Saturday, 18 June 2016

We have fallen in love with Kazakhstan!

Cycling through Kazakhstan

Died and Gone to Kyrgyzstan

Heaven is a concept that I've always struggled with.  A paradise, a garden of eden, but also a place that can be all things to all believers.  I don't know anyone who could vividly describe what heaven is to them but I'm petty sure it's in Kyrgyzstan. When people say 'I've died and gone to heaven' after eating a particularly rich piece of chocolate cake or some other such thing, what they really mean is they've been transported to Kyrgyzstan.  They mightn't be aware of it, but believe me, the scenery that we've just cycled though, is out of this world, heaven-like, totally breath-taking and had I not seen it with my own eyes, it'd be hard to believe that such a place exists, so natural and unspoilt by us humans.  Instead of trying to contort the surroundings into a way that better serves people, or more usually, better serves more people and helps richer people get richer, here the people live in nature, with it and aware of it, taking what they need from it and no more, leaving it to continue giving and providing for generations to come.  The Kyrgyz nomads have it right.

**Photos are at the end this time instead of in amongst the text.  Feel free to scroll to the bottom to see them and skip the wordy bit!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

A Most Hospitable Place

Kazakhstan has come and gone and we're in Kyrgyzstan now.  A place where I never imagined myself being.  A place where, before we started planning this trip, I'm quite sure I couldn't place on a map, name the capital city or even spell, yet here we are!  But first, let me talk a bit more about Kazakhstan...

I didn't have many expectations of Kazakhstan before getting there.  I knew that our route through the country was short and that our time there would be quick.  If I'm being honest, I had kind of thought of Kazakhstan as just a means of getting to the Pamir Highway.  Actually the only real thought I had was that the food was going to take a serious nose dive from the tasty treats we'd been used to in China.  How wrong I was.  The food was delicious and varied.  And so far in Kyrgyzstan we haven't been disappointed either.  The beauty of the countryside in Kazakhstan is hard to fathom, at least the small part that we went through anyway. The huge open spaces, the towering mountains, the quietly grazing herds of animals and the lack of too much human intervention into the natural world immediately brings with it such a sense of calm.  Being in Kazakhstan just felt good.  It felt relaxing.  It was a world away from the modern stresses of life, as we've come to know it, in the west.  The air was fresh, the sun was warm and I could actually feel my body and mind relaxing and slowing down.  Despite all this though, for us, it was the the people we encountered along the way that really made Kazakhstan the place it was.