The Ala-Bel Pass to Bishkek.

The Osh to Bishkek road north of Toktogul is extraordinarily beautiful, particularly at this time of year, with rolling green hills covered in wild flowers, swift mountain streams and snow capped mountains in the distance.

The side of the road is dotted with yurts often selling fresh kumys (fermented mares milk). When we stopped at one yurt being assembled we were invited to watch the process (Maureen did her bit to help) and treated to free kumys, bread and (mares) butter. We gave them a jar of Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate and one of Maureen's precious Teddy bears in return.

The road is also good for the birders, at one wild camp site we (well Les and Clive at least) saw a Golden Eagle, a Himalayan Griffin Vulture (vultching!) and a Lammerguier all in the space of an hour.

Left to right - Carl, Ann and Mary.At 04:00 on the 28th of June the Anglophone group finally reached full strength with the arrival of Mary Hunter (Carl's wife) from Canada. (Carl spent the 27th cleaning out Bigfoot and getting his hair cut!)

On the evening of the 29th we belatedly celebrated Mary's birthday with a cake and a little wine!

We are currently camped in the grounds of the Silk Road Lodge hotel in Bishkek (N42.880772 E074.594048. Phone: +996 312 66 11 29, both English and French spoken at the reception desk). This hotel, like the Guest House in Naryn (Phone: +996 3522 50412) where we hope to meet the French group, is run by Celestial Mountains and is our most luxurious "camp site" to date. Although the hotel has not had campervans before, and space is limited, they have been extremely accommodating and we have use of the hotel pool and exercise equipment! Most of us have succumbed to the shaded outdoor restaurant adjacent to our campervans. It is going to be hard to leave. Strongly Recommended.

Other "overlanders" wanting to park at either the Silk Road Lodge or the Naryn Guest House should first contact Ian Claytor by e-mail or phone +996 312 21 25 26. Celestial Mountains Travel Agency can also assist with crossing the Torugart pass and we expect to use a guide/interpreter supplied by them. Ask Ian.

Stephen Stewart.

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