Immediately after crossing the border, the terrain changed from Uzbek's primarily desert scrubland to Kyrgyzstan's lofty mountains. What a dramatic difference to go from hot, sunny days slathered in sun-screen to a cool, rainy climate complete with snow on the mountains. The culture also transitioned from a more "Middle Eastern" and Muslim feel to a nomadic people, still finding their way following independence from Russia. As a result of very little development, a lot of our time in Kyrgyzstan was spent driving through glorious mountainous scenery, passing yurts and tiny towns filled with clusters of cobbled-together buildings. We primarily bush-camped by lakes and rivers. One of my highlights of this country, and in fact, the entire trip was an evening spent hanging out with a semi-nomadic family. While they live in a tiny "town" in the winter, they spend their summers up in the mountains in a yurt, living primarily off of their horses. They treated us to delicious food featuring horsemeat and noodles, warm salty-milky tea and bread with butter and home-made preserves. We watched as they milked the horses and even helped churn the fermented mare's milk. I tried the milk and it wasn't too bad, but admittedly not something I have had a hankering for since! I had great fun playing with their two daughters and dealing with their sibling rivalry (that phenomenon certainly transcends cultures!). Altogether it was amazing to just be a part of their life for a day, made even more sweet by the welcomed break of staying in a communal yurt, altogether, instead of camping and cooking in the wind and rain!
Unfortunately my camera was broken and I borrowed several trying to splice together photos. I finally got a new one in Almaty, Kazakhstan, which was a mission in itself (to be explained in the next blog). The bad news is that my photos of Bishkek are very limited (ok, well, nonexistant), despite it being a fabulous city with some lovely fountains, squares, and monuments. We had great fun hanging out and I'm sure the long-sought-after sunshine helped with our positive attitudes towards Bishkek as well. Instead of staying with all eighteen-ish of our truckmates in a communal dorm, we decided to spend our anniversary savoring the air-conned privacy of a snuggly hotel room (and later yurt), complete with buffet breakfast, manicured grounds and refreshing POOL. Top this off with a nearby snazzy open-aired restaurant serving upscale Kyrgyz meals and especially, Blue Hawaiians (the real thing!), and we celebrated our 27th anniversary in fine style!