Wylie and Helene|
A Wonderful Time
We had a wonderful time in Kyrgyzstan. The people are friendly and generous. The country is beautiful.
The capital, Bishkek, is easy going, safe and has all the modern conveniences. At the same time it has an almost rural feel with quiet neighborhoods just blocks from the main plaza and the streets are almost choked with trees.
As with the other urban areas of the country, most of the Soviet industries have collapsed due to inefficiency and poor workmanship. Engineers now join the ranks of taxi drivers who wait around the bazaars hoping to find a paying customer.
The countryside is very rural with most people leading simple lives on farms or small villages. Those who can find paying jobs earn only a dollar or two a day.
It is a fertile country and no one is going hungry. The markets are filled with fresh food and produce. In season, the local fruits and vegetables sell for around 5 cents a pound.
The mountains are spectacular and remind one of Switzerland. The passes are intense though. Without any trail maintainance or swithbacks, most pass crossing are on all fours, in loose scree, going straight up.
During the Soviet era the valleys were flooded with sheep and the traditional and environmental checks and balances were lost. Although the valleys are recovering many of the pastures are covered with noxious weeds.
Every valley seems to have a sharp shooter hoping to bag the few remaining mountain goats or snow leopards. In one valley there was a camp of wardens and the local mountain men seemed content to trap marmots.
Kyrgyzstan is avoiding most of the racial tension and political isolationism of their neighbors. However, problems do exist.
Uzbek and Afghans Islamic militants occasionally cross the border. Among the Kyrgyz tribes there can be age old distrust and rivalry. Native Kyrgyz are favored for state and government posts, sending many people with Russian and German heritage packing their bags for the west.
Like the other former soviet republics, the people of Kyrgyzstan are struggling through a difficult period of redefining their national identity combined with economic uncertainty.
I can highly recommend the Celestial Mountain tourist agency in Bishkek for letters of invitation and transport to and from Kyrgyzstan. Ian Claytor, a British gentleman, runs the office and provides timely, meticulous and conscientious service. You may find cheaper assistance, but you wonĄŻt find any better.
Ian Claytor: email@example.com Their web site has lots of good info: www.celestial.com.kg