Kyrgystan has literally blow me away and is my asbolute favrouite country now. Although the end was not quite planned.... but more to that at the end.
the Kyrgyse landscape
90% of Kyrgystan is on average on an altitude of more than 1500MüM, 94% from that is mountain area. Corresponent to that fact the vegetation is completely different to all the countries I traveled hat far. At the end of June I even was lucky to experience the mountain spring with endless, amazing and colourful flowers. On some passes there was even some snow left. I often hear the comparison to Switzerland which in some parts is sure correct. But this endless seeming vastness, these often changing landscapes within short distances are in no way to compare with anything I've ever seen before. After every pass, sometimes after the next bend the scenery changed to complete different colours, forms, rocks: all sorts of different greens, whitish, golden, red.... more than once I had to stop and could not help but was just flashed and blown away by the pure beauty. It was like a miracle and I was really thankful to have the chance to experience something like that. Thanks to the fact that the country is just little populated (per km2 only 28 inhabitants; in comparison Switzerland with 210 per km2) I could enjoy the nature, the mountains alone and in total silence.
die Kyrgyse animals
Agriculture is still an important part of the otherwise weak economy and for many people the only possibility to have a little income and living. Therefor you find lots of cattle along and on the roads:
cows with all different ages: they are used to any traffic and cross the street or stand next to it without any stress. The traffic has to take care how to pass them. Only the young calves are sometimes wild and jump around with the tailes throwing high up. Many cows are tied on a long rope to prevent them from walking away.
goats with shiny silky fur: I meet them mostly in huge herds in the rocky surroundings of Kyrgystan; they don't take any notice of the traffic as well. Finding nice herbs is more important ;-)
sheep (specal ones with fat backs): no matter how many cars and motorcycle a sheep has already seen to feel safe. And if from 100 sheep 50 are on the right side of the street and 50 on the left side of the street the 50 on the right side HAVE to run to the other side to feel safe!! In complete panic and obvisiouly without any stragety they bump into each other and run until the last sheep is on the left side as well. So I wait with patience until they decided which side is safer for them. Honestly: the most stupid animal I ever met!
Yaks: unfortunately I've just seen some of these majestic animals but it was e great experience anyway.
marmots (incredible huge ones), falcons, vultures... somehow typical mountain animals like you can fin them in Switzerland as well..... but beautiful anyway.
the Kyrgys roads
Well; what we normally call "roads" is not what to expect in Kyrgystan. There are just a few nice tarmac roads, mainly the connections between Bishkek, Osh, Jalalabad and around Lake Yssik Kul. Although there is a lot of road-building going on right now, most are still gravel roads, some really bad corrigated and from rain and melting snow-water washed-out pistes. But that again is for me exactly what I was looking for. In Switzerland you hardly find any gravel roads and if you find any most are forbidden to drive. But to see with what vehicles the Kyrgys drive was really astonishing: Ladas from Soviet times, age-old Audis, right-driven Mercedes, self-made Quads, they get everywhere. But at the same time I've never seen that many cars and trucks standing on the side of the streets with breakdowns: countless cars with flat tires; men looking desperate into the engine and filling up oil or water. The Kyrgys drive with whatever they can buy and load their vehicles with as much as is possible. They don't really have a choice; too bad the job situation.
What I experienced concerning helpfulness and hospitality already in Uzbekistan is outgone by the Kyrgyse by far. The kids wave with enthusiasm, run to the street and try to catch a "give me five". Stopping at fuel stations or on passes they often approach me and ask me where from, where to, "do you like Kyrgystan".... and like to make pictures; whenever possible together with them. Some of them bring me goodies, local food (the famous adamant chees balls or fermented mare milk) or something to drink - unfortunately quite often also Vodka, probably a leftover from the Russian occupancy. And apparantely a huge problem mainly within the poor part of the population - what again means for more than 50%. The most groceries are 1/3 cookies, 1/3 vodka (and other alcohol) and only 1/3 everyday food.
Staying in simple homestays, guesthouses and yurts gives me an even nearer view of the daily life of the Kyrgys. Unfortunately I don't speak Kyrgys or Russian - there are only few speaking English - and it's hardly possible to have long talks with most of them. But I still had some nice talks and they tell me frankly about the problems they have: corruption is sure one of the bigger problems; the few money that comes through agriculture or little industry and natural ressources disappears often somewhere in the bureaucracy. The unemployemet rate is between 50 - 70%. Schools and hospital treatements are expensive and many families don't have the money to send their intelligent kids to university or pay them a proper education. Like that Kyrgystan looses the possibility to support their own youth. More than one million Kyrgys emigrate to Russia; whoever finds a possibility to work somewhere else leaves the country. Tourism is a new way to earn some money and their are more and more companies filling up the gap. I only hope that the increasing tourism is not destroying the so far well presereved nature and traditions.
But what really is standing out is the often cheerful, happy and calm behaving in spite of their poorish and often hard circumstances. You can see the huge families taking a bath, cooking, talking together, playing chess and bargaining. Much is produced by hand, they help each other out with what they have. Impressing to watch walking through the bazaars, for example the one in Osh. To help each other is probably the only way to handle the situation.
Encounters - meetings - experiences
During the three weeks I spent in Kyrgystan I had some really great, sometimes funny encounters with locals..... and again and again I was spontaneous invited to have a Chai, often I was not alloewd for the service - like having my bike washed. But what most of them asked: do you like Kyrgystan? They love their country and are proud of it.... and I rally can understand that.
I will for ever remember the clear nights with thousands of stars sleeping in a yurt, experience the simple homestays, the crossing of funny bridges. Unforgettable moments, locations, people.
I returned back to Switzerland together with my boyfriend who had visited me. My knee was apparantly badly hurt and I wanted to have the examination back home. Conclusion: a partially torn cordial ligament and meniskus; 4 - 6 weeks of physiotherapy and wearing a splint.
And then? I don't know exactly yet. But what is already sure: I will continue; my trip is not over yet. When, where and how... you'll find out reading my next blog. Meanwhile my SuzyBlue is patiently waiting at Muztoo in Osh and is enjoying her holidays ;-)