Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dolonsky 78 - Memo's Guesthouse

Free camping in the middle of a city is not an option unless you have a camper van. As we had to wait for the India visas, we looked for a hostel in Bishkek and found a comment somewhere about an Italian called Memo who rents out motorcycles and operates a B&B. Apart from the address we knew nothing more. The GPS guided us through a maze of streets so narrow and broken up that we were wondering if the address was correct. It was, and we were in for a surprise too as this wasn't your regular hostel or B&B...!

Memo is an Italian, so things are done the Italian way, even in Kyrgyzstan. To us calvinistic westerners that means chaotic and always full of passion and excitement. Which brings me straight to a warning... do not get into a car with this man! He drives like an Italian, fired on a mixture of Red-Bull and steroids, with a couple of bad habits thrown in for good measure. Don't get me wrong, he's a very nice guy... but not in a car!

Arriving at Dolonsky 78, we thought it was closed. In this day and age we seem to be one of the few which just turn up instead of phoning ahead or booking everything. We rang the bell twice before a somewhat surprised Memo opened the door, there were no bookings after all. He quickly cleaned the room before we could drag our stuff up to it. It is a dormitory, normally not our favourite place to sleep but this one is nicely done and we were the only ones staying there. The bikes can be parked safely inside the complex, which resembles something of an unconquerable fortress... There is a brick wall around the premises, with barbed wire on top, video cameras in strategic locations and Memo even parks his car in front of the door to ensure no-one can get your bike out. Short of lifting them out with a giant helicopter, the bikes are safe. I could have worked on our bikes too, but apart from fixing a flat tyre there wasn't much to do on them.

The Embassy for India can be found here
The plan for Bishkek had been to go to the Indian Embassy, which is close by, and apply for an India visa. We had read this would take 2 weeks, in which we would travel around Kyrgyzstan and then come back. It went rather differently (why do we even make plans anymore...?) The India visas only took 4 working days so we decided to simply wait here, have a rest and then continue. Memo had other ideas though... He had been involved in a bad motorcycle crash and had been out of action for a while. On top of that his bikes had been mistreated by the last group who had rented them... You can see where this is going can't you? Memo had a load of work to be done, the local mechanics had seemingly made a mess of things and now there was a mechanic staying with him... Memo asked if I would service his bikes, fix several problems with them, fix a wiring problem with his car, sort out a plumbing issue... in return for a free stay! So, the relaxing couple of days became work days but at least didn't leave a dent in our bank account, and were thus very welcome. Memo also threw in three home cooked evening meals (not normally included in your stay as it is a B&B after all).

India embassy building in Bishkek
Nearby Dolonsky 78, as Memo's B&B is called, we found a good little shop operated by a very friendly lady who, we think, is trying to learn English (N42.87681°, E74.58833°). A little bit further towards the centre is a hamburger place, aptly named Burger House which serves good burgers and at a good price too (N42.87484°, E74.60487°) it was to be our weekly ration of meat. Memo himself can of course be found at Dolonsky 78 (N42.89028° E74.58755°). Bishkek has an international airport, from where Memo can pick you up and he has currently 7 road legal motorbikes for hire (3 Honda XR400s, one Honda XR650, two Yamaha XTZ660 Teneres and a Honda Transalp).

Fixing another flat tyre, but this time in luxury as Memo has a compressor and bead breaker!