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On the Road in Kyrgyzstan

Touring the Chom-Kemin Valley

View Central Asia 2019 on Bob Brink's travel map.

May 7

I woke up about 4:30. After giving up on going back to sleep I worked on my photos for awhile. I went down for breakfast, of course another buffet. Although I have been eating way too much with the big lunches and suppers that they have been giving us, I am trying to take it easy at breakfast. I wanted to stay with my usual of cereal, fruit, and yoghurt. But all three have been a bit disappointing so far. Instead I have ended up trying out each hotel’s versions of croissants and crepes, so not my usual healthy breakfast. The crepes have been better than the croissants.

We checked out, loaded up the van, and headed down what once was the old silk road.


The fields were green or freshly plowed with a backdrop of the snow-capped mountains.


Our first stop was the Burana Tower. I was pleased with the little pain that I felt as we walked from the parking lot to the tower. It was the best I had felt for several days. It seemed that my surgery was a success. My feet still hurt, but not nearly as much.

The minaret was built in the 11th century in the medieval town of Balasagun, capital of the Karakhanid empire which in the 10 to 12th centuries was a great feudal state. It lasted only a few hundred years before losing to the Mongols. The tower was originally 45 m (148 ft) high, but an earthquake in the 15th Century took off the top half. It is now only 25 m (82 ft) high. The tower also had to survive the Russian immigrants in the early 1900’s using bricks for their own building purposes.

Begaim gave a talk at the little museum, and then some of us went to climb the tower. We were warned that it was steep and dark, with quite uneven stairs. I was the third in the door. I immediately stopped and backed out. With my transition lenses being dark and no lights, I could not see a thing. Begaim immediately took her phone and walked in front of me, coaxing me up the very narrow stairs. Besides the dark, the worst thing was the narrow tread, which seemed only big enough for your toes. There was no way to pass anyone. I had both my cameras, which I cradled against my chest with my right arm while I used my left to push myself along the stairs. I really wished that I had worn my backpack. Luckily, with the top of the tower long gone, it did not take that long to get to the top.


There was a great view of the surrounding fields with the mountains in the background. I asked Michael to take my photo with Begaim. She then helped me back down the stairs. I was quite grateful for her help.


I then visited the little stone monuments, or bal-bals, which are older than the tower. These were grave markers used by nomadic Turkic people. They date from the 6th century and were taken from around the Chui Valley. The bal-bals were designed to look like the person who had died.


We stopped in a small town to buy drinks for supper, since the guest house would not provide alcoholic beverages. It was fun buying the wine. We needed help to choose since we could not read the labels. It seems like Georgian wine is the best.

We drove into the Chon-Kemin Valley and found the Ashu Guesthouse. Although this was officially a step down in accommodation, the rooms were nice. There is a separate dining facility where we had lunch.


Afterwards we all went for a walk in the village. There was an optional horse-riding tour, but no one volunteered. I saw a man in his yard with two cows and two calves. He came over to say hello. Aijan translated as we talked. He owns three other cows. Everyday they are up in the hills for grazing. Two men with horses look after his cows as well as others. He seemed quite specific about the time that the men would be bringing the animals back down and that sounded like a great photo op. However, Aijan and Begaim suggested that the time might not be so exact, so I gave up that idea.


We walked down to the river. There was a rocky beach, just like at home. It was very beautiful.


After returning to the guesthouse I worked on photos a bit before heading to the to the restaurant for promised coffee and sweets. I brought my computer thinking that I was going to work on my blog. Begaim and Aijan were sitting on the shady side and invited me to sit with them. They had some stroopwafels, the Dutch treat that Dorothy had introduced to me before I left. We had a great visit. I have talked more with them in the last two days than I talked the entire 26 days with my driver/guide Sam last year in Namibia.

After they left, I sat on the other side in the sun. An American couple came in. They were looking at the upright refrigerator that contained the drinks, including the beer that Thomas had brought. I mentioned to the man that the beer was not likely available for purchase, that it belonged to other guests. He barely acknowledged that I had spoken. Later Thomas and Michael witnessed the two of them being extremely critical and rude and named the woman Ivanka.

The clouds were wonderful, so I took a few photos before supper.


We had another great meal. I have quite enjoyed our group so far. As I have mentioned, my travels do not compare with theirs. Being so well travelled seems to make everyone quite relaxed about things.

And I have been really impressed so far with the tour, the way it has been organized by Kalpak and our two guides. They have been extremely bright and enthusiastic about showing us their countries. Aijan was able to come along due to the last minute cancellation of two travellers. The rooms were already paid for. She and Luka are very hands on.

After supper the sky was even better.


That night I could hear Michael coughing in the room next door. Others in our group are also suffering. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t get anything.

Posted by Bob Brink 11:43 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged kyrgyzstan

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A lovely day by the sounds of it Bob. Those mountains in the background as just beautiful!

by katieshevlin62

It was, and we were just getting started.

by Bob Brink

Congratulations on your enjoyable outing!

by Vic_IV

Thanks, Vic.

by Bob Brink

That sunset is beautiful :) And I love the Burana Tower and the little stone monuments, but I think I would have passed on climbing up!

by ToonSarah

Sarah, Once I started up the tower I did not seem to have much choice. The view was nice but not that amazing. Feel free to hang out at the bottom on your trip.

by Bob Brink

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