Kyrgystan travel info
25 days - august 2004
alone in a wholly independent travel
july- august 2004 (25 days)
How I moved
mainly by bus, minibus (marshrutmyy), jeep, shared taxi and
(I cheated) flying
in cheap guesthouses/hotels (5-20$), in yurts and private
houses contacted through Shepherd's life and Community
Based Tourism (CBT) associations
What I liked:
staying in the yurts in Song Kul, the mongolian
lineaments of the people, the colorful lada cars, the wonderful
mountains, how fresh it's also in summer and the whole country
still to be discovered
What I dislike:
the irritating police in Bishkek and the visa hassles to travel
between the stans
(for a lowlow budget travel) sleeping 5-15$, eating 2-5$,
rent a jeep (3 hours two ways 50$, 4 people) also flying is
really affordable (40$ Osh-Bishkek (1 hour)). What will take
most of your budget will be the visas (40-80$)
even in the heart of august in Bishkek it wasn't so hot,
in Kochkor the temperature was perfect (18-22C), while in the
high lands (Song Kul 3000m) I froze up (0 C in the night, 5-13
C in the day)
irritating policemen in Bishkek interested in your money, some
drunks and thieves in Karakol, but anyway I would say it's a
bring a sleeping bag if you want to sleep in Song Kul and some
trekking gears because not everywhere is possible to found gears
to trek or to climb, on the opposite....
THE TRAVEL (common part for Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan pages)
Why in Central
my travel in Iran in the 2000, that part of world south of Siberia
and encompassed between the Caspian Sea and China, in my mind
has always been a mysterious jigsaw of countries rarely mentioned.
I'm not speaking about pure desert, but about an area as big
as Europe containing a meaningful percentage of the world energy
resources, exactly as it happens for most of Africa.
However what definitely attracted me was the curiosity
about which kind of ethnic groups live there, if exists and
where is the "ethnic border" between Asia and Europe.
Travelling in Iran let me to focus the southern border of this
area, while being in Russia the northern one.
the Central Asia as target I realised it's really huge and it
hasn't been easy to select which among the five "stans"
was worth to be visited. The must was not more than two countries
for my 25 days trip. Turkmenistan seems too hassling to get
the visa and travel freely throughout the country, furthermore
too hot in summer, and baking my brain definitely is not my
Kazakhstan is hot as well and a lot of people warned me
as the least interesting among the stans. Uzbekistan was a kind
of must to be seen and Kyrgyzstan seemed to fit better with
travelling by public means of transport than Tagikistan. Hence
there I ended up!
ABOUT KYRGYZSTAN AND KYRGYZ
Laos of Central Asia", this is how I'd define this small
forgotten country plunged among the Tian Shan mountains. For
sure it's not its history or its culture that led you there
and once back nor Bishkek, nor Osh will belong to your memories.
What can push you there is the curiosity to explore the wildlife
and how the inhabitants manage to live in this tough land. In
short I think that Kyrgyzstan is more a target for travellers
than for tourists.
I spent some
wonderful days living in a yurt of the summer herders at 3000m
near the lake Song Kul. Washing in the lake, riding horses (or
better trying), speaking with the people in such relaxed atmosphere
made me feel like on another planet.
very mountainous it's possible to travel by public means of
transport; connecting the main towns there're comfortable buses,
while coloured "marshrutnyy" (minivan) go almost everywhere.
Obviously it takes times and Kyrgyzstan, unlike Uzbekistan,
it's not the right place for a few days trip. What more charmed
me was to see the change in the lineaments of the people passing
from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan; from a not identified strange
ethnic mix like it's in the first country to a clear mongolian
appearance in the last one.
country, more than the neighbouring Uzbekistan, preserves a
russian influence and also the attitude of the people in the
main towns sometimes is close to the russian roughness; you'll
feel it in particular coming from Uzbekistan.
from the irritating police in Bishkek and the drunks walking
in the evening I've not had any particular problem, as anyway
in the whole trip in Central Asia.
I entered in Kyrgyzstan from Fergana Valley sleeping my first kyrgyz night in
the supersoviet and "really not uzbek" city of Osh.
From here I was to lazy to spend 15 hours on a bumping jeep to get to Bishkek
and, shame on me, I flew: 40$ for 1 hour flight plus the wonderful view of the mountains:
sorry but I think I'd do it again!!
My primary task in the kyrgyz capital was to get the kasakh transit visa. I
got immediately disappointed knowing that on wensday the embassy was closed and 2 whole
days were necessary to have it. Obviously I arrived at the embassy on Tuesday just after
it had closed.
No way to wait four days for it, " I'll get it in the way back!".
Then I left by minibus to Kochkor. 6 hours packed in a super uncomfortable kind of tonne
can, moreover later I found out I didn't paid so much less than taking a faster shared
taxi. Just to make my travel better, the road snakes at the feet of the mountains and the
driver probably was feeling like Schumacher :-) so I spent part of the travel trying to
avoid to throw up on the people around me!
Kochkor is a small town, but I found it more than a starting point for the
trip to the Tien Shan mountains. Luckily I found a so nice danish guy, known to weeks
before in Samarcanda, who was leaving for 3 days trip to the lake Song Kol sleeping the
the yurt of the herders at 3000 meter. To share the expenses of the jeep I joined the
group (him and some other travellers) and at the end such trip turned out the most
interesting experience of the whole travel.(read about it)
Back to Kochkor I reached Karakol by minibus in 7 hours; there I hang around
for two days visiting the animal market and the crowded beaches of the lake Issuk Kul. It
was time to start my way back to Tashkent: I got to Bishkek where I freaked out for 3 days
to have my kazakh transit visa but enjoying a lot to stay at
Sabyrbek's B&B guesthouse with nice family of the owner!
Then by bus I entered in Kazakhstan and I stopped in Shymkent. After wandering
in the town for few hours I easily got in Tashkent where I spent my last afternoon at a
water entertaiment park relaxing and trying to gather thousands of impressions of my last
month through Central Asia.
I loved Kyrgyzstan, and it's one of the rare countries
where I would come back, maybe taking the chance to travel to Tajikistan.
What I liked mainly was the simplicity of the country and also
how much it is still to be discovered. If you haven't planned particular excursions or
climbs, 15 days it's an enough amount of time for visiting the country. You don't need
special organisations: on the main ways there're many public means of transport and
meanwhile so few tourists around.
Kyrgyzstan is definitely a place for people fond of the
mountains or generally speaking of the nature, but not only. In fact how the locals manage
to live in the mountains was one of the things that mainly charmed me. The days in the
yurt near the lake Song kul observing the people living there were amazing. Moreover
entering in Kyrgyzstan I felt entering in Asia, due to the mongolian-like lineaments of
the people who looked so exotic to me: if you are a traveller hardly you'll get