Sunday, August 24, 2014

The last days in Kyrgyzstan

10th August

A later start at 6 to catch the return flight to Bishkek, starting off with a light breakfast in the courtyard before our host doubles up as a taxi chauffeur and brings us to the airport in good time for our flight. Lots of confused scenes at Osh airport but all is fine and after a short flight over the mountains we land back in Bishkek. Now I have my bearing right and I note that we have arrived north of the city and are heading back down south towards the snow covered mountains. The taxi driver brings us first to Asia Mountains hotel where we pick up our bags before  heading off to the trendy Futuro hotel, where we are greeted by a  very apologetic manager who tells us that something went wrong with his reservations system, that there was no room for us and  that he had arranged for us to stay at the Golden Dragon hotel, whilst first offering us breakfast. We meet a Dutch lady there who has just returned from a three week tour of Tajikistan which she says is even more beautiful than Kyrgyzstan. What a recommendation! But, it is also far more primitive and basic and would be less easy to travel independently. So, off we go to the Golden Dragon, a large Korean 5 star hotel which becomes the fourth hotel we have visited today and it is not even11 am!

Our last day in Kyrgyzstan and we do not have much more ambition that buying a few souvenirs and presents and visiting the Kyrgyz national museum, both of which we do in the afternoon, Fred getting quickly tired of seeing the same woollen sheep, felt angels and silk scarves! After freshening up back at the hotel we walk into town for our last dinner, a rather disappointing affair at a place with water splashing off the roof into a pool, the recommendation of a Slovenian chap we had bumped into on the way to the centre. How little did we know how fed up we would be of the sound of splashing water within a couple of days…

11th August

Another day and yet another flight and again a couple of hours later than the one the day before. We eat a five star breakfast at the Golden Dragon and are soon on our way back north to the airport, where we are one of the last to check-in. Unfortunately, the ladies serving us were two of the last friendly and least helpful people we have met in Kyrgyzstan, which is a pity and they seem to make it a sport to split us up on both flights back. The first time I don’t mind so much as they upgrade me to business class but in Istanbul we make sure that we get new seats for the return home on the Monday.

Despite all the news of storms and tornadoes, we arrive to a bright and sunny, if humid day, which is also the day of the first direct election of the Turkish President. The taxi driver is proud to tell us that he voted Erdogan. He is responsible for the economic health of the country, the new motorways, the extension of the metro, new bridges, new airports and even the attractive flower beds along the side of the motorway. Our Arif, when we see him is also proud to tell us that he voted for Erdogan, giving him credit again for the healthy economy. The grocer next door agrees. Meanwhile the young man working at the reception in the hotel complains that he has to work all day until after the polls closed and cannot cast his anti-Erdogan vote. Such is democracy.

What to do on a summer’s afternoon in Istanbul? A walk down Istiklal (now crowded with Arab holiday makers), down to Galata and across the bridge to Eminonu to catch the first ferry out which takes us to Uskudar. It is essential to get onto the water when in Istanbul and to catch the vistas of Topkapi, Aya Sofia, Suleymaniye, Galata, the four massive cruise ships at harbour, the Dolmabahce Palace and past the Bosphorus Bridge to Uskudar and Kadikoy on the Asian side. Perfect!

The Mimar Sinan mosque has now been fully renovated and gleams in the sun, whilst the narrow strips of park along the waterside are full of families, couples of groups of friends, sitting in the shade and picnicking.

12th August

Today the flight is two hours earlier, so another early rise at 6 just in time to catch the full moon before it disappears behind the early morning mist. The flight back seems to be very long (and bumpy) and the wait for the bags (all arrived) at Schiphol even longer but the sun is shining and it doesn’t seem to be too bad a day to return home to our flooded house. The plants look well outside the house and the grapes are already turning colour. The smell of two weeks damp greets us even before we open the front door.

The basement looks relatively dry and it was certainly a help to have almost everything stored either inside or on top of the plastic containers we bought after the flood of three years earlier. Just some nastiness, smells and puddles of water in the spare bedroom and mould growing up to about two feet of the ground. Doors and windows stay open as we try to move the damp and the wet things upstairs to dry out properly.

13th August

Waking up at 4 am to have a pee, I am surprised to hear water splashing down onto the balcony at the back. It does not seem to be raining but the water is streaming down. I have a look downstairs in the basement. The light does not work and fearing the worst I tread down the stairs and, sure enough, the water has streamed back into the house. Ankle deep.

So here we go again, Fred doing most of the work phoning and e-mailing one person after another. By the time I leave the house at 4 pm to catch my flight, the men have been round to suck all the water out (for the astronomical fee of EUR 1,450 for two hours work performed by a very simple looking machine which pumps water off the floor and through some tubes to be run through our bath where the water enters the drains properly. Fred has accessed the roof and has cleared up the blockages in the gutter and the drains which has caused all the water to overflow from about six roofs onto our balconies and into the garden and then into our basement. We learn that we have to replace the gutters and drainage pipes with bigger ones, we have to replace the balconies which are now rotting away having become so damp, we have to redesign our garden so that the water runs not into our basement but elsewhere, we have to replace the flimsy door at the back of the basement, we have to completely dry out the basement and recover/replaster the walls and lay down new carpets and make sure that everything stored downstairs is either in a plastic container or at least 15 cms higher than the floor (including our spare fridge freezer, which is already a good 20+ years old). A lot of work in other words…


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