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My trip to Kirgizia

a self-organized & unique experience

My name is Jakob Pfeiffer, I am a 30 years old teacher. For me, travelling was as if to the manner born. I was one year old on my first trip abroad to South Africa - followed by many more like to Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South, Central and North America.

In the summer of 2018 I decided to explore another region - in Asia, which I rather neglected before, despite my visits to Sri Lanka and Indonesia, both more or less classic destinations. I wanted to see places beyond mass tourism and followed my sister´s hint: Kirgizia.

Located in central Asia, Kirgizia is surrounded by China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

I had no idea of what will wait for me in Kirgizia - maybe some raw notions of Nomads and endless grasslands. My guide book (there are only two available in German) told me that it will be a quite mountainous trip. 90 % of Kigizia is located at least 1,500 above sea level.

Our original plan was to travel independently by car and GPD data. My travel partner was my father, enthusiastic like I was to visit Kirgizia. So we started from Vienna to Istanbul and onwards to Bishkek, the Kirgizian capital.

It was like a journey to the unkown - both of us didn´t know more that GPS coordinates and a travel guide.

Once we arrived at Bishkek we have been enthusiastic about what we found. I never saw a city center greened like Bishkek before with very few road traffic compared with other big cities like Vienna (9 times certified as mostly worth living city worldwide).

After spending a night in a beautiful hotel we took a taxi to the car rental station and immediately continued to a dried out canyon, which we fully tramped through to its former source. Even our 2 hours drive by was fascinating. Perfect roads, endless grasslands, wild flowers, unspoiled nature. Population density of Kirgizia: 28 people per sq km, Germany: 232 people per sq km. The canyon itself offered impressiv sandstone formations and a huge variety of plants. Kirgizia means great landscapes and unspoiled nature.

We spent the next days in the lake Issyk Kul region. Lake Issyk Kul is the second largest mountain lake worldwide (182 km long, 60 km wide, 668 m deep) - only Lake Titicaca is larger. After being misused for submarine tests in the Soviet era, Lake Issyk Kul these days is a natural reserve, visited by Kirgiz on weekends by bus. Taking a bus is the most popular travel style, as only few people do have an own car. Therefore it is absolutely normal to offer people waiting at the roadside a lift.

As I usually try to keep my ecological footprint as small as possible (yes - long distance flights don´t contribute), I really appreciated the kind of accommodation we had. Kirgizia is a country of nomads and of course they are living in yurts made of felt and wood! 100 % natural material homes, heated by excrements of grazing animals. If there is electric light available, it is produced by solar cells. Of course, its not living in a 5 star hotel, but staying in a warm room, having a soft mattress means supporting local nomads and appreciating their way of living.

We have seen the very impressive sandstone formations of Skazka and the Trog Valley when we continued our trip to the Arabel Plateau (3,000 m). Although being a major tourist attraction, no huge buildings have been raised at Szazka. Entrance fees are being paid at a small wooden hut - that´s all.

After having spent some days in the area we continued our journey back to the mountains and to the region of Kyol Ukyok and Kyol Tor, two minor mountain lakes, again staying in a yurt camp. You can go by car some time followed by a 4 hours walk - one of the best I have ever made. It looks like the Alps Mountains, but somehow it is different. Our yurt camp just by the lake offered us a perfect panorama view.

Unfortunately we had to leave that phantastic country, went back to Bishkek for our flight back home. We definitely will come back and already have decided to visit East Kirgizia next time.