I’m in Kyrgyzstan!
Hello travellers, it’s been a while since I’ve given you a real time travel update, and that’s because I’ve only just hit the road again, and I couldn’t be more excited.
I’ve just landed in Bishkek and I’m getting ready to explore this mountainous Central Asian nation and the surrounding region, but before that happens, I’m covering the World Nomad Games.
The last three months, since I left the Philippines, via Hong Kong, I’ve been back home in good old England, enjoying the strangely sunny weather. Now, right on cue, as August ends, so too has summer ended and I’m leaving behind the grey, drizzle and rain for what will hopefully be the warmer climes of Kyrgyzstan.
But we shall see, it can get pretty cold up in the mountains in this part of the world…
3 Months in England!
While I’ve been home in the U.K., seeing old friends and staying with family, I’ve been catching up on content from the last three years of full time travel. It’s never ending, but I love that. I keep finding more things to write about, places I’d forgotten or places that I felt I couldn’t write about at the time.
Lonely Planet even included my post on visiting the strange Micronation of the Principality if the Hutt River as one of the best blogs published this July. And actually, it took me an entire year to write about that experience. At least I did it justice in the end. I still have so many places to write about, so expect more writing from across the world for a long time to come.
I’ll be in Kyrgyzstan, and then the surrounding region for the next two months, so get ready for some off the beaten track writing, pictures and content from Central Asia too, as no doubt I’ll be writing up this mad adventure fairly quickly.
Or, at least in part.
The World Nomad Games
So, what am I doing in Kyrgyzstan? I’m here for the 3rd edition of the World Nomad Games of course.
Well, I’m yet to really understand what exactly they are myself, but I’ve been given press passes to get behind the scenes of whatever insane nomadic action happens during the event and I’ll try and capture as much of it as I can.
As far as I can gather, it’s essentially the Olympics of traditional Central Asian, nomadic sports.
Kyrgyzstan hosts the event every two years at the huge Issyk Kul Lake which is on the border with Kazakhstan. It lasts over a week, with an extravagant opening and closing ceremony complete with giant birds of prey and judging from last year’s event, lots of fire and lots of horses.
Sports on the list during the event include, but are not limited to: Eagle Hunting – hunting with eagles, not the hunting of eagles – wrestling, horse racing and the infamous Kok Baru.
If you’ve ever seen Rambo III, when Sylvester Stallone single handedly saves Afghanistan from the Soviets, you’ll know as well I do that Kok Baru is really just like football.
Except, it’s played on horseback. And instead of a football, the teams fling a dead goat between the goal posts.
I’m told the winning team keep the goat and have a feast to celebrate.
It should be interesting, and while the whole show might sound very bizarre, really the games are just a huge demonstration of unique nomadic culture, much of which has already been lost. It’s an excellent way of preserving this distinct nomadic identity in the face of modernisation and showcasing it to the rest of the world.
There are teams from across the world, from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey – even the USA fielded a team last time around.
I’ll be covering as much of the event as I can, taking pictures and writing articles for this blog and for a few other publications too.
A Central Asian Adventure
Two years ago, in 2016, I was lucky enough to visit the far west of Kazakhstan and much of Uzbekistan, however the rest of the region is still very much a mystery to me.
I’ll be using the opportunity while I’m over this way to explore more of it, and after the games I plan on travelling to Kazakhstan’s number one city – although no longer the capital – Almaty, to see what this big city of Central Asia has to offer the humble traveller.
After that. I’ll have a few weeks to travel along the old Silk Road, back into Uzbekistan. I’m interested to see how the capital Tashkent has changed in the two years since I first visited, as the country has started to really open up since a new President came to power.
Even just back in 2016, getting a visa was a beauracratic nightmare, involving multiple embassy trips and a long wait. During my travels in Uzbekistan, I had to be registered every night with the police and because of the ridiculous financial situation the country was in, I had to carry around plastic bags full of local money to pay for anything, all of which had to be exchanged illegally on the not so secret black market, if I wanted a real rate.
I hear change is afoot though and I’ll revisit Tashkent and then head across to the unexplored Fergana Valley to see a lesser known side of a lesser known country.
Then I’ll be back in Kyrgyzstan, and time and weather permitting I’ll travel down to Tajikistan, to see the mountains and the roof of the world. But I don’t like making too many plans, least of all I don’t like writing down too many plans on this blog. As any traveller knows, plans are really just made for changing.
The only thing set in stone is that I don’t fly out of Bishkek again until the last week of October, and I’m happy to see where the journey takes me!
Check out my Facebook page for as frequent updates as the internet allows, and check back here for a few blog posts!
Oh, and if you have any suggestions or places I should add to my itinerary, feel free to let me know.
Richard Collett, August 2018
All Pictures from Pixabay