Posts Tagged ‘Kyrgyzstan’

I’ve wanted to travel on the Silk Road for a long time and even had a trip booked (starting in Pakistan) fourteen years ago, but it got cancelled through lack of participants – I ended up in New Zealand instead! This trip started in Kyrgyzstan and this first blog and photos covers our four days there.

There are a number of silk routes into China and ours started in the capital Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan is one of the handful of Islamic ‘stan’s’ in Central Asia that were once part of both Czarist Russia and the Soviet Union. Bishkek is a pleasant tree-lined city and provided a suitable starting point, though not a lot to see except for an excellent museum providing an insight into both Kyrgyz culture and Soviet times – lots of those giant brass socialist realist tableau to stir you!
From here, our three days driving through the mountains, in valleys and along Lake Issyk-Kul were spectacular. The first day took us along the north shore of the lake to Karakol, where we overnighted in a homestay that served the most spectacular breakfast of freshly laid eggs, home-made yogurt, fresh raspberries and home-made bread cakes pancakes and jams. Near Karakol, there was a museum and memorial to a famous 19th century Russian explorer called Prezhevalski (who I’d never heard of!) which was absolutely fascinating, and a lovely wooden church and ramshackle mosque.
The next two days were mostly on the road, with a lovely lunch stop at a women’s collective in Kochkor on the first day, after driving along the south shore of the lake, overnighting in Naryn, and on the next day a stop at Tash Rabat, a (sort of) ancient caravanserai. I really loved the landscape, which became more barren and more mountainous, our highest pass at 10,000 feet. The people were welcoming if wary and the journeys sped by. I fear for the Kyrgy’s though, given their strategic position between Russia & China, so prone to exploitation and bullying.

Our border crossing into China was prolonged, with no less than five checks; three on the Chinese side. I normally find border crossings fascinating and a touch romantic, but Chinese arrogance and officiousness leaves little room for fun! The next leg took us through the Taklamakan Desert, but you’ll have to wait a few days for that. Until then, some photos of the first leg…..

You are invited to view Gareth James’s photo album: The Silk Road I – Kyrgyzstan
The Silk Road I – Kyrgyzstan
Aug 23, 2013
by Gareth James
Bishkek to the Chinese border overland

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