I was in Karakol earlier this month and had to get to Almaty. I've crossed through the Kordai border many times, and so rather than making a very long loop through Bishkek, I decided to take a route I've always heard about, going through the remote Kegen border post.
There is no public transport through Kegen, so there are only two ways to cross. One is to hire a taxi, which was too expensive for me, and the other involves mostly hitchhiking. I decided to hitchhike. I didn't regret it!
At 9:00am, I caught a small shared-taxi van going to the nearest major town to the north, Tyup, which is also the last major settlement on the route to the Kegen border Kazakhstan. Vans from Karakol to Tyup leave from a parking lot on Zhamansariev Street, on the east side of Karakol's central bazaar.
The van took me all the way to the northern edge of Tyup, a trip that took 30 minutes, from where I walked about 15 minutes to the turnoff for the road to Kegen. Right at the turnoff is an beautiful old Soviet bus stop which made waiting a pleasure.
8 cars passed me at the bus stop before I got my first ride. I had only waited 10 minutes. A series of drivers took me as far as they could, from village to village (Chong Tash, Kara Chunkur, Sary Tölogoy) driving up the valley of the Tyup River towards Kegen. I never waited longer than 10 minutes for the next ride to come along.
At Sary Tölogoy, the asphalt road ends, and few cars continue onward. I got lucky with a group of three shepherds who were driving up to their jailoo (summer pasture). Nearing their jailoo, they let me around and told me I could easily walk the rest of the way to the border ("It's only 2 km!"). My map told me it was 10km, but I was in a good mood so I decided to set off.
Five minutes later, another car came by, and they were going to Kazakhstan! We arrived at the border at 1:00. Crossing through customs was easy, as we were the only ones there. Once crossing, a border guard who was finishing his shift offered to give me a ride to Kegen. Just as we pulled up to the center of Kegen, a marshrutka was leaving for Almaty. I hopped on board, and by 5:30pm I was at Almaty's Sayakhat Bus Station.