Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Kyrgyzstan: The People


The people I met in Kyrgyzstan were incredibly friendly and at times quite curious. The Kyrgyz flag is red with a yellow sun that has forty rays, to represent the forty tribes that have called Kyrgyzstan home. Add to that the Russian influence, there’s quite an ethnic diversity about.

As for other foreigners, we didn't encounter that many. There's a really strong community based tourism community in Kyrgyzstan but it felt like we were still novelties as foreigners. People were friendly, curious even to meet us. The children fought for our attention but really very few people tried to sell us anything.  It was blissful in that regard.

From the markets and streets to the buzkashi field, here’s a few people I met along the way.

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Photos of people is something I really struggle with. I’m seemingly always too shy to ask and an read I'd like to improve on. Maybe one day…

Do you have this problem? Which is your favourite photo above? .




Monday, 9 December 2013

Kyrgyzstan & its Magic Mountains

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There are so many travel stories and moments and details I want to write about and share and for so long, I just haven't known where to start. Rather than staying silent, I might start at the start. Not Nepal or leaving London, but the trip through Central Asia. It was on this trip I decided I was ready to leave London. I resigned on my first day back in the office after this trip and despite all I’ve seen since, I think it was this trip that has had the biggest impact on me.
Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan hadn't necessarily been on my to see list for a long time before I went there.  When I'd first toyed with leaving London, going overland through Europe & Asia along the silk route was one of many ways I was considering. In a moment of haste after an average day at work, I paid a deposit on a trip from Istanbul to Beijing with Dragoman and then went on with my life. Soon after making that payment, I was offered a great opportunity at work (one that has made things many times easier back here in Melbourne) and realised I didn't want to leave London quite so soon. Rather than loose the not insubstantial deposit, I transferred to a much shorter trip that I could fit into my leave; Mountain Kingdom of Kyrgyzstan*.  I decided that a few weeks in Central Asia with a bit of free time at either end of the group tour would be perfect.

Despite having read up a little on the itineraries and things (things being the DFAT and UKFO warnings to make sure my travel insurance would be valid), I still didn't really know what to expect of Kyrgyzstan. Heck, it took a decent amount of practice to be able to spell the place.

A year on, I still don't really know how to explain Kyrgyzstan. It's up there as one of the most naturally beautiful countries I've been to. It's geography often reminded me of Switzerland and of New Zealand.  Snow capped mountains were seemingly always the backdrop, except for when we were up amongst them and they were the star of the show.  Crystal clear lakes reflecting the blue skies and a glacier or two as well.  It’d be worth a trip to Kyrgyzstan for the landscapes alone. And did I mention we were there during the autumn? So add rainbow coloured leaves to the crystal clear lakes and snow capped mountains.

And the sky. You so often read and hear about the African sky but I’ve got to say Kyrgyzstan’s was no less impressive.  Camping in the mountains and the valleys, we were covered by a blanket of stars.  Often, we’d spend a few hours after dinner lying down counting shooting stars. I saw more in one night than I’d seen in my entire life until that point (11).

As well as the beauty of the land, there were the people. The people I was travelling with and the people we met as we went. But that’s another story for another post. 
For now, I’ll leave you with some of the many landscape photos from this incredible Central Asian country.

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*The route we took was slightly different, heading north into Kazakhstan due to instability and unrest in the Fergana valley, Osh and the Uzbek/Kyrgyz border. Our route was Bishkek – Alla Archa – Chong Keming – Karakol – Altan Arashan – Karakol – Tup Kol – Cholpon Ata – Chaek. We were greeted with some unseasonably early snow which meant not getting up to Song Kol and whilst that was a little disappointing at the time, that’s the nature of overland travel.
 
Also worth noting with overland trips, especially in this part of the world – it involves a lot of camping. Suits me to a tee, especially when you get to camp in such stunning places. Most of the pics above are taken from our campsites or short walks from them.

I’m not the only one that’s a fan of this trip though, here’s another review 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Sunday Suggestions


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{From Sundays gone by}


Happy Sunday! I’m heading down the coast for the day and I’m pretty excited about it. Life got a bit busy there, what, with adjusting to work again, setting up home and things. It’s only the last week or two I’ve hit my stride again. The pics above are from a Sunday spend wandering Point Nepean back in September. I haven’t been very present online during this time but I’ve been lurking around the internet, reading a plenty. Some of those things I consider well worth sharing.  For your Sunday reading pleasure, here’s some of them:

10 things I want my daughter to know about working out – “The planet looks different from a bike or a pair of skis than it does from a car or an airplane.  Out in the elements you have the time and space to notice details and meet people and remember smells and bugs and mud and rain and the feeling of warm sunshine on your face.  And those are the moments that make up your life.”
Or in my case, what I want my niece to know. I like to think my parents set a good example, and we were always out and about, but it’s only recently that I’ve focused on what my body is capable of and once more fallen in love with the outdoors. This article hits a really big nail on the head.

A scientific guide to saying no – as someone who needs down time and solo time, saying no can often be a big problem in my life. Recognising I need nights in alone is one thing but committing to it and maying it happen? Well learning to say No is the first step.

Have you chosen your calendars for next year?  I gave my folks one of these Vintage Maps one last year, and maybe I’ll treat myself for to one for next year. Or the Around the World one, or the London one. Or perhaps I’ll do something with my many photos and make one. Regardless of what adorns my walls next year, this humorous post on the New Yorker, The Man Who Invented the Calendar cracks me up. That extra R in February caught me out for years

Not new, and certainly not to devoted West Wing watchers (of which I’m slowly becoming one) but it turns out we’ve been mislead with an erroneous map of the world for years. I’m struggling a little to find a globe I like at a price point I’m happy with that is up to date – it’s incredible how many still don’t have South Sudan on them. Turns out South Sudan is the least of my worries, the whole world is out of scale.

This butternut pumpkin macaroni and cheese tastes as good as it sounds. Paired with good friends, good red and good chat, it makes for a great night.  If you’re feeling cheeky, send a link to it to your friends and suggest a get together. One might volunteer to host and cook it (thanks K). At least, that’s what happened to me.  And if you’re that lucky, be sure to remember these common sense tips to being a good dinner party guest.

I’m trying to get pen to paper on my Central Asia trip from last year currently (look out for Kyrgyzstan recap soon, with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to follow) but this piece on border patrol at Uzbekistan cracks me right up. Exiting the airport in Tashkent proved to be quite a comedy for me as I went from station to station, collecting paperwork, completing paperwork, exchanging completed paperwork for the next set of paperwork. That said, it’s all part of travel sometimes and things like that just remind me of how far from home I am, in the best possible way.

Blinded by the White of the Southern OCean’s Majestic Icebergs.  Antarctica seems like the traveller’s holy grail. It’s high on my list and the more I read and see of it, the more I need to see and read about it.  This blog series on the Guardian by painter in residence, John Kelly, is wonderful. He doesn’t try and hide his excitement and incredulity at what he is seeing.
Snow isn’t something I’ll be up close and personal with anytime soon but these incredible macro photos of snowflakes and snow crystals are mesmerising.

What’s your favourite thing on the internet lately?