Friday, August 01, 2008

The TRI-stan trek!

- Your going where?
- The stans
- Huh?
- Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
- Why?!?!

So, I couldn't believe that this part of the trip finally came! Jane and I had schemed up the stans back in February. She wanted to go to Mongolia, but I wanted to stay more clear from Asia proper having been there the last two trips. Jane was coming from Asia. I was coming from the Mediterranean. So... why not some place in between, like the stans? Sure! Why not?! Adventure, unchartered territory, beautiful nature, off the beaten paths and treks. This seemed right up our alley. Especially since we both spent a lot of the summer in more first world countries, we didn't mind roughing it a bit. And that is how we decided on the stans.

Kazakhstan - the first of the stans

When I landed in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at 2 am in the morning, I was so anxious to see Jane and start our tri-stan adventure!

We decided to fly into Almaty, Kazakhstan, simply because it was the closest entry point to Kygyzstan which is really where we wanted to go, but couldn't find reasonable flights to. It ended up being wonderful because my dear friend who I grew up doing gymnastics with is actually living in Almaty with her husband. So, we got to stay with them and catch up on the past decade of life and get the inside scoop on the city and country. One of my former grad school classmates also grew up in Almaty so she was giving me pointers too. Who knew I had all these connections in Almaty, Kazakhstan, half way around the world?!

Hotel Kazakstan
The landmark building with the crown, and random person with balloons.

This was my first time being in a former soviet block. The city, which probably once had much character, is now marked with nondescript concrete buildings, flashy neon signs, numerous squares with commemorative statues and carefully manicured water fountains.

In front of the Cathedral, one of the few hallmark buildings in the city with character.

Lady posing with her meat at the green market.

Meat ranged from cow to chicken to horse. There were also lovely vegetables, fruit, dried goods, pickled dishes and any random thing you could want. We managed to convince the lady to give us 1/2 kilo of apple and plums. They are only fond of selling large kilo size buckets of things. Almaty actually means apple in Kazak.

Jane in front of the Kyrgyzstan embassy.

At last we found it! We walked a LONG time ... turns out it was a little yellow swiss house hiding behind this gate and small sign.

Our main goal here was to get our visa to Kyrgyzstan. We arrived on Friday night, chilled Sat and Sun, taking the bus and walking around town, while trying to keep breathing in the dry heat and high altitude. Monday we went to the embassy in the early morning, picked up our visa in the afternoon and headed off to Kyrgyzstan Tuesday bright and early!

Jake, Abby and I taking a break while walking around town. It was sooo hot!

Thanks to Abby and Jake for being such wonderful hosts! We really appreciated it! It made our stay here so enjoyable and memorable. It was great to catch up with you guys, hang out playing hand and foot, chat and see your heart for this bizarre city and its wonderful people.


Jan said...

The Stans were worth waiting for! What an adventure! How fun to travel vicariously through your photos and stories!

sharock said...

ha! i remember when you were planning this. thanks for posting these pics.