Tuesday, August 03, 2010

the kyrgyzstan stills:
The Heavenly Mountains
Apart from the food the best thing we've experienced in Kyrgyzstan is the extreme beauty of the Western Tian Shan mountains. A few days ago J. and I headed up into the backcountry in a 1950s era all-wheel drive Soviet mini bus piloted by two greasy Russian twins. We carried a tent, half a tank of propane, a giant tea pot -- all of which were rented from a little Kyrgyz girl who spoke perfect English nervously to me. We also had a key supply of nuts, yogurt, Kyrgyz bread, Russian pickles (turns out Russians are the king of pickles! Am I wrong?), and a giant log of smoked cheese.... We were on our way to Altyn Arshan, home of fabulous herds of horses, cigarette mad nomad boys, Russian mushroom pickers, and crazy city folks with tons of stuff in their kits. The quintessential feature of the place, of course, was the piping hot springs which sent us into shock for several hours every day (so good, so hot, Russians are the kings of hot springs. Am I wrong?). We camped up a the river in a little grove of trees and set off for one of the nearby glaciers early (this means 9:30 am). It was fabulous walking through those pastures through herds of semi wild horses and dogs, listening to the marmots call, bear track spotting. We didn't make it to the glacier but we had a great time, totally alone in a wild country, dreaming of nothing but being there.