mi ruta de la seda » 2010 » November
It sounded good to us. A forest in which you can walk nearly infinitely sleep in the middle of it in a rural village surrounded by walnuts and mountains. So we decided to go.
We got a shared car with a fake family (we genuinely thought they were a family but they didn’t know each other at all). On the way we go thorough a mountain pass that is 3330 meters high.
After 11 hours travelling we are left at the t-junction to Arslanbob. We are just an hour away biut seems impossible to get a ride. This couple offers us their house, it was nice, but they smelt of vodka too mush to accept their invitation.
All the ones that offered to take us to Arslanbob had too much of a smiley face or somehow reddish eyes due to vodka. It was a zombie land, not much light and no one walking straight… After an hour we met a man that seemed sober and that didn’t ask too much of an abusive price. We got seven people in his Daewo Tico (one of the smallest cars I’ve ever got into) and went to Arslanbob. We loved the village.
We would have wanted to cross from Issy-Köl lake but the road was closed due to snow.
The harvest season has finished but there are still tons of nuts on the ground.
Look at far as you want, 11.000 hectares of trees that brings 1500 tons of nuts a year. There are also other fruit trees, 5000 tons of apples are collected a year.
Alexander the great got these nuts when he was in this part of the world and brought them to Europe. Now they are the ones used in European plantations and are known as Greek nuts.
in the background the Basah- Ata range.
The traditional clothes are great.
We sit under a tree to have a rest and eat something. The view is perfect. Nothing is heard, there’s been an hour hearing nothing, and during the next hours nothing is heard either, well, some birds, the wind when it blows and the crack of nuts when we break them to eat them. It’s a very peaceful feeling that has made me get into nature more.
Amazing faces with amazing smiles. Don´t miss the guy at the back with the coat, the beard and the hat, I’ll try to put more pictures of people like that in next post.
Our two days have gone fast, now we leave Arshlanbob it’s nuts and it’s 80 meters waterfall to go to Osh where in June of this year there were revolts and ethnic problems. We’ve heard that 70% of the buildings were burned. “what will we find?
Soon from Osh.
A message for my friend Linday. I know in Costa Rica you use rabbits as pets, so I think it’s better if you stop the video in the minute 1:51.
A marvellously aesthetic day. The lake, the autumn light in such a clear day, the snowed mountain peaks, the endless mountains, the dun colours, the feeling of riding a horse, Talgar with his Central Asia book face, his traditional dress, imposing Tumara and the dog with his own personality. A day full of precious images, and with some of them I’ve done this video. I hope you’ve liked it.
It’s been a nightmare to find the music for this video, finally the Germans Notwist are the soundtrack. Nothing suited the pace of the day, and finally, even the music is not perfect for it, at least you listen to a good album.
Falconry is a tradition in Central Asia. Talgar got Tumara from the nest when she was young and took care of her so she’d recognized him as his mother-father. Later he trained her for true months that seems short but eagles know how to hunt nearly as they are born. Tumara is young, has five years and weights six kilos, that are a lot once you hold her on your arm. In a few years he’ll free her so she can leave her wild life. I guess it will be a hard day for him.
Talgar tells us that they normally get one or two foxes, rabbits or even wolfs and that later they rest for three days as the eagle needs it.
I’ve falled in love with the dog, he was by his own al the time not stopping moving even for a second as if he’d never tired. He’s been up and down the hills searching for game, but we haven’t been lucky.
I wonder, how would Turmara and the dog get along?
If you feel like more falconry, yesterday in the Spanish newspaper “El Mundo” there was a video about it in Spain, here you have a link.
Next post will come with more beautiful landscapes, from the biggest walnut forest in the world, Arslanbob.
See you soon.
After some problems with the computer power adaptor, finally I can come back to post again.
We were in Kyrgyzstan so I continue. What have I come for here? To see mountains. Forty percent of the country is over 3000 meters highs and in it’s mountains there are 8.200 glaciers. This is possible due to the Tien Shan mountains that divides this tiny country with China. I start the trip in Issyk Khöl lake to go to the south later on and cross to China.
I start in Bishkek, waiting my red haired visitor. Silvia is coming the next day to stay two weeks here. The capital doesnt have much it is a simple city but, I wouldn’t expect more from a country that until two generations ago were nomads. Extremely a thing to do here is go to the opera, so I try, here it costs just a few euros and in Madrid over 200, but there is no show. Getting unlucky with the opera, in Tashkent I tried to go and it was under renovation, I’ll have to leave it for another trip.
In the morning I go for a walk and to change money, from the streets huge mountains can be seen in the distance, I didn’t expect them so close by, but this is why in Sogdian times (tenth century approximately) they gave it that name; “place under the mountains” How will the mountain villages be?
Our first visit to the Issyk-Köl lake is the little village of Tamchy, and, Why look for accommodation if you can have a bath?
The lake never get’s frozen(it’s very deep and has a high salinity) so it’s called “warm lake”. I’d change the name of it to freezing lake.
Two men came to us when we left the water, they are stunned that we got into the water and cheer us up with hugs and loud good words. Wait!, they are pissed. If there is something left from the communist era, that’s vodka. They hit their necks with a finger, we’ve figured out later on that it means to go drinking. We politely decline the proposal and search for a place to sleep.
When arriving to our guesthouse a snack is brought to us to recover the energy left in the cold water. Some fried kind of bread, yogurt and home made marmalade.
Locals are funny, they ask us things about Spain and tell us what they know about it. We learn that the best Spanish guitarists are Antonio Banderas and Alejandro Sanz (they may believe this from TV movies or something like that but it’s not right at all).
This is a country attached to it´s land and animals.
Next day we go to Cholpon-Ata to see this petrogliphs under the rain. We get wet from feet to head.
We keep going around the lake, on the bus we get surprised by a hurricane storm, we were not sure if we’d arrive, the snow falls stronger every time and we don’t even see two meters on the road but the driver keeps going and going. Winter has arrived suddenly. There’s 30 centimetres of snow here and the village is beautiful.
We see some colonial buildings.
A… A… What is this? It’s not a pagoda, neither a church, but on top of the tower… A moon? This is a Chinese mosque, built with no clay in 1910. It’s a current cult place and was closed by the Bolsheviks from 1933 to 1943. Even Kyrgyzs are not very religious it’s not strange to hear the call to pray in some villages.
We stop for lunch and have a soup to warm up. I try a different soup from my favourite central asia noodle soup Lagman and I get this russian one. Silvia get’s one that tastes like Rufles.
Holy Trinity Cathedral. Had never seen a Russian orthodox church before.
We go to Altyn Aranshan, some hot springs in the middle of the mountain. 14 km awaits us in the snow, there’s been a car before and sometimes we have no choice but walking by it’s marks, it’s like walking in a catwalk, quite uncomfortable and tiring.
It is -10 degrees. We go to the baths that are 56 degrees, after walking four hours it’s a pleasure, moreover, we are the only ones.
We have slept in the mountain hunt with three layers of blankets and a hat on, of course, there was no heating an in the morning there was ice formed inside the window glass.
Kyrgyzstan has the second biggest population of snow leopard but it’s nearly impossible to see them.
They’ve been lucky today and have got some game. We see other hunters on horses, they tell us that they are Don Quijote and Sancho Panza.
Karakol is surrounded by mountains and it’s ideal for several days of trekking, but it’s too late, there’s too much snow and cold to camp out, we have to enjoy only short excursions.
We continue round to the lake going to Bokonbayevo. On the picture a mosque of the village. From here there will be a video that I wanted to do in Uzbekistan but I couldn’t.
To go to the south we have to go to Bishkek again and we found this. What famous men we have in Spain!
another funny banner to finish.
In Kazakhstan ? Where’s Borat? Kazakhstan wasn’t in the plan, was it? No, it wasn’t, but the border between Uzbekistan and Kirgizstan is closed in the uzbek side. There are elections in a few days (this has been written later, the elections have been held already) and in case there are problems the border has been closed. In June of this year there was an uprising with deaths, villages on fire and 200.000 refugees trying to cross to Uzbekistan.
So I could cross by Tajikistan or Kazakhstan and the way by Kazakhstan was much faster. I applied for a transit vista in Tashkent and I got it next day. I could have taken a bus and cross in one day , but going through a country seeing nothing I thought was a pity. I’ve chosen the village of Taraz to make a stop, sleep here a night, talk with someone a little bit and have at least a meal. It’s not much, but I don’t expect to see the nineth biggest country in the world in one day.
After leaving Uzbekistan I can throw away all this papers. They are hotel registrations compulsory by the government. They can ask about them when you leave the country to be sure you haven’t… done anything suspicious against the government i guess…
The transit visa is for these things, to cross a country or something similar. In this case the duration was up to five days and the only requirement was having a visa of the country I was going to cross to, Kyrgyzstan.
With just a little amount of time I make the coin collection for my sister in a record time and I need to get money twice as I spend a lot. Kazakhstan has a lot of petrol. From what they say we cannot imagine it, and after letting you imagine it, they say they have more than that. Maybe this is why I’m spending four times more than in Uzbekistan.
A little happy thing. The plug remains the same, two rounded plugs. I’ve been using the same plug from Spain with no adapter.
There were a lot of Halal places in the street with un-sugesting places like Fast Halal, Halal You or this Halal Burger. Halal is the way the animals are sacrified so Muslims can eat it (a way permitted by the Quran).
While waiting for the visa in Tashkent a woman spoke to me and told me that she wanted to change husband’s, that she didn’t like hers… I didn’t know what to answer… “Hi, I want to change husband.” one day if I’m bored I’ll go to someone and tell this annihilating sentence, to see the face.
Taraz has some of the oldest buildings in the country, they are not a big thing but beautiful. If you are getting tired of mosques and Muslim art in Kyrgyzstan we’ll rest as it’s all landscapes.
The keeper of one of them gives me a oil pancake that becomes my breakfast.
A little noria with the same operational way as the Hama water norias in Syria (here you have the link if you want to see it).
I glue the passport again, this time much more. There are only two more border til the end of the trip, hope it lasts.
Leaving Kazakhstan becomes a horror, I wait two hours for the bus, when it comes people run and push each others in the doors, and of course, the foreigner has no seat with a stupid face. The next bus arrives three hours later, one hour late and instead of going to Bishkek it’s just going to the border only. This bus does not depart at the end so I have to share a taxi with some other young guys. I’d taken the shared taxi not waiting five hours!. At least, as I imagined something like this I devour my Kyrgyzstan guide book.
I arrive to the border at night. A soldier with huge hands mistreat’s my feeble passport, he goes throught all the pages twice not finding the visa of his own country, it’s a bit difficult because there are three faces of pages left, but I think he does not find it because each finger blocks three quarters of each page. I end up looking for the visa page myself and giving him the passport with care. He stamps it and let’s me go. My passport and me get relieved.
Crossing a border at night is unpleasant because it’s usually not well indicated, there’s no light and you don’t know when you are across and where to get the transport to wherever you want to go.
I was lucky and one of the guys in the shared taxi became my “protector” and helped me to change transport another three times to arrive to my hostel in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. We have next to us two drunks that in a sudden break of the car have fallen to the ground and have not even woken up… At midnight I read the name of my hostel on a wall. Good!
The self-portrait I’ve liked the most in a long time.
I’ve bought myself a soviet military hat-helmet. I’ve been told it’s from the guys in tanks. I’m not of that kind of person interested in war objects or anything like that but I’ve liked this one and I’ve bought it.
I don’t think I’ll use them more than three times in my life, now I need to go to a disguise party. Yes, “they”, because I’ve ended up buying a second one in black leather that was from planes, which is the one that has made me look into the shop. A consumerism day in Central Asia.
And, of course, if you have rented a bicycle and you’ve bought a hat-helmet, What are you going to do apart from wearing it?
My bike was falling apart and Dermot´s finished up loosing air in one of the tubes of the wheel. The kids were stunned, an Uzbek bike? Hahaha, I’ve really enjoyed dodging tourists, cars and locals in the alleys where centuries ago business was done with goods from distant lands. What would merchants say if they’d see me on a bicycle around here in the 12th century?
Self portraits some times are good in the first take and others need some more effort. This one started trying to get a picture of me and Dermot riding the bikes. Later I got the idea of the zenithal photograph you see.
During the process I was about to run over a man and the a woman with a kid. I was close to crash a parked car, smash the kerb twice and a bus and two taxis had to stop or blow their horn to stop running over me.
The wide angle lenses gives it a perspective that I love. Adding to this some leaves to break the grey of the asphalt, a crack on the ground, the sunset light, and there it is, a self portrait for the memories.
The picture has not been fixed at all, as most of the ones I post. It has not even been cropped. The look was small but not a circus one, the thing is that with the wide angle it get’s it very far and looks like a toy. I know I overuse it, but… To see the real size of the picture you can see a picture in the previous post.
Before leaving, a curiosity. Central Asia has the places in earth further from any ocean and Uzbekistan is the only country in the world that is surrounded by countries that have no sea. If you are asked about it in a TV quiz.
To Kyrgyzstan! With no bike.
Second part of Dermot´s visit to Uzbekistan, written by him:
Bukhara, now this is what I expected to see in this Central Asian country.
The Kalyan minaret dominates the Bukhara skyline, the only building in the town not to be razed to the ground by Genghis Khan he found it so beautiful.
The tower is 45.9 metres high and is also known as the Tower of Death because as recently as the early 20th century criminals were executed by being thrown from the top.
Timur is now officially a national hero in Uzbekistan and for centuries remained a popular figure throughout Europe. His statue even replaced Marx’s in the centre of Tashkent following it’s independence from the Soviet Union. However, Timur, also known as Tamerlane, left a mixed legacy.
While Central Asia blossomed under his rule other areas and beautiful cites were plundered and destroyed. Timur was a Genghis Khan admirer but he didn’t have his intelligence or his stratigic skills so he was an emulator substituting skills with extreme brutality. Many areas had their entire population massacred, while there is no official record of the number murdered by Timur, it is estimated to be between 15 and 19 million, and this must be a record in history. His next step before dying at 69 in 1405 was to China, if he’d been successful, we’d have a different world today.
For those wondering why he had two names: Timur was his original Mongol name, which means, “Iron” but in Europe, he became known as Tamerlane, which translates as Timur the Lame as he walked with a limp due to a war injury. A fact verified by the 1941 exhumation of his body by the Russians, which also revealed he was missing two fingers from his right hand.
Bukhara is more ancient and real for me than Samarkand, as not as much restoration has taken place. The streets are narrow and cobbled with markets and shops selling the usual tourist paraphernalia.
Sunset and a flock of Black birds oblige us by flying low while we watch from the Café with the ‘Best Photo View’ banner in the entrance.
If you want to go to the Haman, (ancient baths) go at round 8pm because when you are finished the staff will be having Plov and vodka and they will invite you to join them. While we were enjoying the food and drink, we learned that the father of one guy owned the place and another guy was married to the owner’s daughter, was a dentist and at night worked as a masseuse in the Haman WOW. A fun night with a good mix of vodka for them, beer for us, uzbeknglish, Iranian music and some dancing in the hallway with the chief of police.
We also see Bukhara on bikes but these ones are very old compared to those in Samarkand. We loved them!
We cycled to the entrance of the city. On the left are the walls of the old city, known as the Ark, and in the background what is for me one of the best ancient Asian Cityscapes I have witnessed.
Bukhara had 40 bazaars, 24 caravanserais and 6 tims (that means shopping arcades). The development of that time was not only in a shape of buildings, the first reliable star map was created here, and during what is know as “Islam Golden Age” the Avicenna was created, a medicine cannon that was used in Europe until the 17th century.
The Kalyan undercover of leaves not yet transformed into the colours of autumn, which would almost match the colour of the Kalyan.
Everywhere you go in Bukhara the kids ask to trade candy for a ‘photo’, the effect of irresponsible tourism, but it’s when they ask for money that annoys me. Coke, Liga and intense dark eyes.
Both Bukhara and Samarqand were important cities on the Silk Road. Samarqand in particular because of its central location between China and the West. They were both centres of trade, culture and religion and both are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
We go wine tasting where we tried four red and four white Uzbek wines. Some of them were quite good.
40 years operating as testified by the driver. Nice colour, they are all yellow in Ireland.
Among the back streets and alleyways was this hidden four-minaret mosque. We nearly missed seeing it as it was not very well highlighted.
One of the coolest local puppet exhibitions. In case you haven’t guessed this is Ali BaBa and his 40 thieves.
It’s like a magnet, we can’t get away.
While driving back to Tashkent in our taxi we pass kilometres and kilometres of the white covered fields, cotton. Uzbekistan is the fifth largest producer of cotton in the world. But the industry receives international condemnation for its use of child labour in it’s harvesting even though the practice was officially outlawed by the government in September 2008.
Every year school classes are emptied for two and a half months (Sept to Nov) while harvesting is carried out.
Even though I’ve been in countries that grow cotton, I’ve never been in a cotton field. It must be very hard and difficult work for children working long days in these conditions.
Before my dreaded flight back to Dublin we have a super lunch before I leave as I’m not expecting much on the plane.
I leave by taxi with plenty of time as check-in, customs and passport control can be very slow I am told. 20 minutes after I get the taxi I am sitting in the departure lounge, no delay at all. As I board the plane I am again shocked, it’s a new aircraft and very luxurious, plenty of leg room and an excellent curry dinner.
I guess these sums up Uzbekistan for me…. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!
Oh, one final picture!
You may have been thinking how does Fernando get the time to research and write this blog while travelling. Well, here you have it…. He uses every opportunity to work on it.
A little expanation on the title… There is a movie called Planes, Trains and Automobiles and as I used all forms of transportation I thought it an appropriate title.
Cheers from a rainy Dublin
Thank you for the posting Dermot!