No Borat

I have to admit that before Borat, I knew almost nothing of Kazakhstan. Now, after a few days here, I have to admit that I didn’t know anything then either, as the country has nothing to do with its illustrious depiction in the film. Turns out the only scenes in Borat which were supposed to be from Kazakhstan were actually filmed in Romania. Now I am not surprised. Almaty is a modern, thriving city and Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world with almost no inhabitants (well 17 million). Crazy considering how many times Austria must fit inside. …

Ski Instructor Wanted in Arslanbob!

Anyone want to live in Arslanbob over the winter and teach the locals to ski or snowboard? The local Community Based Tourism (CBT) staff is searching for someone who can help them get winter tourism off the ground here. There are no lifts, but there are bunny slopes and serious mountains for the more advanced. Of course it goes without saying that the only way up is to ski tour. But I have met more than a few Austrians for whom this will pose no problem whatsoever! A guide we met boasted that they had 75 ski tourists last year! …

Arslanbobski!

Arslanbob, in southwestern Kyrgyzstan, has been our base these last four days. The village is actually Uzbek and the architecture of the houses, with gated fronts leading to large courtyards, windows with vines, and a garden, is very pleasant. We nicknamed the place Arslanbobski in faux Russian. Anyway, much to my chagrin, a bad virus/cold struck and I have been rather useless for longer hikes. That’s too bad considering that Arslanbob is starting off point for trekking in the surrounding mountains that remind strongly of Austria, though the trees are deciduous with poplar and other broad-leaved trees in the village. …

Lake Song Köl

It was cold in lake Song Köl. Staying in a Yurt at these temps around freezing was not as bad as we thought, even if we were at 3000 meters above sea level and it is September. The landscapes were unreal. See the gallery for more pictures of the area. Tonight we are back in Bishkek, as the road we wanted to take is in bad shape. The only way south turned out to be north and then west. Off to Arslanbob to see the walnut harvest. Should be nuts!

Yurt Welcome!

Bathing, birding and a demonstration by an eagle hunter were the highlights of our visit to the banks of lake Issyk Kül. We also stayed in our first yurt! At night the stars were incredible, the waves at the lake were thunderous but soothing, and the landscape was otherworldly. We will be staying in many a yurt over the next few days and I am pleased to report that our first night exceeded expectations. From Bishkek, we set out with our ace taxi driver, an older gentleman who regularly drives the route between Bishkek and Bokonbaevo. Bokonbaevo is a small …

internetski no

Have a few drops of internet this morning. Wrote a nice long post about the last few days but will have to wait until Monday to post it. Took all my bandwidth just to write this. Weather taking a turn for the worse for a few days, glad to have a warm jacket. Yesterday we met with a traditional Eagle Hunter, he rocked up with his golden eagle in the back of his 84 VW Golf. We all got to hold the eagle before he let it loose on a defensless bunny. The whole thing left a pretty awesome impression, despite the …

Bishkek!

Today we are acclimatizing in Bishkek, a leafy, green city with cozy soviet architecture, cheap and plentiful taxis, and coffee so sweet it hurts the teeth. Impossibly high mountains covered in snow loom in the far distance. Unlike Innsbruck, which sits in a bowl of mountains on either side in a relatively narrow valley, the area around Bishkek is very flat until it seems to run right into a wall of peaks.  Our plane arrived at 4AM, a most uncivilized hour. By 6AM we arrived in the center of town just as the city was just waking up. Our taxi …

Let the adventure begin

Waiting for the airplane in Munich for our first foray into Central Asia. Other airlines in the terminal are flying to cities we have never heard of, Sulaymaniyah for example. For those scoring at home, it turns out to be located in Kurdish Iraq. Yesterday was filled with volleyball, good food and goodbyes. See some of you on the road from here to there! We will arrive in Bishkek, Kirgizstan early Wednesday morning and we will visit the office for community-based tourism as soon as it opens at 9AM. Mary will have to unpack her Russian skills and navigate us …