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Published: July 15th 2010
View of the Pamirs from Sary Tash in Kyrgyzstan
The colour of Kyrgyzstan is not red, as the flag suggests, or as might be associated with the recent spillage of blood in the south of the country. In fact there is not one colour you can put to it, instead it consists of a kaleidoscope of colours and if you have ever hiked in the Kyrgyz Mountains you will know what I mean. Here you wade through a multi coloured world of flowers of all sizes and shapes. Red, blue, purple, white, yellow, green, pink and everything in between is represented in the natural world that surrounds you in the green mountains of the Tien Shan.
Kyrgyzstan, a country in turmoil, and because of this a country that is being avoided by most tourists. Good for me perhaps, but bad for the local population. As always it isn't as bad as represented on the television and the north of the country was never involved in the troubles down south. As you arrive from Tajikistan the first thing you notice is how green the country is. It might sound incredulous and maybe it is, but you can actually see the border between the two countries, Kyrgyzstan green, Tajikistan brown and
Osh to Bishkek
View from the Tor-Ashuu Pass
arid, a clear line dividing the two. You cross a pass and all changes; one side of it gets plenty of rain, the other obviously not. And so I arrived rather timidly and anxious in this new country, worried about what might lie ahead. I was after all going to pass through Osh and Jalalabad and even in the far reaches of Tajikistan word had reached me of the events that had transpired there, and as news was rather sketchy I wasn't at all sure whether things had calmed down or not. My only precaution was to try and avoid both cities and pass them by over the ring roads on my way to Bishkek. Luck would have it that we managed to squeeze into a overcrowded four-wheel drive at the border which was making its way directly to Bishkek, thus indeed avoiding an awkward transit or stay in Osh.
And so after a rather grueling 27 hour journey we arrived in Bishkek tired but well. Bishkek is a rather Russified city, and it was never our plan to stay very long. After two days of recovery and after we met up with Danielle again, who flew in from
Erkindik (Freedom) Statue
Dushanbe, we left the town to its own devices and headed for Issyk-Kul for some sunbathing on its shores and a dip in its clear blue waters. To fit in with the local Russian tourists, and because Danielle was rather embarrassed about my favourite t-shirt with 'cooling' holes in it, I was given a Russian style Hawaii shirt by Danielle on the condition that I wouldn't wear the t-shirt with holes in it around her anymore. And so I donned on my new shirt and blended in seamlessly with the locals at the beach.
A day at the beach was enough, because lets face it, the main reason for coming to Kyrgyzstan for most tourists isn't the beach, but the mountains. We based ourselves in Karakol a thoroughly Russian town with a cute wooden Russian church and loads of gingerbread houses and old tsarist buildings. That is not to say there aren't any Kyrgyz in Karakol, there are of course and many of them, but the town was founded by the Russians in the eighteen hundreds and lots of them settled here, hence it has a very Russian feel to it. Our guesthouse was in one of those old
Burnt out building
wooden merchant houses, and the rooms took you back to the 1890's or somewhere around that time. Ricky and my room had a piano in it, and all the decor of a period movie. I just wished I had taken my top-hat, monocle and pipe with me; I would have fitted right in then!
After returning back to the future we went out to buy supplies, rent a tent and some sleeping mats and a few days later we found ourselves slogging up Karakol Valley in the rain on our way to Ala-Kol Lake. Another day after that brought us through knee high flowery mountain meadows, craggy mountain slopes and eventually to the half frozen turquoise waters of Ala-Kol where we set up our tent for the second night. We were regaled by stories of woes by Niv and Rotem of Israel who had tried but failed to cross Ala-Kol Pass further up. They had been caught in a snow storm and had been forced to turn back to the lake. It was at this time that I decided to change my flip-flops for my slightly more covered but all the more crappy sneakers, I however kept my shorts
At the beach in my Russian style Hawaii shirt
on, one should after all not change ones ways too much.
Our attempt at crossing the pass was successful, despite a snow storm on the way up. The weather cleared up just in time for me to find a way over the pass in between the snow shelves that threatened a minor avalanche at any given moment. It sounds more dangerous than it in fact was, as we managed to steer clear of anywhere that might have put us in the way of any avalanche and eventually we ended back up in green pastures where semi-wild horses were grazing away leisurely. More flowers greeted us as we made our way down to Altyn Arashan where we hoped to find a guesthouse and some hot springs. Our hope was not in vain and I can tell you the hot springs were very welcome!
And now four days later I can sit here in Karakol and comfortably tell you this tale about three totally unprepared individuals crossing over high mountain passes, through the flower filled vales of Kyrgyzstan. So take heart yea unprepared ones, it is possible!
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