Trans Eurasia travel

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About 5,5 hours’ drive from Toktogul is the coal-mining town of Tashkomur, strung for miles along the west side of the river below one of the dams. The deserted slag heaps outside the town are silent testament to the collapse of Kyrgyzstan’s coal industry since independence. The town itself is one of the lowlights of Kyrgyzstan, but it is one of the main starting points to beautiful Lake Sary-Chelek, 70km west.

The town gostinitsa (hotel), next to the bus station, has ratty rooms without bathrooms. A better bet is the blue-tiled Tash Komur Hotel, which is better than the smashed windows and deserted foyer might suggest. Go out of the bus station, turn right, veer right at the fork, turn right at the end of the road and take the first left to the end of this lane.

There are a few cheap cafes serving lukewarm laghman at lunchtime near the bus station, along with what may well be Central Asia’s most pitiful bazaar.

From the bus station in the centre of town a minibus leaves at 5.40am for Osh (180 som); 5.40am, 6.40am, 7.20am, 10.15am and 12.20pm for Jalal-Abad (110 som); 9.50am for Kerben (60 som); and at 12.40pm and 1.20pm for Kara-Jigach (60 som). To get a shared taxi, head 3km from town to the Naryn River bridge, where there is a collection of kiosks and food stalls and a telephone office. A seat in a shared taxi costs 300 som to Osh, 150som to Jalal-Abad and 600 som to Bishkek.