Thursday, October 10, 2013

Silk Road – Kyrgyzstan – July, 2013
Leaving Kashgar behind, we crossed the gorgeous Torugart Pass high in the tian shan mountains into Kyrgyzstan which gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.  The little potstickers and mooncakes from breakfast were a delicious lunch and we drove for many hours through gorgeous landscape to the Tash Rabat Yurt Camp.  After so much heat it was amazing to feel cold for a change and I was happy to have my long underwear and parka with me!!!   We older women shared one yurt (traditional round house of the nomandic herdsmen) and the younger ones another which worked very well for all of us.  I took a walk around the camp along a stream and out into the meadows – so fresh and clear out.   We all met in another yurt for dinner of noodles and vegetables, cabbage and potatoes.  After cleaning up a bit in the cold water, I climbed into my cot piled with extra blankets.  A fire had been lit in the wood stove in our tent and it was nice and cozy inside…

In the morning after a delicious breakfast of homemade crepes and jam we walked to the well-preserved 15th century stone caravanserai where the travelers along the silk road slept, rested, traded and tended their camels.  Stopped for lunch of delicious omelette wrapped beef rolls filled with mushrooms and kasha before heading on to Song Kol lake, hiking up to a beautiful waterfall along the way.  En route to our next yurt camp we passed little furry marmonts, wild horses and incredible mountain scenery.  Before dinner I wandered down to the lake and it was so peaceful and quiet…Little smoked white fish and soup for dinner and then into our tent where we slept on mats this time.  I got up in the night and went outside to see the wonderous sky filled with stars – it was breathtakingly beautiful.

After fry bread and fried eggs for breakfast I walked down to the lake passing horses grazing nearby and then we were on the road again.  We stopped in Kochkor to see how felt was made and I bought a felt wall hanging which depicted camels and a yurt tent reminding me of the silk road.  There was also a very interesting museum nearby filled with old instruments, clothes, kitchen utensils, etc. and then we stopped for lunch, i.e. lentil soup, grated carrots salad and juicy watermelon which I have truly come to love.  We arrived in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, later in the afternoon.  Some of the travelers went out “clubbing” but I decided to take a walk into the “town” and enjoy a quiet evening on my own…

After a leisurely breakfast by the pool we stopped by the Uzbekistan embassy to drop off passports to get our visas.  We took a 2 hour walking tour of the city filled with lovely plazas, parks, statues, flowers, fountains and open spaces.  Went inside the 5-story Tsum department store filled with electronics, cell phones, perfume, etc. and then to a bustling open air market selling dried fruits, spices, clothes, etc.  I bought some delicious dried apricots to eat along the way.  Lunch at a Turkish restaurant for a change was delicious, i.e. platters of lamb kebabs, rice, peppers, roast tomatoes, eggplant and warm crisp flatbread.  We then drove out of town to the Burana tower which is like a minaret and climbed inside up to the top for a nice view.  There were also some very interesting totem grave stones around the site.  On we drove through little towns with small horses grazing in the meadows – such beautiful countryside, arriving at our home stay in the Chong Komin Park in the late afternoon. Dinner in the large dining room was grated carrot and cabbage salad, lamb stew, potatoes, tomatoes and breads.  Afterwards, our hostess sang as she strummed a traditional guitar type instrument which we all enjoyed.  Took a nice hot shower before turning in for the night…

In the morning after breakfast we hiked into the Chong Kemin park which was lovely, especially as it had rained the night before.  We stopped in a meadow for a picnic of crisp meat pies, tomatoes, cucumbers, dried apricots and nuts.  When we returned to the home stay I took a leisurely walk around the little “town” before dinner of kasha, carrot salad and melon. 

After breakfast we drove to Cholpen Ata and took a veery rocky walk down to the Issyk Kul lake.  It is one of the biggest natural water lake “reservoirs” in the world and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea.  Afterwards we had a delicious lunch of rice pilaf, duck, tomato/cucumber/onion salad, cookies and tea before walking to fairy canyon and into its sandstone hills which reminded me somewhat of Sedona.  Dinner that night at the yurt camp was deliciously tender fresh water smoked salmon from the lake, boiled potatoes and onions.  It rained pretty heavily during the night and some of the tents (luckily not ours!!!) leaked!!!

After delicious thin pancakes with local honey and melon for breakfast we drove out towards Karakol, stopping to walk in the Jeti-Oghuz valley surrounded by pine trees and mountains.  Had lunch of kasha, peppers and onions, beef stroganoff, chicken with vegetables and bread along the way.  Stopped by the holy trinity Russian Orthodox cathedral made of wood and then the Dungan mosque built in the Chinese style and on to the village of Pristan Prehevalsk where we visited an interesting museum and memorial to Russian explorer/geographer Nikolai Przewalski who died young of thyphus on one of his expeditions.  Stayed in Cholpen Ata for the night.

Stopped by the “stone gardens” in the morning to see the petroglyphs, rocks on which the people of the time carved shapes such as hunters tracking snow leopards, camels, chariots, long horned ibez, etc. dating from the bronze age.  The art of stone inscriptions gradually disappeared, with the spread of Islam in Central Asia, which restricted images of animals and human beings.  However, many of the forms used in these petroglyphs are seen in Kyrgyz felt carpets and other forms of traditional arts and crafts.  Stopped in an elegant restaurant near a lake and had steamed meat buns, stir fry beef with peppers and onions and French fries!!!  Picked up our Uzbekistan visas in Bishkek and then took an evening flight to Tashkent…Our guide and driver were terrific!!!  I will miss them both.

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