A 9-Day Extreme-Terrain, Self-Drive across Kyrgystan
Date: 4-15 February, 2023
About this Drive
9-day extreme terrain drives in the peaks of winter, that traverses old roads, that have been frequented for centuries in some of the remotest parts of Kyrgyzstan, a land locked country located in the Steppes of Central Asia.
Kel Suu Winter XOL accesses remote corners that are blessed with incredible natural beauty and offers some of the stunning views of the Tien Shan mountains that branch out from the Pamir knot. This XOL also intends to gain insights into the lives of nomadic people who have inhabited this region for centuries. Kel Suu is a small hidden lake tucked away virtually right next to the Kyrgyz Chinese border; the area is also punctuated by other small salt water lakes that freeze partially in the winters (don't freeze completely thanks to the saline content).
The route starts from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan towards the Anshu pass in the south to enter the Suusamyr valley (one of the coldest inhabited parts of Kyrgyzstan); driving past burial mounds from the Scythians who used to inhabit the area 2000 years ago, it enters the red gorge
leading to the remote village of Kyzyl Oi.
Usually the road through Suusamyr is fully covered in snow and ice; sometimes the road into Kyzyl Oi through the gorge is also snow covered with some gravel patches in between. Kyzyl Oi is one of the only pre-collective Kyrgyz villages; this village has decent guesthouses with running water in the place where we'll stay.
Watch a game of Kok Boru (an ancient sport involving teams on horseback and a dead goat) played in the snow. Further driving through the remainder of the stunning gorge and through the Kyzart pass (this section is full of snow again), it reaches Kochkor (which typically receives little snow and is reasonably dry) and proceeds on a smooth asphalt section with intermittent snow across the Dolon pass to reach Naryn. Then comes the big day when the XOL route cross the village of At-Bashi (the large major town before China), and begins to run parallel to the Chinese border fence. This road varies widely in quality - from narrow points to snow drifts to ice and river crossings.
This whole large valley region has a population of about 3000 shepherds in the summer, and almost to no one in fall and winter. The route again turns south again toward China following small dirt roads (covered in a layer of snow) and across frozen rivers (where you drive on the ice) to stay in one of the last houses before the Chinese frontier. Primitive conditions with an outhouse, but stunning views. After some exploration, driving and hiking around in the Kel Suu vicinity, we begin the return towards Bishkek.
On the return, comes up Issyk Kul, virtually a sea, infact the second largest salt water lake in the world only to be smaller than the Caspian Sea! Post meeting a hunting eagle with his master (a traditional Kyrgyz form of hunting, very popular in the winters), we head back to Bishkek having driven through some of the most spectacular natural areas in the Tian Shan ranges of the Himalayas. The mountains feel remote and lost, given how sparsely they are populated. The people are friendly; but the terrain, heights, depths, vastness included, characterize the highlands of Central Asia in all their glory and spirt. The roads in the winter are a challenge no doubt!
This is a demanding expedition – only for those who have undertaken overland trips before.
On this drive, we will have max of 3 vehicles out of which 2 vehicles are kept aside for participants. The third vehicle will have the WBB expedition crew. Participation will be on first come first serve basis only.
Your participation will get confirmed only when you pay us a 25% booking advance
Any cancellation from side of participant due to any reason:
30 or less than 30 days prior to start of event – no refund
31 – 60 days prior to start of event – 75% refund
More than 60 days prior to start of event – 90% refund
In the eventuality of WBB having to cancel the trip at any point due to unforeseen circumstances beyond their control, the cancellation will be as follows: