19 May 2006

Roads in Kyrgyzstan

Blocking off roads is becoming a popular protest option in Kyrgyzstan. Ryspek's supporters blocked the Bishkek-Karakol a number of times (even after he died!) and now supporters of another Parliamentary candidate have been closing the Bishkek-Osh road.

This is a rather effective strategy because there is at best one paved road to any place in this country (that road might not always be paved either, but at least being paved some of the time is a real benefit). Another problem with roads here is that quite a few go through other countries since they were built by the Soviets. The Bishkek-Osh road, an extremely important connector, was recently refinished with new sections that avoided going through Uzbekistan. The main Bishkek-Talas road runs through Kazakhstan for quite a long time; if you're not from Central Asia, you have to have a visa or go the much longer way on a worse road.

The road to Naryn was generally paved, but the passes weren't. And the road from Naryn to China progressively got worse and worse the closer you go to China. It was only paved for a short time and there were large ruts and piles of dirt in the road. It was sometimes a better option to use the dirt track next to the real road.

And once you get off one of these "main" roads, well, anything goes. We've driven around bridges that were out, rattled our way down rutted, rocky roads, and dodged boulders. It's like driving in the mountains for hours and hours even when you're not really in the mountains at all.

Makes you appreciate I-70.

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