With a shiny new Chinese visa in my passport, I put the last 10 months of crippling stress behind me and looked to the road ahead.
I thought I would be ecstatic, but I was not even half way around the world yet. Instead, I felt a sense of pride and modesty, realising my small victory but not celebrating prematurely.
Having already reached Almaty before turning West to Georgia back in September 2017, I took a flight back there.
I picked up a new tent, being told by two travellers that my tarp and walking pole construction was very dangerous.
My plan was to travel through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan before heading East into China. Almaty was right next to the Chinese border, but I would never be in this part of the world again and I wanted to see these two countries.
I had gotten comfortable over the winter. I no longer wanted to eat plain bread for breakfast, or go days without a shower and Wi-Fi. I put off leaving the hostel in Almaty for a couple of days. But my apprehension to leave was nowhere near as severe as it was before I had the Chinese visa. Now, the road ahead was open and with that I could feel excited again.
At 3pm, I walked out of Almaty. I bought some cigarettes to offer to drivers, which was an idea that didn’t last very long. One man approached me asking for a cigarette. I could give one to him, but I had forgotten to buy a lighter. Well done, me.
I had stopped in the park because I was nervous again about hitchhiking. But now, with no uncertainty about visas, I didn’t need to be. I walked to the road and put my thumb out. Two cars stopped, both asking for money, then a van pulled in without me asking and offered to take me all the way to the Kyrgyz border. They even bought me dinner!
I crossed the border, walked past the taxi drivers and camped in a farmer’s field. The next morning, while I was in a sleepy daze, I think someone was trying to talk to me from the outside, but I might have dreamed it.
I felt much safer in my new tent from bugs, animals etc. the coming weeks I would be extremely thankful for it.
I caught a ride to the outside of Bishkek and looked at the map for the route to the hostel. 12km. 3 hours’ walking. I’ve had longer walks into cities.
I found a doner kebab stand, one of the many in this country. For just $1.20, I could fill myself with energy for most of the day. I ate one a day for a week, until the last three made me quite ill. The first made me rush to the toilet at 2am, the second made me throw up violently one evening, and the third did the same as the first. After the third, I knew it was time to stop.
Kyrgyzstan was a lot warmer than Georgia, and the sudden change caught me by surprise; sunburn and mild heat exhaustion came about from me power walking into the city. And because I walked so fast, I missed a turning and added 8km on to my walk.
It was great to see Yusuf though, my top-knotted Turkish friend. We hugged eachother like brothers and the amount of beer we drank that night did no favours for me with my reaction to the heat.
Bishkek felt a lot more Asian than Almaty. With stalls instead of skyscrapers, it was a capital village. I took three days there to give my now lobster-red skin a chance to go brown.
The heat was such a sudden change for me, that I struggled to go out in the daytime. I was gifted with a rainy day and I utilised it to walk out of the city.
My socks became sodden and my clothing heavy, over the 4 hour drudge to the outskirts. I put the tent up, changed out of my wet clothes and settled into my sleeping bag. with some Peep Show, which made everything okay again.
The next morning, I would realise one of the flaws of my cheap tent – When it rains, the single-layer construction acts poorly. My damp sleeping bag raised concerns over the coming weeks through the mountain roads.