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Arslanbob to Bishkek and the Tuu Ashuu Pass (Kyrgyzstan)

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.

Posted by TheJohnsons 04:17 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged mountains sky snow water view nature landscape scene canyon travel mountain lake grass river adventure scenery clouds valley panorama summer way no beautiful wild hill national rock road person summit scenic high land spring central rocky asia gorge tourism outdoor pass shan peak cloud outdoors silk colorful environment range kyrgyzstan background Comments (0)

Fairytale canyon "Skazka" Каньон "Сказка"

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.

Dedicated to my dear Photographer Compatriot; Natalia Arentseva!
This would make a great place for a photo shoot!

You can see Natalia's work here ; https://www.facebook.com/photographynataliaarantseva/

Posted by TheJohnsons 20:55 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged mountains trees sky architecture tower view nature landscape canyon travel mountain trekking lake scenery blue building woods summer beautiful red castle romantic rock old medieval scenic forest land attraction yellow natural asia gorge tourism geology german landmark orange fairy european tale bavarian bayern kyrgyzstan fantasy fairy-tale issyk-kul fairytale skazka fuessen Comments (0)

Tajikistan


View The Big Year Out & Photos of us & Visas & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

Tajikistan-Introduction

Well to be honest we ummed and awed about going to Tajikistan, If I remember rightly we spent three days in Tashkent(over a weekend) deciding what direction we wanted to go into next!(we always knew Tashkent was a bit of a crossroads for us)I know you are wondering why we had not planned all our trip from start to finish, the idea was that we had a date pretty fixed (Turkmenistan’s fault) up to that point, and as we all know visas are not so flexible, they all want a start and finish date, and either a “where are you going next?” or a “Have you got an exit?” paperwork first. We knew we wanted to go Kyrgyzstan try and get through to China and we had to get our Kyrgz visa and Tajik in Tashkent if we were (see visa section). What we wanted at this point was a degree of flexibility. Well reasons debated were – Visa & its cost, cost, our own physical abilities, what we wanted to see etc.

Well I just want to say I am so glad we did, it’s a “no brainer” really! On all counts,Tajikistan meets all our concerns and then some. We have been absolutely wowed by the North, the SevenLakesof Shing, or their official name the Margozar Lakes, the stunning FanMountains, which no one should miss if they have time in their itinerary.

The first part of our stay in Tajikistan we did independently from Khojand [Khojand-travel-guide-1358665] –Istavarashan-Pendjikent. We booked our Northern,Fan Mountain trip through ZDTA in Penjikent, who managed to organise us transport and a guide in one hour. Be aware that we ended up with a private car and NOT a 4x4 as advertised, which did prove to come up short on more than one occasion. If you do book with them (yes we did email in advance but got no reply) be firm and insist on a 4x4. Their guide was superb and a credit to the company and gets paid way to little compared to other guides.

We visited six out of the seven lakes, stayed in some lovely homestay with some genuine and very hospitable peoples. They will be reviewed separately.

We stayed at Hamsafar Homestay/Guesthouse in Dushanbe, we arranged this through ZDTA, but had already had it in our sites of places to stay when we were researching Tajikistan. A creditworthy stopover for any traveller.

We had also decided that we would like to travel through the Wakhan corridor, down to the Afghan market at Ishkashim(which the Taliban managed to scupper), and through the Pamirs, we started in Dushanbe-Kala-I Khum-Khorog-Wakhan Valley-Bibbi Fatima Springs-Langar-Alichur, before finding that Angela did actually suffer from altitude sickness which hit her at 4,200mtrs, and having to make a hasty detour to Murghab(yes we had already stayed at 3,600mtrs at Alichur [Alichur-travel-guide-1193157] without incident), but remember at the higher altitudes smaller hundreds of mtrs makes a big difference to the body. So Murghab it was and Angela recovered well enough for us to spend two nights here before our progress onto Osh.

We booked this part of our journey through Pamir Guides with a Mitsubishi Pajero, more than man enough for the terrain we encountered. We delighted in the hot spring at Bibbi Fatima and thoroughly enjoyed our first stay in a Yurt at Alichur, where we enjoyed Yak Yoghurt and cream,(unpasteurised) and yes it is lovely, saw Yaks being milked etc. The scenery of the Wakhan and Pamirs is stunning, waterfalls, Snow topped mountains of the Hindu Kush, coupled along with desert environments, Geysers and abundance of wildlife made this a fascinating place to journey through. That is why I am only doing this short section of Blog; I will upload the pictures will I know will speak for themselves! I will add short editorials to accompany some of them.

Posted by TheJohnsons 00:11 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountains sky architecture sunset view nature park landscape monument culture history traditional travel mountain trekking town lake city soviet building famous panorama holiday summer beautiful country hill top national stone skyline tourist scenic central destinations evening asia tourism historic state landmark peak wallpaper structure freedom government symbol tajikistan dushanbe pamir Comments (0)

The Fann Mountains

During my Silk Route trip across Central Asia I spent some of the best time I had in Tajikistan. In the North there are the Fann mountains and the seven lakes of shing, which are stunning. Here in this show you will see my view of these awesome mountains form my stop in an unmapped village called Sargob. Breathtaking views ans stunning blue skies (yes they really are that blue!) are worth the effort. Unlike most of the mountain ranges in Central Asia, the Fann showcases a unique blend of barren and verdant outlooks. Nestled amidst high mountains you will come across traditional villages and picturesque green meadows, turquoise lakes, gurgling rivers, and scenic valleys. Tajikistan is a paradise for mountain lovers, and as the Fann range is only a few hours driving from the Tajikistan capital, Dushanbe, you can combine trekking with an immerse cultural experience. On a footnote the music entitled "fond memories" was a perfect match and did remind me along with the images of "fond memories" of my time there.

Posted by TheJohnsons 23:40 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountains sky snow water view nature park hiking landscape scene travel vacation mountain trekking lake green adventure sport scenery blue panorama summer beautiful top national rock stone road scenic high central destination reflection natural asia tourism recreation outdoor peak extreme tajikistan background pamir tranquil mountaineering terrain fann Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Dunhuang Movie Set

Between our journey from Dunhuang to the Jade gate and the Yardang Geopark , we were taken to this movie Set, also the entrance gate of Dunhuang Movie Set known as Modelled Shazhou Town of Song Dynasty (960-1279), is about 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) south west of the city. The town, covering an area of 12,700 square meters (3.1 acres) was originally designed for the setting of the historical film Dunhuang in 1987. The film was made in cooperation with Japan and the set reproduced the layout and construction on a part of the famous scroll painting Qingming Shanghe Tu (The Outing at Bian River on Qingming Festival).

Dunhuang Movie Set presents its majestic appearance in the vast Gobi bearing a rich flavor of the west regions of China. Fully representing the military importance of the western regions in the Tang (618-907) and Song Dynasties, the complex here can give one an impression that the clock has turned backwards to ancient times. Gates are erected on the east, south and west sides of the town. The five main streets, namely the Gaochang, Dunhuang, Ganzhou, Xingqing and Bianliang, criss-cross each other inside the town. Various constructions with distinct characteristics of the Song Dynasty are scattered along the streets, housing arcades, temples, hockshops, warehouses, pothouses, restaurants, dwelling houses and so on.

Taking full advantage of its uniqueness for making movies with a military theme, Dunhuang Movie Set has become the biggest set for shooting movies in northwest China. More than twenty films and television series have been produced here, apart from the movie Dunhuang so far. You might be surprised to recognize the familiar scenes from one of your favorite movies when you are strolling around the town. So be prepared for the unexpected!

This scenic spot is very interesting both for its historical value for putting the vision of the ancient west China into perspective and for its important role in movie-making industry.

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Posted by TheJohnsons 21:06 Archived in China Tagged sky architecture oasis desert tower view nature park landscape monument culture history travel mountain lake buddhism province scenery china building famous sand sun hill pagoda old road scenic land moon spring dune asian natural dry asia camel amazing ancient tourism chinese outdoor landmark crescent silk gobi background dunhuang gansu Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Tha Abandoned ships at Moynaq

One of the most profound journeys I took was from Nukus to Moynaq in Uzbekistan. To the last port on the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, which is a sea no more. The desolation caused by the overfishing and redirection of the "inland sea" left this desert of a town like something from the wild west movies. And still even more stark it has happened in as many years as I have been on the planet. After visiting the ships graveyard, I was able to visit the "Cannery" where the fish was processed on mass for export mainly to the Ukraine.

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:54 Archived in Uzbekistan Tagged sea desert boat nature landscape ship cemetery lake soviet ecology waste panorama sand port ships dead bark graveyard change warming shipwreck dry asia environmental salt wreck global rust environment climate ruin arid disaster rusty uzbekistan abandoned kazakhstan ecological carcass apocalypse wreckage catastrophe desolation moynaq devastation aral rusting desertification dryness Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Ürümqi

In 2012 I crossed from Kyrgyzstan in the the Western corner of north China, along my one month journey across China, I stopped at many places and this is a quick snapshot of one of my favourite Chinese Cities, Ürümqi. A very big city that has managed to keep hold of it's historical architecture and modern buildings in an eclective mix. Along with three amazing and beautifully landscaped parks along with their own historical buildings which have been made central features to value them and where they can be appreciated by many.

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:26 Archived in China Tagged art people trees sky snow architecture view nature park landscape traditional street travel mountain lake urban scenery city china blue white building panorama summer hill day office skyline tourist cityscape reflection asian natural beauty asia image tourism chinese outdoor landmark cloud skyscrapers outdoors modern skyscraper xinjiang urumqi uyghur artificial Comments (0)

The Big Year Out- Karakol


View The Big Year Out & Photos of us & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

large_1842667_1346155130923.jpgKarakol

We arrived in Karakol [Karakol-travel-guide-1019301] from Tamchy on Saturday lunchtime (well about2.00pmto be precise). We got the driver from our taxi to drop us off outside the CBT office which I cannily spotted on the way into the town. Well outside door open but inside door shut! Across the road we crossed to the Tourist Information office which also has great English speaking staff, success! We were asked how close to town? How much did we want to pay? Toilet inside or outside? Etc. We got directed to Teskeys (under hotel reviews). We also asked about getting about the town and we were offered a great town map which at the time of writing was 100com, which really was great value and invaluable for buses and sights, names of streets (rare here).large_1842667_13461551302629.jpgDungan Mosque, it's hard to believe that this was built using NO nails!Our other enquires were aimed at trips out to Jeti Oguz [Jeti-Oguz-travel-guide-1354514] and Altyn Arashan, the first one for the scenery and the valley of the flowers and Altyn for the natural hot springs that we had heard about. The young woman (all of the tourist info office is manned by volunteer University students) at the TIO told us all the ways we could get there by buses, or shared taxis, or private taxi, oooor taxi with guide. All with their appropriate prices. No hard sell, great. We decided that we would discuss and get back to her if needed. We walked to our homestay/guesthouse it was hot, and the side streets are not so good for pulling trolley holdalls! We found it and Takai was kind enough to come out and help us in with our bags and show us to a lovely cool room.large_1842667_13461551318986.jpg

Our first night’s meal we went to a restaurant called Kench, just a couple of streets away and mentioned in LP. Takai also gave it his endorsement so off we went. Angela had a lovely fish dish and I had a Chicken and sweet pepper dish common here inKyrgyzstan. Real “ice tea” made from cold tea and lemon wedges…so much more refreshing than tins or plastic bottled variety you commonly get everywhere in CA.

We had already decided that we wanted to go to Jeti Oguz & Altyn Arashan; we spoke with Takai as we noticed he had lots of info about tours that he arranged himself for Jeti Oguz and the surrounding area. We were clear that we were not fit enough for tough hiking; Takai said “no worries”. We spent the next day doing a town tour by ourselves.large_1842667_13461551329009.jpg We visited the mosque made with “no nails” no not a squishy caulk used for fixing skirting boards, but no nails were used in it’s construction, Dungan in style it is still a working mosque so headscarves were donned. My first taste of Chinese architecture this side ofChina!

I was particularly on the hunt for local Architecture so our next stop round town was the Russian Orthodox Church (always an interest to me as my mother is Greek Orthodox,and although I am not religious,I am aware that the two churches share many similarities). This one had originally been made of stone but destroyed by earthquake and replace with a totally timber offering. Looking at it I could see how much loving work had gone into it’s the carving and decoration (on the outside).large_1842667_13461554866487.jpgLook No Nails!Inside the Dungan Mosque, which really does not look like a mosque as we know it.I spent quite a lot of time walking round the outside and taking pics of different angles. Inside was beautiful too, with the typical saints on display and candle turns for prayers and worship. The dome had some very clear and almost new looking paintings with various saints and of course Jesus. No pics were allowed indoors as is usual with very much working orthodox churches in this region.

We left the grounds of the Orthodox Church to be greeted outside the front gate by an old colonial building, now a pedagogical society building. Very grand and with quite a nice large front garden area which seemed to be a good dropping off point for the mini buses that were stopping to let the Russian tourists get off. Further along the road behind the church, we found further examples of colonial buildings, windows ornate and many of them on the sides of these huge buildings.large_1842667_13461554863377.jpg One in particular, a wealthy merchant’s house was a very good example of Soviet style Architectural colonialism. Now a Youth Volunteer organisations training centre, you could see its former glory even in it’s so very poor and sad state. Alongside it on both sides of the street were more single storey buildings of the same era, no doubt lesser minions lived in these. We made our way back into the town centre to eat a well earned lunch with the thought of taking it easy after lunch and meandering back to the guest house, picking up money from the numerous ATMs in Karakol and some meds from the also many, Aptekas, or pharmacy.

Next day started at eight with breakfast with a set off at nine. We were being joined by four other tourists, a French couple and a Belgian couple, both in not so dissimilar age’s group to ourselves. Good company as we had all got chatting nicely the evening before. Takai’s dad was also coming with us for us slow coaches! A Mitsubishi people carrier met our eyes on the front drive; we all piled in on our first trip Jeti Oguz.

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Posted by TheJohnsons 23:41 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged sky snow architecture horses view nature landscape religion scene travel church mountain lake green grass river adventure blue valley building panorama summer cathedral hill old resort animal tourist scenic forest high central asia gorge tourism orthodox dome outdoor landmark shan alpine range wooden kyrgyzstan christianity tian kyrgyz kul karakol issyk-kul Comments (0)

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