Best Posts of the Silk

The_whole_trip

As more people come to our site after we have finished publishing, I wanted to give people a way to access the best posts that we had done. If you like the photos you see and the stories you read below, please feel free to explore more.

Galen looking at Milky way at Karakul Lake

Galen looking at Milky way at Karakul Lake

Top 15 Posts

1. Drink Horse One Army – This post, actually two posts, follows the story of two families. In the first post, you’ll see how China’s economic opening has allowed a single family to go from dirt poor to owning a small factory and sending their daughter off to college. The second post is the dark story of the next door neighbors, those who were left behind as the economy required hard work. Make sure to read Lily’s Family before reading Lily’s Neighbors; the juxtaposition of this happy and sad tale right next door makes for chilling reading.

Lily’s Family

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=819

Lily’s Neighbors

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=821

2. Camping at Mogao Caves – We camped out in the desert surrounding the incredible Mogao Caves, some of the world’s most amazing Buddhist Silk Road remenants and the site where the world’s oldest printed book was discovered.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=913

Camped outside the Mogao Caves

Camped outside the Mogao Caves

3. Arrested – The story of how the People’s Armed Police staked out our hotel (where we were staying without authorization), detained us briefly and then took us on a ride in a paddy wagon, forcibly moving us to an authorized hotel. Also, Galen secretly made a video with a gopro while we were being detained, which can be watched at the bottom of the post.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=989

Climbing Mount Hua in the dark

Climbing Mount Hua in the dark

4. Midnight Climb of Mount Hua – Without sleep, we did a five hour, 6000 foot climb up the granite peaks, along with several thousand mostly young Chinese folks, just to get a glimpse of sunrise from its famous East Peak. This is one of the quintessential Chinese hiking experiences.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=261

The Gathering on the East Peak at Sunrise

The Gathering on the East Peak at Sunrise

5. Red Flags and Lemonade – A great story of discete or miscommunication, Red Flags and Lemonade is our best hitchhiking failure, and includes a video of the crash and burn.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=429

6. Hitchhiking with Tibetan Cops – After hitchhiking with two Tibetan cops, they dropped us off at their grandfather’s place, where we camped in his traditional Tibetan tent, did shots of Tibetan moonshine and chatted with yak herders on the edge of Qinghai Lake.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=667

Chatting with Yak Herders

Chatting with Yak Herders

7. In Celebration of Genocide – Though the Uighurs are being persecuted in Xinjiang now, it was not that long ago that they were partaking in genocides. In this post, we explore the history of a mosque and minaret that was built to commerate a genocide.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=1329

A Monument to a genocide

A Monument to a genocide

8. Volleyball at the Edge of the World – Playing Volleyball on China’s Road to Pakistan, the Karakurom Highway.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=2235

Volleyball on the Sino-Pakistani border

Volleyball on the Sino-Pakistani border

9 . Camping on the Great Wall – While on the Great Wall, I shotgunned a beer that might start World War III. What more do I need to say! After I finish the beer, I begin to think about the dangers of nationalism and fake history in China.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=789

He who has not climbed the Great Wall cannot be a great man - Chairman Mao

He who has not climbed the Great Wall cannot be a great man – Chairman Mao

10. Mummies of Turpan – The Mummified remains of the world’s oldest drug dealer, and the history of the area around Turpan.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=1260

Mummies of Turpan

Mummies of Turpan

11. End of Ramadan in Kashgar – The celebration of Eid al Fitr in Kashgar. We watched the ceremony at China’s largest mosque, just the day before we almost witnessed the assassination of its head cleric outside the mosque. We also witnessed the huge military presence threatening the worshippers.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=2090

Ceremony ending Ramadan

Ceremony ending Ramadan

12. A Man and His Grapes – Making friends with local Uighurs as one of them shows us around his grape farm.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=1603

Making Friends

Making Friends

13. Tianchi Lake – Another two posts that are really a single post, these are about the nature of nature in China, on weddings and wild places.

Part I

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=1151

Part II

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=1154

Wild in China

Wild in China

14. Climbing a holy Tibetan Mountain – While climbing Maya Snow Mountain, a holy Tibetan mountain where two important fairies in Tibetan mythology live, we find how race, culture and the natural world intersect in China.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=491

Air Galen

Air Galen

15. Camping at the Bezeklik Caves – Camping in the valley just upstream some of the world’s most important Buddhist artwork.

http://www.silkroadhitchhikers.com/?p=1434

Valley of the Bezeklik Caves

Valley of the Bezeklik Caves

 

Our Silk Road

The_whole_tripOn this trip, we have done nothing but talk about the Silk Road, so it seems unwise to begin the final post of the trip by discussing how the Silk Road never really existed. But that is what I am going to do.

In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the Silk Road was invented in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Those few individuals trekking across the deserts of Central Asia centuries before never conceived of their journeys as anything unique. Most were just traders, buying for a dollar, sell for two. To them, their journeys were just an effort to eek out a living for their families. They never thought of what they did as part of some great Silk Road.

And the routes they took were not limited to just one or two Silk Roads. These traders and those who traveled alongside them, they took a collection of pathways too many to count. And most of these people only never took these paths farther than a few hundred miles past the oasis where they were born, so they were never able to see the continuity of the Silk Road. To them, these paths were simply the road to the next town, the next oasis, the next mountain pass.

It was not until 1877 that the words “Silk Road” first ever appeared. Ferdinand von Richthofen, a German geographer who traveled extensively in the region, first came up with the name and the idea that this vast expanse of desert was not a chasm dividing cultures but an ocean along which goods and ideas were shipped in between cultures. Von Richthofen saw that, these individual journeys came together to produce something bigger. He saw that it was along these routes that Buddhism, Islam and even Christianity entered China and paper and silk exited. Von Richthofen’s contribution was his recognition that these small journeys across manifold path had a greater significance, and he labeled that significance the “Silk Road.”

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There are many Silk Roads, but this is the one we took. The stories and photos we have posted here, the people we met and the things we saw, these things are our Silk Road. We pitched a tent outside the Mogao Caves, where Buddhism first passed into China. We were detained by the People’s Armed Police. We climbed a Holy Tibetan Mountain and hitchhiked with less-than-holy Tibetan cops. We witnessed the aftermath of an assassination. We played volleyball with Kyrgyz herders on the edge of Afghanistan. We cringed at our neighbor’s screams and wondered if we could do anything to stop her husband from beating her. We camped at the end of the Great Wall. And maybe, we added our name to that long list of traders, missionaries, diplomats and explorers whose individual journeys had so little significance, but whose collective journey changed the world.

Almaty

AlmatyAfter having gone across China, Almaty was stunning only for how vaguely Western the city felt. The city was full of cafes and rundown apartment blocks. Almaty felt like Prague populated by black-haired Kazakhs and blond Russians. The city sits on the southern edge of the Steppe, pressed against the north side of the Tianshan Mountains. From there, northwards extend the vast plains stretching from Mongolia to Ukraine, the Steppe that gave rise to a hundred horseback empires.

But today, Kazakhs, at least the ones in Almaty, are a cosmopolitan bunch. Oil money has flowed into Kazakhstan and it all pools here, the economic, cultural and formerly political capital of the country. Though the government decamped from Almaty in the 90’s, ten percent of this vast country still live within this city.

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Almaty has few attractions worth visiting. Galen had to leave two days before, so I wandered aimlessly alone, exploring blockish apartment compounds and eating Turkish-made shish-kabob.

Since it was more closely plugged into the Russian economy, Almaty was even more Russian than Bishkek. Though Moscow was almost two thousand miles away, Russian interests were ever present here. While we were there in August, the Russians were waging an undeclared war in Ukraine. That day, Moscow was threatening to send aid to the pro-Russian rebels, and the television in my hostel flashed with slickly produced Russian propaganda, disguised as news, presented the stories of those in the aid convoy.

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A blond man staying a few rooms down from me, was sitting on the couch across from me, half watching the images flash across the television screen, half engaging in a heated discussion with some others. It being all in Russian, I understood none of it. Instead, I tried to follow along with the propaganda.

At some point, someone asked me where I was from, and I answered, “Americanski.”

Mumbles belted through the circle around the television, and I asked the blond. “And you? Where are you from?” I asked.

He leaned his head. “I am from Ukraine.”

Glancing at the television, I asked the Ukrainian, “What are your thoughts on what is going on in your country?”

“As I was just telling my friend here,” the Ukrainian said, holding his burly hand out towards the small, dark haired man he had been arguing with, “I think the Russians are good people, but if I were back in Ukraine now, if I did not have to be here, I would be, how do you say, killing people.”

We had spent the summer traveling across China, where low level violence is breaking out with increasing frequency. Then, on my last night before flying across an ocean, I sat face to face with the potential human costs of escalations in this kind of violence.

Dumptruck Hitchhiking

Dumptruck_HitchhikingWe took a marshrutka, a Soviet minibus, out of Karakol. The rundown town faded into the distance, and we were soon knee deep in the Kyrgyz countryside. Dirt roads, tall grass, short trees and fading jalopies. The marshrutka’s driver dropped us off at a handful of huts, smoke from a wood fire pouring out of one of their chimneys. Pointing up the dirt road, he forcefully intoned, “Arashan,” the name of the hot springs we wanted to hike to.

Entrance to Arashan

Entrance to Arashan

Cows were gnawing on the grass as we watched the marshrutka do a one eighty and return to the city. Several boys bounced over a fence surrounding their hut, playfully chasing after us as we began our hike, shouting at us in Russian and giggling to themselves in Kyrgyz. At a fork in the road, we looked quizzically at them, asking “Arashan?” They pointed us down the left fork, waving us off as we continued the hike.

Kyrgyz Cowboys

Kyrgyz Cowboys

The Arashan Valley is not far from China. As the crow flies, Arashan Hotsprings is only a hundred kilometers from the Chinese border. Had we continued past the hot springs to the end of the valley, we could have made the journey in several days.

The Long and Windy Road

The Long and Windy Road

Yet, close distance masked vast difference between Kyrgyzstan and China. The Arashan Valley was hardly touched by development, even though the hot springs was a well-touristed site. Despite this, the valley had been left with just a single, barely-passable dirt road carved into its side. Water rushing down the valley was still clean enough to drink. Though logging, probably illegal, had taken a few tentative baby steps, the mountainsides were still thick with conifers. In China, any tourist site of this import would have had a superhighway and a vast parking lot carpeting it. And no one would drink the water.

Friends from Dumptruck Hitchhiking

Friends from Dumptruck Hitchhiking

Thirty minutes into our hike, a hulking dumptruck lumbered passed us, two ladies standing in the truck’s bed, their knuckles red as they clutched the sides of the bed. After a short discussion through gesticulation with the driver, we hopped into the bed with the two ladies and continued towards Arashan. Hitchhiking in the bed of a dump truck along rough dirt roads is tough. Each time the truck ate a pothole or rolled over a rock, we had to steel ourselves, holding onto the bed’s sides in order to keep from getting tossed to the bed’s floor. And since this meant we were standing for the whole journey, riding was almost as tiring as walking and only slightly faster. Worse, the driver had thrown a chainsaw into the bed with us. So, each time the truck hit a bump, the chainsaw danced and we had to dance with it, dodging its teeth as it slinked towards our toes.

Chainsaw in the Dumptruck

Chainsaw in the Dumptruck

The ride took almost an hour and a half, but we had to make two stops along the deserted mountain path over that short journey. Either the dumptruck’s radiator was busted or the truck’s owners were just too poor to put in coolant, so every thirty minutes, they had to stop the truck, run down from the road to the stream so that they could draw water and pour it into the radiator to keep our engine from overheating.

The Dumptruck

The Dumptruck

We arrived at Arashan hot Springs. In the distance appeared a wall of snow-covered mountains, the border with China. The hot springs was nothing more than a series of wooden shacks, small rooms were you could pay to soak in the scalding waters. A tiny restaurant and a pension were attached to the hot springs, and the family that ran the place had a small, wood-frame house with a porch that looked like something off Little House on the Prairie. Otherwise, the valley was void of development. Tourist families piddled around at picnic tables, laughing, and the local’s toddlers, barely able to walk, were already riding horses to do farm chores.

Toddler on Horseback

Toddler on Horseback

After an hour at Arashan, we turned back and hiked out. I had been worried that the marshrutkas would no longer be in service by the time we got out, but Galen told me not to worry. We were both right.

Hitchhiking in Marshrutka filling up on Spring Water

Hitchhiking in Marshrutka filling up on Spring Water

Dusk was approaching when we finally got out of the Arashan valley and back to the handful of huts where the driver had dropped us off that morning. All of the marshrutkas had quit service, but one marshrutkas with a Russian guy and a Kyrgyz guy, were filling up water from the Arashan Stream. We asked if they were going back to Karakol, and they waved us into their marshrutka. As we hopped over the jugs of water that filled the aisle to get to seats, we realized that this was our last hitchhiking trip on this journey.

Our final thoughts

Our final thoughts

 

Issyk-Kul

Bishkek_to_Issyk KulMuch of the land in these hills was desert, grey green scrubs punctuating the yellow dirt across vast stretches of plains, until they were swallowed up by the brown Tianshans or the blue sky. Small farms were carved out of the desert, green corn stalks and a lonely donkey standing against the desert. This was eastern Kyrgyzstan, the area surrounding Issyk-Kul Lake. Tiny towns flashed by us as we moved out of Bishkek and up into the hills, a mix of more Soviet-tinged European style houses and mud-brick hovels reminiscent of Kashgar. That was Kyrgyzstan really: a mélange of poor Central Asian and richer European elements.

Corn Farm with a lonely donkey

Corn Farm with a lonely donkey

For our last hiking trip on the journey, we were heading to Kyrgyzstan’s most popular tourist draws, the giant Issyk-Kul Lake. Though half the size of the smallest of the Great Lakes by surface area, Issyk-Kul Lake is impressively deep, and weighs in as the tenth largest lake in the world as measured by volume. At some points, Issyk-Kul is more than two thousand feet deep.

Issyk-Kul Lake

Issyk-Kul Lake

The lake’s unusual depth and the fact that it is located in the center of the largest continent, far from the eyes of prying Western spies, made it an ideal testing ground for Soviet submarines during the Cold War. A large Soviet base had been constructed in Karakol, a town on the eastern end of the lake, and few foreigners outsiders were allowed in. For the first seven years that Galen and I were alive, it would have been impossible for the two of us, as foreigners, to get into this part of the Soviet Union.

Desert around Issyk-Kul

Desert around Issyk-Kul

However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Karakol’s cash cow dried up and the economy took a hit. Decrepit apartment blocks along unpaved city streets mark the points where the Soviet economy’s collapse cost everyday people their livelihoods. Though the Russians may still be using the eastern end of the lake as a submarine testing area, the people of Karakol and the area around Issyk-Kul Lake have had to struggle for other means to feed their families.

Now, this slice of Kyrgyzstan that previously forbade foreigners from entering has now become a tourist town. There is a logic for this move. Almaty, the economic capital of Kazakhstan and all of Central Asia, is only forty-four miles away as the crow flies (though there is no direct road there). However, the nearest ocean is fourteen hundred miles away, either by a ten hour flight or a forty-four hour drive. Issyk-Kul has become the beach vacation for those with no ocean.

Sunset in Post-Soviet Backwater

Sunset in Post-Soviet Backwater

We arrived after dark in Karakol, our destination on the lake’s east end. We had the van we rode in drop us off; the area was sketchy enough that we did not want to navigate our way through the unpaved streets of this unfamiliar town struggling in the post-Soviet economy. We checked into a yurt-camp hostel at the town’s center.

Yurt Camp

Yurt Camp

Dropping our bags onto our beds, we headed off to a restaurant that had been recommended to us, with other travelers claiming it had the world’s best shawarma. Downing pijiu and nibbling  enormous pieces of barbequed lamb off of metal stakes, we ran into some people we had meet on the road in Kashgar. We got to talking and eating, and then a band started playing cheap dance music and things all went downhill from there. In this podunk town on the edge of the collapsed Soviet empire, dancing off several songs, we came to realize that it was not all that difficult to have a good time.

Dancin' the night away

Dancin’ the night away

Beverages

Some photos of entertaining beverages we encountered:

The Famed Baltika 9

The Famed Baltika 9

 

I guess that is how the Russians think of America

I guess that is how the Russians think of America

 

What could be more English than Old Bobby?

What could be more English than Old Bobby?

 

Frothy

Frothy

 

Goat Brew

Goat Brew

 

Polar Beer

Polar Beer

 

Baltica 9, in the never-before-seen cheap plastic bottle form

Baltica 9, in the never-before-seen cheap plastic bottle form

 

More Goat Brew

More Goat Brew

 

Shakedown Street

“In Kyrgyzstan, it’s the ones in the uniforms who are crooks.”

– Brit in a Bishkek Hostel

 

Inside, the bus station was dark and seemingly dead. The official ticketing windows were all closed. We poked around for a minute, and then quickly made our way to the door. But before we reached, a diminutive man in a uniform began trailing us, mumbling something at us in Russian. We continued moving, ignoring him, but he followed us. “Documenta!” he demanded. He wanted to see our passports.

 

We walked on, pushing our way into the Kyrgyz sunshine, hoping that, getting him outside, he would be too frightened to do whatever he was trying to do. It did not, however, deter him. “Documenta!” he continued to growl. Eventually we had to stop beside a fountain, laying our bags on the ground so that we could ferret out our passports.

 

The small man flipped through the pages of our passport nervously, his eyes darting, looking more away from than at the passports. Something was wrong. This was not just a police officer sizing us up. Still, our move into the sunlight appeared to have been a good one, making him more nervous. Perhaps we should never have given him our passports. Perhaps we should have just continued walking. We boxed the man in, his back against the fountain. He held our passports, but we held him.

 

“Businessman?” he asked in his broken English.

 

“No. Tourists,” we answered.

 

I eyed his belt. He carried no gun. Instead, still holding our passports, he called someone, waited a few minutes, and then called them again. It was clear he was giving directions to someone of where we were at.

 

A few minutes later, two more cops waddled to where we were, a fat one, and then another behind him. Unlike the short man who was nervous and spoke little English, the fat man spoke English well enough to communicate and commanded a presence that pissant of cop never would be able to. The fat man glanced through our passport, and then waved us away. “Please come with me. We go to police station.”

 

We protested, but he was too in charge for our entreaties to make any difference. He brushed us off, assuring us that it would only take, “Two minutes.”

 

Inside the darkened bus terminal, the police station occupied a small, well-lit cavern. Outside the station, a sign read ‘Militasia.’ There was an antechamber with a jail cell and a bum being interrogated. The fat man waved us into his lair, the small cop, the cop who initially stopped us, was left outside the station entirely.

 

Inside the lair, a man, another cop, even more commanding than the fat cop, sat erect behind his desk. He sized us up, and then spoke to us, using the fat man as a translator. “Are you police?”

 

The interrogation continued. We talked. The fat cop handed our passports over to his commanding officer. He glanced through them as a cop behind us felt up the outside of Galen’s backpack.

 

As we were talking, the fat cop leaned in and asked us, seriously, “Terrorists?”

 

“Nyet, nyet. Americanskis. Nyet terrorists.” Galen said.

 

“Guns?” the fat cop asked, pointing to the bag with Galen’s tripod gear.

 

“No,” we both answered.

 

They opened up the tripod bag and found the camera equipment. “Journalists?”

 

“No.”

 

They did not search my backpack at all, but they did an intense fingering through of my small bag, making me open my kindle and harddrive, but not my ipad, which, because of the cover, they probably thought was some sort of notepad.

 

Then, they checked my pockets, fingering through my wallet. This was the most nerve wracking part of the incident for me. He flipped through each of my bills, even fingering my Chinese money. I watched him carefully, trying to touch the bill each time he touched it, just so he could not easily yank it away.

 

Then, suddenly, he handed me back my wallet intact and the situation swiftly deescalated. The mood change abruptly. It was clear, whatever they might have been considering doing to us, that that possibility had passed. We chatted more, and then they let us go. As they led us, the bum outside the jail cell was being punched in the belly by the cop.

 

So many things seem unclear about this episode. Why did the first cop stop us? Was it an abortive attempt at a bribe? Did he fail, and we just got lucky? Or were they somehow thinking that we really were terrorists or gun smugglers or something?

 

Whatever the reason, these sorts of events bred mistrust among tourists. My trust in Kyrgyzstan had been violated. For an hour after the incident, I felt like every Kyrgyz was a possible enemy. After I left the bus station, I walked alone for ten minutes, being careful to avoid all Kyrgyz people. Now, I looked into their eyes differently. Each of them was to blame for this corrupt system that had subjected me to this mild discomfort. How could I ever believe in Kyrgyzstan again?

 

Slowly, my trust recovered, but still, these events make one more hesitant, more conservative.

Faces of Bishkek

Here’s another in Galen’s now famous Faces series, with the faces of people we saw in Bishkek:

Shishkabob Men

Shishkabob Men

 

Making Friends

Making Friends

Police at the Bus Station - At first we thought he wanted to steal our camera, but this one turned out to be alright.

Police at the Bus Station – At first we thought he wanted to steal our camera, but this one turned out to be alright.

Hints of Islam in Bishkek

Hints of Islam in Bishkek

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Hookah Bar

Hookah Bar

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Bishkek

Bishkek

The difference between Bishkek and Osh are a study in the divide that bifurcates Kyrgyzstan. Osh is old, poor, Kyrgyz and pockmarked by its own history. Bishkek is young, wealthier and thoroughly Russian.

We had been sweating in the ancient city, climbing up Sulayman Mountain. Osh is located in the hot, fertile Fergana valley, a millennium’s old agricultural center. Bishkek is a few degrees north, built in the foothills of the Tianshan Mountains, rarely broke through to the eighties.

Unlike Osh, with its approximately three thousand years of history, Bishkek is young. Bishkek was founded only during the American Civil War, and it shows in the city’s buildings. Though some of the houses in Bishkek have been preserved from the 1920’s, there is nothing really older than that.

The city was founded as a Russian colony. Before 1991, the city’s population was eighty percent Russian-speaking. That number has shrunk to twenty percent since the Soviet Union’s collapse, but the outlines of the city’s Russianness are still in plain view everywhere we looked. The city is dappled with the names of Russian and Soviet figures, Tolstoy Street, Pushkin Street, Frunze Street. They even have a main road still referred to as Soviet Street. While I ate our free breakfast at the hotel our first morning in Bishkek, the television glowed with a Russian music videos of blond Slavic beauties dancing in wedding dresses on tractors and jalopies.

 

Entering the Russosphere

Entering the Russosphere

Bishkek’s Russian nature also makes it richer, at least richer than Osh. Most of the former Soviet Unions are still driven by the economics of Moscow, so those with better connections to Moscow have more access to capital.

Bishkek’s Russian nature also means that many of the problems in Russia are reproduced in Bishkek. When we arrived in Bishkek, after our twelve hour ride from Osh, it was ten at night and the hotel we had wanted to go to was closed. The woman at the front desk at the hotel we did find, looked at us icily and showed no willingness to help us out. Even though their English was worse, the people of Osh were kinder, readier to lend a hand. On the other hand, Bishkek had a frosty Russian character.

True

True

Bishkek’s Russian nature also means that Russian blights such as alcoholism were more clearly problems here than in Osh. A street corner near the place we stayed had, in a long line of trees just past the sidewalk, a man in a blue shirt and black pants, his face bloated, his hands drooping lazily, one flipflop on, one flipflop off. He was drunk, dead drunk. We walked past that corner many times over our next two days in the city, and usually, he was still there, lying drunk or drinking with a friend. Once, I saw a woman come by, yelling at him and stabbing at his crotch with her cane; I suppose it was a wife or family member encouraging him to get back on the wagon. It was not effective.

 

The Drunk

The Drunk

Osh is a city with a strong Islamic tradition, and we saw no hint of alcoholism there, though alcohol was widely available. Bishkek, being more Russian than Kyrgyz, has the blight more deeply rooted in its genes.

As for sites, Bishkek had little to offer. The national capital is devoid of much that is interesting to see, other than how deep the contrast is between Bishkek and Osh, North and South, Russia and Central Asia. We wasted away in Bishkek for a few days before heading up into the mountains for one final trek.

 

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Gazprom

Gazprom is one of Russia’s tools of tyranny. I was tickled to see that they had gas stations in Kyrgyzstan.

Gazprom - Fill 'er up with a full tank of Autocracy, please

Gazprom – Fill ‘er up with a full tank of Autocracy, please