Trip Start Nov 06, 2006
10Trip End Ongoing
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After a week working in Khujand, we left by car for Batken, just over the border in Kyrgyzstan. We found a taxi to take us from Khujand and things went quickly until reaching the Kyrgyz side of the border crossing. Our bags were searched and they did not like the plastic bag of vitamins that I had and made me take one with some scolding-hot tea, I guess to see if I instantly died or went into an ecstasy-fueled fit of some kind
We took a long car ride to Osh, where we spent the night, and then the next morning headed out early to Jalalabad and then to Arslenbob, a small village in the mountains. On the way we ran into: a man who took photos of Erica's multiple earrings (he was amazed) and a woman who, when she discovered neither of us really spoke with Russian, decided to sit right behind us on the bus and scream louder and louder into my ear the questions which I did not understand. I was glad to reach Arslenbob. We stayed with a Kyrgyz family in their home and were finally able to relax from all the travelling. We arrived to cloudy, rainy weather but the next day was perfectly clear and we went hiking in the surrounding mountains to a couple of waterfalls and just enjoyed the amazing views, ending the day in a snow shower. We were the first tourists of the year in Arslenbob, and we heard for the first time the question that all Kyrgyz people would ask us the rest of the trip: Why didn't you come in summer???
After a couple days we left for Bishkek...now, Bishkek is not exactly close, but we wanted to do the road there as it was supposed to be beautiful
In Bishkek we went to the Uzbek embassy and attempted to get our visas for Uzbekistan, and to make a long story short, we spent a lot of hassle only to not get them in the end - the woman working there told us in the morning we could get them in 3 days, and then when we returned in the afternoon with all necessary documents the same woman told us we couldn't get them for 2 weeks. Ah, Central Asian bueracracy.
So we had 10 more days in Kyrgyzstan, which ended up not being a problem at all. We traveled along Lake Issyk-Kul and onward to Karakol, a town east of the lake and not too far from the Chinese border. This region has some of the best hiking in all of central Asia, but a lot of it was inaccessible at this time (Why didn't you come in the summer???)
Anyways, Karakol was great and next we went to Bokonbaev...which was not so great. In fact we both agreed that it was actually one of the most depressing places we have ever visited. There just seems to be no life there, and the most interesting place was The National Endowment for Democracy office, which apparently, by the description of the man working there, specialized in giving massages. But we got to walk around Lake Issyk-Kul, and then the next morning we got the hell out of there.
Next was Kochkor, which ended up being our favorite place of the trip. Kochkor is a very traditional Kyrgyz village and is surrounded by wide open space and big mountain peaks, kind of what you imagine Kyrgyzstan to be when you see photos in guide books. We stayed at a house with a great Kyrgyz family and had great weather the whole time. We just started walking away from the town and found our own great hikes walking in the hills outside of town. Lake Song Kol is near the town, and we were told it was inaccessible this time of year (Why didn't you come in the summer???) but one person thought they could get us out there on an alternate road but guaranteed nothing...so we decided to go for it
Finally we returned to Bishkek only to find our flight on Sunday was completely booked...so we spent the afternoon going back and forth all over the city before finally getting tickets for the Saturday flight. We had a great dinner at our favorite Bishkek restaurant Navigator (get the fish!) and stayed our last night at the International School of Business & Management (where else would you stay in Bishkek?). Then back to Dushanbe.
The trip was incredible, I would recommend Kyrgyzstan to anyone, it is an amazing country and the people are extremely open and friendly. I also had an excellent traveling companion in Erica, which made the trip even better. We had a great time and the 2 weeks definitely went by way too quickly. But at the end of the trip, I can only think one thing: Why didn't we go in the summer???