When I travel, I like to get to where I’m going as fast as I can. For me, travel isn’t about the getting there, it’s about the destination. I take the quickest route and make as few stops as possible. In the states, I drove from Memphis to Nashville quite a bit. That 200 mile drive usually took me just under three hours because that was a non-stop trip. Longer trips that require eating and gas, I keep as short as possible by stopping at gas stations with fast food restaurants inside them as much as possible. That way I can get gas, food, and use the restroom all within about 10-15 minutes and then I’m back on the road.
Traveling in Kyrgyzstan doesn’t quite fit my ideal of travel. That may actually be quite an understatement. Traveling in Kyrgyzstan is generally the total opposite of my ideal. It is usually my nightmare. I’ve made the trip between Bishkek and Karakol quite a few times. That 250 mile drive usually takes about 7 hours, partly due to road conditions and partly due to the nature of travel here.
In my last post, I wrote about a couple of trips with a particular marshrutka driver, Urmat. Now let me tell you a little about how a trip with Urmat works. Before we can even get out of Bishkek, we have stopped usually 3 times. All along the way, he is honking and waving to other drivers he knows (at least I think he knows them) as we pass them. Even getting gas requires a thirty minute stop in Bishkek to get diesel from the shed outside someone’s house, one, one gallon jug at a time. In one particular trip, we ended up next to another driver he knew and they talked to each other through the windows as they drove. Eventually we stopped so they could talk and share a drink of that unknown, white substance that almost made me lose my lunch. That trip then resulted in four more stops: one for lunch, one to pick up a few items in a village, one to give those items to his brother who rode down from the distant mountain snowline on horseback, and one to then deliver something from his brother to a house in a nearby village. Grand total for this 250 mile drive: 8 stops. Total driving time: 7 hours. The only way it was seven hours was that we just needed wings and we would have flown all the way.
The other trip with him resulted in only five stops. One of which was where Daryl and I got to drink tea and eat bread with a couple types of homemade butter. That trip also took 7 hours.
One of the many lessons I’m learning living in Kyrgyzstan is patience. In each of these trips, I have had some wonderful experiences all because I traveled local style not my usual break-neck, non-stop method. Next time you travel, try taking a little extra time. You never know what you might find.