> On The Silk Road - Torugart & Naryn


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I am in Naryn in eastern Kyrgyzstan. I did not expect to find access here - but the internet is everywhere (hmm!). This will be a quick one since it is relatively expensive (thank god - you say).

I had a great day today and a great day yesterday!

Everyone has now stopped reading out of disgust - so I can go into detail.

Yesterday I crossed the Torugart pass. Since the last message - I has spent the day in Kashgar for the Sunday Market - the biggest in Central Asia. It was big (although now the animal market is held 4k from the other market) and brash and lots of tings going on.

I set out 8am local for the Torugart. This is a very high mountain pass and border crossing between China and Kyrguzstan. It is a particularly difficult place because it "officially closed" to foreigners! Certain palms have be made happy and certain permits have to be issued. Judgeing by the constant flow of westerners - a lot of palm grease is available.

Given that this is a very tricky road and I booked with a reasonably reliable local company - I sort of expected a 4wd rather than the battered old VW that turned up. However - this is central asia and the driver was introduced as the best around - he had hard, proffesional eyes which is a good sign. With him was a young translator - the first thing he said was that he had never done this before. Also - it was raining hard (in the dessert!). Oh well.

We set off for the border - it is about 1 hour on good roads to the border post. The guards were about 1 hour late fro work and there was a qeuue of me, a strange euro group and a load group of "grey" aussies busy tlaking abuot home and asking their guide what country they were going to!

Having negotiated the complex officialdom - we headed for the border which is 80k (or 2.5 hours) by dirt road and is at 3750 metres alltitude. the road follows a huge seasonal river most of the way between what I assume are stunning mountains. The weather stayed cloudy - raining for the first half making for really good rally conditions (the driver was as good as they said and would win any rally going) - snow (frash and on wet mud) for the second half which scared the hell out of me - we had left the tour parties behind and were the first vehicle up. However we made it - Just in time for the Kyrgz immigration (who are at the top of the pass) to close for lunch!

At the ridge - which is the border - you ahve to change cars and my hopes for a nice, comfortable 4wd where further dashed when I met Todor and his beat up old Audi that makes this journey every few days. Todor speaks Russian and Kyrgyz - I do not :) It is amazing that yu can actually have a conversation in situations like this. Over the ridge - the sun was out and the frozen lake of Chatyrkol was glittering and the white peaks were flashing . Just as well - since we had to wait about 3 hours to get through - all the while watching huge old russian lorries grind pasy full to the brim with scrap (it is taken to Kashgar, loaded on trains and shipped east to feed chinas insattiable appetite for metal). These are the new beasts of burden on the silk road.

Finally we were off through the mountains. The only thing I can say is that it is tunning. Kyrgyzstan is a land of wide green fertile valleys between stunning white mountains. Most of it looks like Switzerland - except the farms that look like Wales (i.e. painted white with dry stone walls and otherwise a total mess of mud and sheep).

It took 5 hours (mostly across dirt roads) to get to Naryn. I am staying in a B&B (i.e. homestay) in the local housing estate organised by the swiss organised Community Based Tourism organisation.

They also organised a day of horse trecking for me today - me and three local guides (with no English) spent the day trecking on the local ponies upto the snow line (lunch - eggs and Kusmiss) - down into a valley on the other side for more tea and bread and cream - then up and over the snow line again. Most of this was at about 3000m and surrounded by white peaks - a total of 8 hours trecking. The best bit - when we stopped for tea - was that a lamb kept wandering into the living area. It reminded me a lot of Penwern.

Mind you - there is yet another reason for not bringing Gwyneth. Apart from the meat and the toilets - everything comes with milk, cream and butter. I do not know what you would do here if you are lactose intolerant - probably die! Otherwise - I would strongly recomend Kyrgyzstan as beautifull, friendly and easy to get to (they give visas to anyone and BA fly to Bishkek).