We knew it was going to be a long day. Not particularly long in miles, but with checkpoints, baggage checks, having to change cars, etc, it would not be your usual border crossing. The strange thing about going from Kashgar to Osh is that there is a bus that costs around $100 but it costs about half of that if you just share taxis, which makes no sense, but that’s how things work in this part of China. So we got picked up by our minivan taxi driver and all piled in for the first leg of the journey, which was to the furthest city that regular taxis are allowed to go to. From that city you go through a security checkpoint and then you have to change cars to a different minivan taxi to take you to the actual border. I still can't figure out why they make you do this, it's like they think you're going to sneak in a person from the side of the road into your car, or something. Or they just like making dumb rules.
From this point it was probably 100 miles to the border and we had to get stopped multiple times for Chinese police to check and write down information from our passports (please invest in a scanner!) and scan our luggage. In total we got stopped about 5 times before reaching the border. In the stop before the border we finally got stamped out of the country, and proceeded to the actual border. Of course the agents that man this gate go on lunch for 3 hours between 1pm and 4pm so we had to wait a while before they decided to open their gates again. What a great job! After finally passing through they let us off in no-man’s land, which is over a mile of nothingness in between the China and Kyrgyzstan border, which you have to walk with all your stuff. Fun!
Finally you make it to the Kyrgyzstan side, which is much much easier. They look at your passport, stamp you in, and you’re good to go. From there we got shared taxis for the 4 hour ride to Osh. Our driver pulled into someone’s yard to get some gas, put on some Kyrz/Russian euro-pop sounding beats and we were off. Just one military checkpoint and we were free from the red tape.
It’s interesting to note how the scenery changes so quickly once you get into the Kyrgyzstan. The border town is kind of depressing with soviet looking concrete block houses, but once you get past that you’re in the mountains (still), but it’s much greener and full of life than the dry desert outcroppings on the Chinese side. There are several little yurt encampments with cows and goats and horses grazing around the countryside. The scenery on the drive is really nice. You can already tell you’re going to like the place. Although after the driver played his same CD four times in a row, you weren’t as sure.
We got into Osh around 8 in the evening, which was a solid 8 hours of travel. Our driver kept asking us where we wanted to go in Russian, but he didn’t know the guesthouse, or seem to recognize the map at all, so we kept trying to explain to him that we would point him in the right way when we got close, which was not a smooth process. Our guesthouse was in some sort of suburban maze, that we never would have found if it wasn’t for google maps. But we all got there in one piece, managed to find a working ATM, and went out to dinner at nice restaurant that ended up costing about 3 or 4 dollars a person, with drinks! Kyrgyzstan was going to be cheaper than anyone thought!