We’ve decided to take turns writing the blog this time. This time it’s Bruce’s turn !
I came from Melbourne, with a short afternoon trip in Istanbul before arriving in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; so I got quite tired of airports and airplanes. We arrived in Bishkek at around 5am local time (I got back 3 hours timezone I lost on the way to Istanbul!), and grabbed a few hours relieved sleep.
Our local guide Reville met us in a Delica (PeterMaloney) vehicle which we’ll bounce around in for the next few days. It’s right hand drive, being Japanese, but they also drive on the right. Apparently 40% of vehicles are right hand drive; it doesn’t seem to matter a lot. Most of the roads don’t have lines anyway, or if they do, they are very faint, or obscure to their purpose. For instance, on one 3 lane road, the middle lane seemed to operate as a sort of anarchy lane. A bit like Queens Parade, but without any overhead arrows.
The other roadside feature I noticed was that many of the power poles were like half-hearted Stobey poles (SA). The wooden post is lashed to a short concrete post that is in the ground.
Kyrgyzstan has a pretty mixed population with arab, asian, mogul and russian influences. Their original nationalities are still included on their Kyrgyzstani passports, which is a bit confusing. The city, Bishkek, has a population around 1 million, with only around 4 million population in the country. Most of the country is very, relatively poor, rural, a bit like northern Serbia. Around 90% identify with Muslim faith, but there also seems to be plenty of grog around too ! (vodka).
After a bit of mucking about later this morning getting US$ out of recalcitrant bank ATM, we had lunch, Lagman is a yummy local noodle dish, and headed 30km or so South to a national park to go for a bit of a walk. The 3.5km along to a waterfall sounded a nice walk to stretch out the plane legs. The thing is, the track started to head up and up, sometimes quite steep. Panting and heart beating hard I checked the altitude on my phone maps. 2300m ! No wonder it seemed tough. Oh well, good altitude training. Most of us did make it all the way to the waterfall at 2600m, but being the end of summer it wasn’t that speccy really. The surrounding ragged mountain tops made up for it. The river is sourced from snow melt which you can see in some of the photos, probably starting at about 3000m. These are pretty big mountains !
Jenelle: It was particularly hard going keeping upright on the gravelly steep path in parts. Thanks you Margie and Raf – those arduous sessions at the pool and pilates have paid off.