Kyrgyzstan: circumnavigating Lake Issyk-Kul - 14th July 2012 – mile 10,300


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July 14th 2012
Published: July 30th 2013
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From Bishkek we make a 5 day, 400mile, circumnavigation of Lake Issyk-Kul – you could manage it in1 day if you didn't stop to look at all the exciting things en-route.

Firstly there's the scenery which, as usual, is stunning. Then there are the bus stops – yes the bus stops; they do a cracking line in bus stops in Kyrgyzstan. And then there are the totally random statues that just pop up all over the place; snow leopards, mountain sheep with big horns, eagles, local heroes, MIG aircraft – the range is endless. Plus of-course Lenin who appears on rooftops and mountainsides and standing, gilded in front of derelict buildings.

80km from Bishkek is the Burana Tower – in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields. It was once a capital of the ancient Eastern khanate (Samarkand was the capital of the Western khanate) but not much remains apart from the tower that was once a minaret, a mound that was once a palace & dozens of balbals – the gravestones of nomadic Turks. They are quite endearing, all different shapes and sizes depicting their owners and holding a cup or sword in their left hand.

We pass through Shoestring Gorge (Boom Gorge) to get from the Chui Valley to the lake – more spectacular scenery and very curious “service stations”; rows of yurts or huge stalls selling colourful rubber rings, I suppose that's what you need when you are heading for a lake.

Once through the large, Soviet, ex-industrial town of Balykchy we head down the western lake shore and have the road with its amazing scenery all to ourselves. It very changeable: there are the expected stretches of lake shore & beaches but there's also patches of desert covered with blue flowers, long avenues of tall tress and the snow capped mountains of the Tien Shan (Teskey Ala-Too Range) to the south of the lake.

There are lots of roadside cemeteries with an amazing selection of tombs. Many of them looking like houses or yurts – this is traditional for Kyrgyz nomads, during life they have never had a permanent home so they build one in death. Some are brightly painted with scene of the occupants life.

Due to our various detours we're away from the group again and stop for the night at some local chalets right on the southern shore
Bus Stops Kyrgzy Style Bus Stops Kyrgzy Style Bus Stops Kyrgzy Style

they came in all shapes & sizes including a kyrgyz hat and a cotton boll
of the lake. They are most concerned about the bike and insist we park it by the security hut rather than in front of our chalet. We watch the sunset from the beach shack drinking vodka with the locals who are dancing away merrily. The bike is well looked after overnight but Edwin is exceedingly miffed the next morning when he goes to collect it and finds its covered with several animal skins!! Not sure if that was to keep it warm or to camouflage it, whichever Edwin muttered a lot and refused to take a photo.


Additional photos below
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the roadside is littered with stautes in the most random of placesthe roadside is littered with stautes in the most random of places
the roadside is littered with stautes in the most random of places

they range from demented animal to local heros to Soviet leftovers
and then there are the odd bits of military hardwareand then there are the odd bits of military hardware
and then there are the odd bits of military hardware

often in the centre of a roundabout
The Burana TowerThe Burana Tower
The Burana Tower

the base of the minarte & mound of the palace are all that remains of this ancinet Silk Road capital
The Burana TowerThe Burana Tower
The Burana Tower

endearing balbals, Turkic grave markers
approaching Shoestring canyonapproaching Shoestring canyon
approaching Shoestring canyon

cutting through the Mountains between Bishkek and the lake
roadside cemetries -  yurt & house shaped tombsroadside cemetries -  yurt & house shaped tombs
roadside cemetries - yurt & house shaped tombs

as nomads they never had a permant home in life so they make one in death
roadside cemetries - painted tombsroadside cemetries - painted tombs
roadside cemetries - painted tombs

up close they show the llife of an eagle hunter


1st November 2013

Bus Stops
Fascinating collection of photos............. including those of Bus Stops which are far more of a feature than the one in Unst...........Zetland (or is it Shetland! )
1st November 2013

Animal Skins
Any further ideas why Edwin\'s treasure was covered in animal skins? Hope neither of you have an allergy to animal hairs. Some stupendous photos including those of the flora... David & Di

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