Category Archives: Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan

Symbols!

See the similarities in the symbol on the Kyrgyzstan flag and the crown of the yurt?

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Kyrgyzstan flag with Lenin Peak in the background.

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Crown of a yurt

I want to live in a round / circular space like in a yurt.

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The Trans-Alay Range/ the Pamirs

15 September 2015

I spent the whole afternoon strolling (and rolling!) on these golden meadows, with clear sight of snowy Lenin Peak.

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What a glorious day to greedily bask in the sun before the temperatures drop drastically when the sun sets.

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At lake Tolpur Kol, about 3500m above sea level.

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Looking at Lenin Peak, standing at 7134 meters tall, the highest peak of the Trans-Alay Range, the northern part of the Pamirs. At the borders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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I love these shadows over the pastures as the sun sets.

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Banya (bath)

After days of lush alpine scenery, I left Karakol for Bishkek. Originally I had intended to leave Bishkek as the last stop before I return to Almaty. Alas to catch a transfer to Arslanbob  I must go to the capital.

The mashrutka (minibus) from Karakol took a whopping 6 hours with a change of spare tire. Along the way the road meanders along a bit of the northern shore of lake Issyk-Kol. Issyk-Kol is 170km long and 70km across – so that’s probably about 8 times the size of Singapore. It’s the second largest alpine lake after Lago Titicaca of Peru and Bolivia.

After arranging for the shared taxi to Arslanbob  (which will be a gruelling 12 hours ride) tomorrow, I decided to check out the banya that’s across the hotel.

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Like most public baths I have been to in other countries, this bath is a place for people to unwind and socialise. Despite the amusing exterior, I’d consider it a good bath place and it’s very clean.  Under the big domes are cold pools – the women section’s pool is gorgeous. Fresh out of the baking hot sauna, I walked to the pool ready to dunk in. After all, a few days ago I had been strengthened by kymis – the traditional fermented mare’s milk that bred centuries of fearless nomadic horsemen in the great steppes.

Alas, I lasted a mere five seconds in the cold water.

In the pool, a lady in her 60s was doing laps.

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Optional are some twigs for self flogging.

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Wall decor of the waiting area.

I paid a bit more for a massage and it was heavenly.

          

Ala-kol

Just came down from the mountains after four days three nights.

It was a hard climb up to Ala-Kol lake and very steep climb up to the pass. Scary was the descent over snow-covered scree on a steep face. And camping in such cold conditions was excruciating. Note to self – next time, don’t visit later than August!

More of the hike later. Meanwhile here’s a photo of Ala-Kol, taken while my fingers were still nimble.

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Border crossing

It’s been a while since I crossed borders by land (not counting Johor-Singapore) so I was looking forward to this one.

Starting from Almaty, I took a mashrutka (minibus) to Kegen. Along the way the minibus stopped for a break at a market where I grabbed some lunch.

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The minibus dropped me off at Kegen in the rain where I managed to get a taxi driver (that’s just anyone with a car) to take me to the border.

Ever since yesterday’s belated realisation while in Almaty that 1) I don’t speak Russian 2) I can’t read cryllic, I got even more nervous about the trip. But so far the trip went well.

The Karkara  region must be rather beautiful though the grey clouds and horizons peppered by rain and laced with mist makes it hard to see. Large trucks transporting big blocks of straws lumbered on the unpaved roads leading to the border.

Arrived at the border control. So this is it? There’s nobody else crossing except for me. I was directed to a shed in the rain.

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After that I was asked to open my bag for checking on a mud-splashed table. But I’m leaving Kazakhstan! Felt a tad annoyed as I had earlier painstakingly packed everything compactly into the bag. The rain went on. The customs officer seemed to realise it was not easy to stuff the things back in and let me off a bit easier.

I walked towards the Kyrgyzstan side in the rain.

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On the Kyrgyzstan side, the officer asked me a few simple questions and stamped my passport : yay!

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I’m glad I had arranged for transport on the Kyrgyzstan side. I don’t think it would have been much fun to wait for public transport -if any exists!- in the rain.

After more rain and some hail, the weather cleared up. The pastures sitting at the foot of the great alpines reveal themselves.

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Nomadic shepherds (they only herd for a few months a year) are everywhere.

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