After a long ride the previous day (9 June) from Tashkent (Uzbekistan) to Kara Balty (Kygzstan), via Kazakhstan for 8 hours, Dave and I headed off feeling pleased with ourselves to meet the other 4 riders who had ridden from Tashkent through Kyrgzstan. Yesterdays border crossings had been relatively straight forward apart from a query about Dave overstaying his Uzbek visa by 24 hours (we were waiting for the new part from Germany), which came to nothing.
As we approched Lake Yssyk-Kol we came to a road toll booth and were diverted into a lane of our own. The toll collector then demanded 500 som (about NZ$15) per bike. We could see a toll chart with amounts ranging from 40 som to 500 som and figured the upper end had to be for trucks or buses. After some debate with a man who not surprisingly didnt speak English we begrudgingly paid 400 som each just to get on our way.
So off we rode, convinced we had been ripped off, into the town of Balykcy on the shores of the lake. Still smouldering about the road toll we both inadvertently rode through a red traffic light. Fortunately traffic was almost non existant but unfortunately we were 100 metres on when a large white Russian made car (simillar to an older style Holden) overtook us with siren blaring. So we pulled over, as you do, and the uniformed officer of the unmarked car then asked to see all our documents – passports, bike registration papers and international drivers licences (a first!). The cop spoke enough English to ask us to sit in his car while we got a lecture then the demand for US$50. We expressed alarm and dismay at the amount and settled on US$10 each. The officer sped happily away and we later learned at a UNICEF press conference that the going rate for the offence for locals was US$1!!
So Dave and I philosophically went off and had a swim in the lake! Then met up with the other riders an hour or so later.