Escaping Kyrgyzstan’s ‘OTEL from hell on horseback
Words and Photos by Jacob Moss
Location: From Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan
I stood before the shackled door below a neon sign reading OTEL. Somebody had stolen the H it seemed.
A feeling of unease had groped me since arriving in Kochkor off that windowless minivan – the kind of unease a traveller feels when they arrive in an unknown place with the night at their back. Their rucksack is heavier; their senses flicker on like street lamps as they feel a vulnerability that can only be shaken by checking into a room, a place to shed their belongings, to gather themselves – a home base. These emotions are familiar to the kind of traveller who doesn’t plan,
“Here, in the fence-less land of nomads, I wanted to see this world from astride a horse.”
yet fumbles; who reads a map, rather than a guidebook or a brochure; who travels in countries that his government recommends only travelling to if absolutely necessary. Travelling is always necessary.
Exercise a high degree of caution in the Republic of Kyrgyz was the advice given by the Australian government’s Smart Traveller website. While such advice would deter many, it only plays into temptation’s hands for a traveller guided by curiosity. It’s like mother saying don’t play with the snakes in the creek across the road.
What if there weren’t any beds around? A prospect I turned over in my head while kicking the dust and shaking the melodramatic padlock on the doors to – what I had been told – was the only hotel in town.