during our trip, we think we’ve overruled ourselves this time. Traveling in Central Asia is different and teached us different habits of people, they eat different, they live different and their way of life is totally different from ours. Also they drive different cars than people drive in Europe. All the time we were driving around here there was one car that totally got our attention, the UAZ Bukhanka. We totally fell in love with this car, or better said Dani totally fell in love with this car. There was absolutely no better birthday present she could ever think of and even though things started as a joke we now have, not for Dani’s birthday, but together bought a new car. We’re the proud owners of an old, dusty, not drivable Russian van, but hell we’re enthusiast!

This old Soviet bastard is now ours

Before we bought this new project we first had to drive to Bishkek. We had finally reached Osh, the second biggest city of Kyrgyzstan. But with the plans we had in mind we had to move to Bishkek as fast as we could since we had no idea how long the whole project would take. After one night in Osh we left the next afternoon to Bishkek, but instead of leaving the city first thing in the morning, we went into the city with a guide. This time for a food tour, although we knew most central Asian dishes, it was nice to learn more about this food and experience it in a different region. Together with our guide from “Destination Osh” we had a very nice morning. After that it was time to start driving.

Dani’s favorite tour, the food tour Tom likes it as well 😉

Nature between Osh and Bishkek was extremely beautiful and changed a lot. We drove through small villages, past an huge lake and through the green mountains and over high passes where still was lots of snow to be found. The route was beautiful, but because we wanted to reach Bishkek as soon as possible we almost didn’t stop. We camped only one night and reached Bishkek the next day in the evening. When we arrived Bishkek we also saw Loes and Harm, a Dutch couple who came all the way from The Netherlands with their motor and Landcruiser to Central Asia. Loes and Tom knew each other from their studies and during our whole trip we stayed in contact. We just hadn’t seen each other yet. Finally that changed and accompanied by a few cold beers we enjoyed the night and talked about all our adventures of the past months.

Finally we met with Loes and Harm

By now we had done lots of research about our potential new car. Also we found out that it was absolutely no possibility to sell our car to any local in the Russian Federation. Because of import taxes the car would be to expensive for anybody in Kyrgyzstan to buy. Still we decided to continue with our plans and together with a company that would help us buy the car we went to see one the next day, better said buy one. There had to be done a lot, but as far as we could see we made quite a good deal. Full of energy we started making plans for the inside of the van and full of trust we left our car with a garage who would mechanically fix the whole car. Unfortunately things were taking much longer as they promised us and by now three full weeks have past and it’s not ready yet. It drives, but lots of things still need to be done. Slowly time is getting more scarce, because we really should start driving back to Holland some point soon.

Still a lot of work to do

Fortunately there was no moment of boredom in the last weeks. We mainly did a lot of shopping on the different bazaars in Bishkek. There’s a car bazaar, a fabric bazaar, a bazaar for wood and one for construction work. You name it and there’s a bazaar existing in Bishkek which sells the thing. Most of them are build from old shipping containers which are shops. Although we really got used to the bazaars and that way of shopping, it still is surprisingly fun to go there every time. When we went shopping for wood last week there was a guy who felt extremely responsible for us and took us everywhere we needed to go. After we exchanged Instagram accounts he invited us to go picknicking with him and he was extremely disappointed when we told him we don’t know when we have time because of the “Bukhanka project”. Beside changing Instagram accounts with this guy, there’s a whole bunch of new Facebook friends from the car bazaar.

With Fred and our friend Nurlan (the middle one) from the car Bazaar

We not only made friends with the locals on the bazaars, but we also met a lot of nice travelers in Bishkek. We had so many fun nights in the last few weeks. Nights with other overlanders, but also other backpackers. Stories, adventures and also problems got exchanged. Happy as the women were because they didn’t had to go, the men joined each other on trips to the car bazaar. We ate together, laughed together, chatted together and even went camping and picknicking together. When we decided to go camping for a weekend in between waiting for the Bukhanka, our weekend ended so differently than we expected. What started as a really good idea, ended horribly when we got stuck in deep, loose sand and changed extremely again in one of the best nights of camping ever.

Picnic with Loes and Harm

On a friday afternoon we drove in the direction of Issyk-Kul, a big lake not far from Bishkek. A couple we got to know over Instagram and who were traveling our route but a bit more in front of us gave us some advice of a nice campspot. That this was a nice campspot there’s absolutely no doubt about, but that there was that much loose sand they forgot to tell us. In a first try to get out of the sand our cv joint broke. Without our four wheel drive we were actually completely lost, we digged sand, took all our stuff out of the car to make it lighter and tried different ways to get out. Then out of the blue two guys on donkeys arrived. It was slowly getting dark and when they noticed there was no way for us to get out one of them offered to get his Lada Niva, a Russian four wheel drive. After lots of different tries our car was moved about an hundred meters then the Lada Niva got overheated. It was ten o’clock at night and we were exhausted. Tired from digging in the sand and not eating for hours. We agreed with him that he would come back the next morning at eight o’clock. So you can imagine we were surprised when we heard a tractor coming about an hour after the guy left us. He arranged a farmer and a tractor. Two hard pushes and we were out, amazing because we never thought to get out the same night. We drove back to the main road and were on a mission to find a place to camp. About 00:30 we finally found a place to camp and the dry bread and vodka tasted absolutely delicious. .

We got stuck really bad

Fortunately help came already that night

The next morning we woke up on a beautiful piece of our world at the lake. The cows were grazing around the tent and the fisherman parked their car next ours. We decided, also because we were not sure if it was actually the cv joint that broke or something bigger, to stay at the same place. That day we were in contact with other overlanders of who we knew were around and told them to come join us on our campspot. They did, we had an amazing night of camping. It was really cold, but it was an absolutely amazing experience. The next day we hang out there for the whole day and it was only at the end of the day when we drove back to Bishkek. So our camping weekend didn’t went the way we expected it, but it was extremely nice, we really enjoyed it at the end.

Fortunately we found a very nice spot

We got a nice fresh fish from some local fishermen

And we ended up with a real overlander nomad camp

We didn’t find the right words yet to describe the process of the Bukhanka project. “Slowly” fits for sure, “bad communication” is another term that pops to mind and “patient” is absolutely important. We are ready to do the inside of the Bukhanka and make a lovely small house on wheels, but as long as they’re not ready in the garage we can’t start. It’s a process of falling and standing back up, there are lots of ups and downs. At the moment we go to the garage about two times a day to control what they’re doing and if they’re actually working. With the term “Kyrgyz time” in which not many things are happening, we were totally done. We got angry and the man of the garage are being controlled like small children, just because it’s sadly necessary.

Still work in progress

So time is getting limited now, because from the 15th of May we only have the Bukhanka left. We sold the Suzuki!! We were mentally prepared of driving two cars home to Holland, but we’re super excited it’s not necessary anymore. A enthusiastic, Dutch couple who just started their trip bought our trusty four wheeler. A weird feeling on one side, but so cool that we can make other travelers happy with it. This car is made to travel and it’s still going to see so many more beautiful roads and impressive places. We are looking at our situation day by day and try to stay positive. It looks like our childish controlling is working, but first we have to see it, before we actually believe it. Fingers crossed and hopefully we can get back on the road soon.