On our way from Bishkek to Issy-Kul in a 4×4 driven by ‘man o the mountains’ Slava we pass through a dramatic valley along the course of a fast flowing river. As the sun begins to fade Aleena our guide tells us how 40 rivers flow into the lake but none flow out. Strange in itself, stranger still as I had been watching the river flow the opposite way as we approach the lake uphill. I say as much to Chris…
The Manchester Club, Bishkek
We arrived back in Bishkek from Issy-Kul intent on seeing the Champion’s League semi-final between Manchester United and Bayern Leverkusen. We had no idea where to go, until we enquired in a bar known to be an ex-pat hangout in the centre of the city where people would watch football. We were rewarded with a chorus of uncomprehending looks, until we uttered the magic word “Manchester”, whereupon we were directed to the most unlikely of places to find in Central Asia – the Manchester Club.
The staff at the Manchester Club, Bishkek
Phil was first into the bar, while I took some shots of the building and the friendly bouncers, so when I eventually went inside, I found him engaged in an animated conversation with the staff. Victoria (centre of picture) seemed to be the ringleader, and was being gently teased by Phil about the appropriateness of her name. Strangely, she’d not been informed before of her namesake’s existence…
The players at Issy-Kul
More footballing serendipity, ex-Soviet weirdness, and Phil scores a goal to remember…
The Ball reaches 2800m
Our arrival in the almost unpronounceable Kyrgyzstan, a nation consisting of less flat surfaces than any other, made playing football a little more tricky than in the flatlands of Europe, Russia and Uzbekistan. Nonetheless, we found that Bishkek, the capital provided us with more football than we had expected.
“Are you blind, ref? It was clearly a foul!”
While in Bukhara with our friend Rich who, sadly, was only with us for a week, we had one spectacular night. After dinner in town we returned to Farkhad and Maya’s beautiful courtyard of their hotel in the old town and proceeded to neck the vodkas with much frivolity and raucous laughter. Chris just before bed decides to ring his recent girlfriend, my cousin, for a quick ‘clear up some issues’ call and Rich and I head off to his room for me to play him “one more fast one before bed”, as he was insisting. He has been in Afghanistan for three weeks straight with no music at all, so I thought it only fair to bang out ‘That’s Alright Mama’ one more time, double time, away from the disturbed eyes and ears of Maya and her sister. As my flashing fingers came to a stop, Rich insisted on another, I kissed him goodnight and slipped away to bed….