We woke up to a perfect morning in the Chong Kemin Valley. The weather was already warm at 7am, although there was snow on the mountains that surround the valley. There were wild poppies growing around the camp, and the grass smelled rich and sweet with the scent of thyme and other wild herbs.
This was our last breakfast, and there was a sense of finality as we packed up the tents, loaded the truck and headed on our way. I’m torn between craving a bath, shower, clean toilet and leisure time and the sad knowledge that this really has been a trip of a lifetime. It’s been a remarkable journey through three extraordinary countries. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Bishkek was only a couple of hours drive down the road, and we stopped only once to visit the tower of Burana. This little tower is all that is left of a once large town that was important on the Silk Road. Archaeologists have recently started excavating the area and have found a large funerary complex. Graves and their associated stones have been found in number, and the variety of cultures represented – Nestorian, Buddhist and so on indicate how cosmopolitan the area was.
Cavan climbed the tower – although he was glad he had his torch with him as it was dark and steep inside. I remained outside to take the obligatory picture of him waving from the top.
As we drove to Bishkek, postcards, one for each member of our group, were passed round the bus so that we could write a message on each of them to each individual on the tour. It was a nice gesture as we’ve got to know each other really well over the last month.
We made Bishkek by 1pm and both Cavan and I made it a priority to climb into the shower and get clean. Actually, I took one look at the shower and elected to draw a bath. I soaked and scrubbed the dust of the road off in the hot water. Heaven!
We had a final group dinner to celebrate our trip. The food was lovely, the conversation lively. Many of our group are continuing to travel, going off respectively to Kazakhstan, Nepal and Georgia. This is a well travelled group of people who are not afraid to get off the beaten track.
We said our farewells early as Cavan and I have to leave the Hotel at 2.30 in the morning to get the flight to Dubai where we plan a couple of days break before returning to New Zealand.
It’s been a wonderful experience, we’ve met great people, seen many wonderful sights and had a ball. Would we do it again? Yes!
Early morning on the final day
Luggage to be loaded for the last time
Tents to be stowed for the final time
Wild flowers from the campsite
Cavan at the top of the tower