Sore butts and blue lakes
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 2008-07-22 12:00 by Martin
Hello from far-flung Kyrgyzstan! We journeyed from the hot desert plains of Uzbekistan where snow never falls, to the high summer pastures of Kyrgyzstan with towering mountains where snow never melts.
Kyrgyzstan is rich in natural beauty; majestic mountains, azure blue Alpine lakes and large, green, grassy summer pastures dot most of the country. That pastures are called Jailoos in Kyrgyz; these are where the semi nomadic people trek to with their livestock in the short summers, from June to late August. Here they set up their yurts - dome-shaped felt covered tents. The animals; horses en masse, cows fat tailed sheep, donkeys and a few goats roam freely and graze around the yurts. Kids amuse themselves by riding donkeys and women seem to be constantly cooking.
The food here is good; lots of soup with potatoes, carrots and meat, salads, bred, homemade butter, jam (apricot, strawberry, raspberry) and honey. Copious amounts of tea seems to be the norm - and fermented mares milk are on offer for the brave hearted.

Sitting in front of your own yurt sipping tea, with views of one of Kyrgyzstans pristine alpine lakes, herds of grazing horses around you, a vast and impressive range of snow capped mountains as a backdrop in the horizon, you cant but feel touched by this magnificent, virgin landscape. The air is clean and crisp (except for the odd horse fart) and only sounds of galloping hooves and the wind in the high grasses shatter the silence.
At altitudes more than 3000 meters above sea level, summer temperatures only climb to a mere 12 degrees and nights are freezing - meaning lots of cuddling under huge blankets.

We spend quite some time on horseback, giving us sore muscles and behinds. But the pain was worth it, and when galloping across the wide pastures, the pain was almost forgotten. It was clear though that we were not always in charge; as not a few our sturdy steeds either drifted from the paths to the lush grassy meadows or simply didn't want to follow the (not very fast) pace. Eventually, with more stick than carrot, we got the upper hand.

When waiting for our departure into China, we spend a couple of days in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Unlike in Uzbekistan where all obvious memorabilias of the Communists have been demolished, not a few Lenin statues are found around in the squares of the Kyrgyz main city. Bishkek was a pleasant stop-over: small, leafy and with good dining options. We got "lucky" finding accommodation, as it is really scarce on the budget level. Only drawback was one of our Japanese dorm-mates tendency to snore louder than a saw-mill.
As in Uzbekistan, the travellers you meet here are definitely not the gap-year-khao-san-road type; many are long time travellers, with very different backgrounds, nationality and age, each with whom you can share experiences from past shared destinations and whom can lure you into a change of travel-plans with good advice or tales of unheard of places.