Monday, May 9, 2011

KYRGYZSTAN - Bishkek to Jalahabad (incomplete)

Bishkek to Jalahabad  (April 26-May 9)
923 kms  13 days cycling
Elevation gain: 6365m
Odometer: 2202kms

My route through Kyrgyzstan - click on the map to enlarge

I was very fortunate to see a musical festival the day before I left Bishkek.
I have some videos of the musical performances which I'll load later on YouTube.
Solo baladeers and the orchestra.  

Gymnastic drummers - Korean descendants of WW2 captives, another Stalinist legacy.

Laughing teenage Kyrgyz girls before their performance

Women playing the komuz, a 3-stringed lute and the men behind playing upright fiddles and flutes.

A hunting eagle at the festival. Very sad to see this wild raptor in hooded captivity. Now a tourist spectacle. 

Hunting eagle and his handler. You can also see a falcon in the background.

My hotel room in Kochkor - 150 som ($3) for a room with wall-on-wall carpet, heaps of room for a solo cyclist to scatter his luggage and 4 beds to choose from. No hot water but a piping hot banya (or Russian-style bathhouse and steam sauna) around the corner.

Swan and ducks on Issyk Kol, the 2nd largest alpine lake in the world. (Lake Titicaca is the largest).

Water pumps in villages - great for thirsty cyclists, but a real chore for the villagers hauling heavy water pails to the pumps.

Kochkor - at the Saturday animal bazaar

Behind a rock and a hard camp

Nomad children on horseback

Multi-coloured hills at the entrance of Kokomeren Canyon, with a Muslim cemetery in the foreground.

A Swiss couple I met in the canyon travelling from Europe in a van.

Riding through Kokomeren canyon - a raging torrent, and a long climb on a stony road. 

Old Kyrgyz shepherd on his way home from the pastures. He's wearing the traditional Kyrgyz fur cap, called a tebbetey.

Shaldyk (felt carpets) hanging out to dry

Two men in the village of Kojumkil

Girls on way home from school

Horsecarts are common in the remoter valleys

Some delightful camping in the green rolling hills of Kyrgyzstan.

A yurt camp in the jailoo - the Ulubek family from Talas come up to the high summer pastures every May to set up their yurts for the summer. The animals follow in a long muster from the lowlands.

Papa Ulukbek

The circular opening in the ceiling

Mama was in control, giving orders to her 5 sons.

Straw mats make up the inner wall

Heavy waterproof felt is the outer layer

Pete and the Ulukbek family- 2 houses built in a day!

Kumys - fermented mare's milk. Offered to me by the family. Took a few mouthfuls to get used to the taste.
Mildly alcoholic, unlike the 3 shots of vodka, which came later. I staggered out of the yurt camp and fought against the headwinds to the 3200m Ala Bel pass.

My campsite at 3090, just below the pass. Spot the well-camoflagued tent in the foreground

Scenery on the descent into the steep valley

Lower Naryn gorge - most of this valley is now impounded by a series of hydro-electric dams, built by the Soviets.

Bluff campsite, Naryn gorge. I found this magical camp below a forested bluff. Spot the man on a donkey who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. 

Shepherds heading their goat flock up to the summer pastures from the low valleys

At the chaykhana (tea house) in the Fergana valley. A Central Asian tradition - all-male eating areas by a stream or under shady trees. Sitting on raised platforms, and with shoes off the men play cards or chat by a low table.  

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