Travel to Central Asia
Lately I've been a bit caught in the clouds. I can't say when it happened, but I caught the travel bug again, and I'm spending a large chunk of every day visualizing where the next trail should be. I have trips planned in the US, so the focus here is on somewhere further. Moreover, the focus is on learning about any experiences others have had with travel in this region: Kyrgyzstan (or Central Asia more Broadly).
(All pictures here are meant to reflect my zeal, and unfortunately do not depict the places I am planning to go...although there may be similarities)
Do any of you have advice on routes to prioritize, mountains to see, cities to wander, food to try...ANYTHING? I know I can read blogs, open a book, ask my grandma, but I want to hear from all of you!
I'm also interested in hearing how all of you go about planning your far away adventures. Where do you all begin, especially as it pertains to choosing trails, flights, etc...? It's one of my favorite parts of the process, and I'm always trying to learn new ways to creatively and more completely experiences the world and the places on my ever increasing list of "need to see."
I don't know about all of you, but as I've slowly equipped myself with the right gear, the world has started to feel a lot bigger. I've weathered a few storms in South America, trudged up some nasty mountains, and fended off some serious wind in the arctic. None of this is meant to gloat, but now the world feels huge, and my horizons are definitely broadened. I'll always be more drawn to the more...rocky and snowy parts of the world, but the more maps I sit down with, the more I feel as though any place is approachable with the right planning. That musing is largely why I'm here, asking for help.
I'd love to hear your stories, your advice, your techniques, and anything else you care to shout my direction! We all have a proclivity for time outside, and this boils down to insatiable desire to get outside, far away, in a place I don't really know.
@swbugas I always love seeing your photos, and these were no exceptions. I haven't been to Kyrgyzstan, but I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in Mongolia in the fall of 2005, and it was definitely an adventure.
I often think of the adventure starting when I leave the trailhead, or maybe when I'm on the way TO the trailhead, but of course as you mention, it begins long before with a tiny seed. In this case, the beginning was in 7th grade geography class, when I saw that there was a huge country between China and Russia that I had never heard of. The seed grew a bit when I saw a map in college of the biggest wilderness places on the planet, and central Asia featured prominently. Finally, it sprouted into a full-fledged plan after I decided to go to teach English in Korea after college, and Mongolia was a single plane flight away. When my parents came to visit me, I asked my dad if he would join me, and we sat down with a map to figure out our route.
We ended up spending two weeks in an old Soviet Van, with our driver (Mogi), guide (Tsogi), and another friend of my dad's who got jealous when he heard where we were going and invited himself along (which worked out great). Vehicles in Mongolia are imported from all over, including Japan, so some are right-hand drive, and some are left-hand. Out on the steppe, it doesn't really matter. The roads were rough, but we were in good hands with Mogi and Tsogi, and we got to pass through some wild places, sleep in gers (yurts), eat a LOT of mutton, and meet some very welcoming people.
I love seeing new destinations, to the point that I seldom visit repeat locales. If I've already been there, I've seen it. Why would I go back? But over the past seven years, I've spent almost four months in Joshua Tree, and more than two months in Grand Canyon, and they're never the same. No one place is one single thing. Different seasons bring different temperature, sun angles, plants, animals, festivals, and more. Erosion and construction change over the years, and you will see things on a return trip that you missed the first time when your eyes less accustomed to the surroundings.
If I were to go back, I would try to do more human-powered adventuring, even as simple as more walking / day-hikes. While we got to see a lot of the country from the vehicle, I would have liked to get closer to the landscape. Mongolians generally don't like walking / hiking. They much prefer to ride horses, camels, and motorcycles. While it's always good to follow local customs and you need to be able to go with the flow, it's also good to figure out what you want to get out of the time you are taking away from your regular life.
Lastly, I'll share one of the most memorable anecdotes from the trip. It was after we had all been together for more than a week, so we were comfortable with our driver and guide, and vice versa. We pulled over to scout a wooden bridge we were about to drive across that looked...dodgy. These three boys were waiting on by the side of the road and asked to hitch a ride. After some discussion and translation, we made some space for them to pile in, and while they didn't have anything with them besides their clothes, we dropped them off at school for the semester. It was quite a difference from what I grew up with, and the lives of the students I had just finished teaching in Korea.
So, I'm not sure if I answered your question, but I hope this provides some additional food for thought, and maybe prompts some more responses from others. The world is a big place, and there are lots of adventures to be had within it. I look forward to seeing photos of where your journey takes you.2
What an incredible adventure!!! I've always looked at Mongolia as a place of lore more than a reality there to be experienced. Sounds like you had a very positive experience! Thank you for sharing, and you most definitely have me as excited as ever to consider central Asia. Thank you!0