CAREC Corridor 3 (Bishkek-Osh Road)
In 2012 I had an epic journey along the Silk Route to China and beyond.
In this video you see one of my favourite countries visited at that time. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer scale and beauty of the Valleys and mountains in Kyrgyzstan. Arslanbob- This little mountain town is beautiful nestled below the biggest walnut forest in the World! It lies directly underneath the 4000m high mountains of Babash-Ata.
Shortly before Osh, you’ll enter the Fergana Valley, meaning that the mountains disappear and the grassy hills and valleys are predominant. This scenery is very different from the landscape before but no less beautiful. Music free under creative commons licence from YouTube music library. Title: Destination Unknown by Ugonna Onyekwe
In 2012 I took the epic journey across Central Asia and into China, following Alexander the Great to the Jade Gate in China.
One of the most draw dropping journeys was in Kyrgyzstan and the Pamir Highway. Stopping at many places and looking at the Untouched Earth. The mountain Passes were stunning.
Taldyk Pass is a high mountain pass that separates the Fergana Valley from the Chon-Alai. The pass located in Osh Region, 160 kilometers south of the city of Osh. The Taldyk Pass is one of the most popular passes in Kyrgyzstan. The height of the pass is 3,600 meters and it is a kind of gateway to one of the highest and most beautiful roads in the world – the Pamir Highway.
The northern slope of the pass is famous for its steep serpentine, from which spectacular views of the Ferghana valley are opened. The first road here was laid at the end of the XIX century and this event was an important landmark of one of the most interesting colonial confrontations of the Russian Empire and Great Britain for control of Central Asia, called the “Big Game”.
A rare feature of Taldyk is that it is open all year round, despite the high altitude. On the roadside, through the pass you can see a monument built in honor of Yuri Frantsevich Grushko, an engineer who participated in the design and construction of the road through the pass.
As we left Naryn to make our way towards the Tian Shan Mountains, we stopped at The Tash Rabbat, It is an extremely isolated Silk Road caravanserai in the middle of nowhere.
Caravanserais were an extensive network of traveler’s inns along old caravan roads, either located at cities along the way or as outposts of civilization in isolated regions, providing shelter from the hostile natural environment and from bandits.Travelers who reached Tash Rabat have already crossed the dangerous Torugart Pass, giving them the chance to recharge their energy for the next leg of the journey through the Tian Shan Mountains, to pray for a safe passage and to restock on food and water.
Kashgar- Well I have so much I want to tell you about Kashgar, it always sounded so exotic and far flung, I wasn’t wrong, it is or was when I was there in 2013.
Kashgar is a city in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in China’s far west. It was a stop on the Silk Road, with its history stretching over 2,000 years.
Entering the old walled city is like taking a step back in time, hardly changed from it’s 2000 year history, the old buildings held together by mud plaster and the slightly newer merchants houses, they are all there still, but for how much longer no one knows, as the residents die, or move on, the buildings are sadly demolished and brand new ones pop up! Ugh!
Here the sights and sounds were a rush to my sense, the smell of street food cooing on spits and barbq’s, the friendliness and welcome of the Uyghur people was second to none! I loved the Kashgar I visited then, it and much of this part of the journey changed my life, and in a very good way.
As I look back at these images of my great personal journey along the Silk Route from the West to the East , I realise how much stronger it made me, how much it changed the way I am and the way I see the World and People.
I also lament how much fitter I was(lol) and hardier(stone cold bucket showers, and hot spring caves). It reminds me every time I look at the images of a “not one single regret of a 13mth journey I took” or how I managed to sell (divest myself of most of my worldly goods), and embark on my current living in SEA adventure. Sadly the mountains here are not so peaceful, too many Chinese tourists run like ants all over the places that should be calm.
Am I the only one that misses the desolate quietness of mountains ? or should I say the noise of the mountains. Wind, streams, rivers, sheep, camels, trees, grasses….
I hope you like my quick view of this section between Naryn in Kyrgyzstan and Kashgar in the Western corner of China.
The epic journey in Kyrgyzstan didn’t finish in Arslenbob, but continued on our way to Bishkek. Through some of the most desolately beautiful World.
One of the most exciting and scary tunnel journeys I have ever done, is the main Bishkek-Osh road, which passes over a number of high mountain passes – Tuu Ashu (Flag Pass) crosses the Kyrgyz Range at 3588 meters, but a tunnel under the pass means that vehicle do not have to climb right to the summit.
The Tuu Ashu pass is kept open all year round – it is such an important route – the only route between the North and South of the country for much of the year. Other passes over the Kyrgyz range are closed right until the height of summer .
The scenery I am sure you will agree more than makes up for it, and always I felt like an intrepid explorer doing this journey.
During my two month stay in Kyrgyzstan, I spent quite a few days here, and I walked up to the Walnut forest via the waterfall and back down the valley…
Arslanbob (Written and pronounced in Kyrgyz as “Arstanbap”) is one of the most famous places in Kyrgyzstan. Arslanbob (Kyrgyz: Арстанбаб – Arstanbab; Russian: Арсланбоб; Uzbek: Arslonbob) is the name of the large wild walnut (Juglans regia) forest, but is also the name of the big Uzbek village nestled right at the base of some of the most spectacular mountains in Kyrgyzstan.
In addition to the similarly named sub district, valley, and mountain range all located in the Jalal-Abad Region of Kyrgyzstan. The vast tracts of lush green woodland with nut and fruit trees in the valley of the River Arslanbob are actually the largest of their kind in the world.
This scenery combined with some of the best guesthouses in Kyrgyzstan make it one of the places not to miss on any visit to Central Asia.
The fairy-tale walnut forest of Arslanbob in southern Kyrgyzstan is a year-round destination for hiking, skiing, horse riding and food enthusiasts. The suffix ‘Bob’ is commonly used in the region meaning “a traveler and explorer”; so COME be a ‘Bob’ to Arslanbob!
With 90% of the country land above 1500m in elevation, Kyrgyzstan has some amazing valleys. Altyn Arashan is one of the most famous ones for its dreamy landscape and hot springs.
It is even more enjoyable that it is not so easy to reach it! During 2012 during my journey across Central Asia and following the Silk route to China, I spent two months in Kyrgyzstan.
This trip to the hot springs was a trip I shall never forget in the beaten up but bullet proof UAZ 452 (Commercial) Part minivan, a throwback to times long gone when things were made to last. The beginning of the road looked smooth but as you can see (although pictures cannot really show it), it quickly became rocky and bumpy, and sometimes unbelievably accessible!
Many times we crossed animal groups that were being moved to higher grass fields for the summer. Other old soviet vehicles, and horse riders, it is a great place if you want to get around on a horse, hacking is one of the popular activities there.
We went for the hot springs and they were worth every minute, we had one to ourselves and your hut will be next to the river(well not far), a concrete pool will have all the perfectly clear,clean hot spring water you need. Afterwards we had a perfect picnic nearby and then the return teeth juddering journey back! I hope you like my slideshow if so please subscribe, I am always working on new ones from my actually visited destinations.
In the Issykul area of Kyrgyzstan there are many many beautiful canyons; Skazka Canyon
Grigorevskoye Canyon, etc. One of the lesser known but still interesting to visit is the Kydymadjar Gorge, much smaller than any of the other rock formations we visited.
We visited this one en route to Skazka Canyon
stopping for about half an hour off the main road to explore it
So while we were in the Issykul area we took a trip to the salt lake, famed for healing mud and dead sea like floating possibilities, we hired a car and driver to take us there.
After a full day of walking around in the heat and climbing over rocks in the Skazka Canyon, this was a welcome relief, well we thought it would be if our drivers car had not developed a puncture on the way to the salt lake!
Thankfully he managed to “phone a friend” who brought another tyre out for him, and after spending an hour in the shade of the nearby trees, we were back on our way to the Lake. As you can see from the first image it was a long and dry ,dusty road to the lake.
Salt Lake (also Dead Lake, Tuz-Köl, Kara-Köl) is a small lake on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, notable for its high concentration of salt in the water, as well as healing mud on the banks and bottom of the lake.
The shore of the lake is covered with curative clay of different colors, as well as with sharp crystals of salt, which are formed from the drying out of water. The size of the lake is very small: the length of the coastline is 1.5 km, and the depth is 11m.
Despite its very small size, because of its salinity, it does not freeze even in winter.
Paradoxically, but very popular now, this lake was almost unknown until the 2000s, and more or less only started being visited by tourists in 2010.
During my two month visit to Kyrgyzstan, a good amount of my time was spent in the beautiful Lake Issi Kul area.
Moving along the south coast of Issyk-Kul lake from Karakol town, before you reach the small village named Kadji-Sai, you have an opportunity to get into the most beautiful mountain landscapes.
The canyon was named because of its bizarre rocky landscape, which for many years has been transformed by erosion into amazing sculptures and formations.
Some formations look like The Great Wall of China and you can also find other formations that look like snakes, dragons, sleeping giants and even whole castles. From the canyon you can see a majestic panorama of Lake Issyk-Kul and snow caped mountains.