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Kaluts- The Lut Desert- Iran

In 2012 near the start of my journey along the Silk route between Istanbul in Turkey and China, I spent a month in Iran. A beautiful country and actually very hospitable people. Following the journey of Alexandra the Great to Persepolis, or next stop was the Lut desert to see the amazing sand formations known as "Kaluts". The Kalut is said to a sand mountain created by the effect of the dominant erosional agent in desert, i.e., wind making fascinating forms and shapes.

There are no threats, like scorpions or snakes, as the desert of Lut is an abiotic zone, which means that no single plant or creature can survive in such a harsh environment.

Rising from the sand dunes, these natural and astonishing sculptures are a real shock to your eyeballs and, while walking among them, you are likely to feel you are wandering around Mars or even better, a Star wars film set.

Posted by TheJohnsons 08:32 Archived in Iran Tagged mountains sky desert sunset view nature landscape canyon travel mountain golden sand summer sun hill red rock stone formation scenic land hot yellow natural east dry asia tourism geology iran kerman persia outdoor esfahan formations tehran persian kashan yazd iranian foggy misty massive background hottest lut kalut kaluts shahdat kalutes Comments (0)

Altyn Arashan valley- Kyrgyzstan 2012

Altyn Arashan valley

With 90% of the country land above 1500m in elevation, Kyrgyzstan has some amazing valleys. Altyn Arashan is one of the most famous ones for its dreamy landscape and hot springs. It is even more enjoyable that it is not so easy to reach it!

During 2012 during my journey across Central Asia and following the Silk route to China, I spent two months in Kyrgyzstan. This trip to the hot springs was a trip I shall never forget in the beaten up but bullet proof UAZ 452 (Commercial) Part minivan, a throwback to times long gone when things were made to last. The beginning of the road looked smooth but as you can see (although pictures cannot really show it), it quickly became rocky and bumpy, and sometimes unbelievably accessible!

Many times we crossed animal groups that were being moved to higher grass fields for the summer. Other old soviet vehicles, and horse riders, it is a great place if you want to get around on a horse, hacking is one of the popular activities there. We went for the hot springs and they were worth every minute, we had one to ourselves and your hut will be next to the river(well not far), a concrete pool will have all the perfectly clear,clean hot spring water you need. Afterwards we had a perfect picnic nearby and then the return teeth juddering journey back!

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Posted by TheJohnsons 22:45 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged mountains sky horses view nature park hiking landscape traditional travel mountain trekking green grass tree river adventure white valley summer beautiful wild hill national rock stone animal scenic forest cliff central sunny asia climb gorge tourism outdoor peak cloud outdoors meadow alpine kyrgyzstan background karakol arashan altyn-arashan altyn cloudscape tian-shan Comments (0)

The Wakhan Valley

This is a longer than my usually video but documents the stunning Valley and mountains of the great Pamirs and stunning views of the Hindu Kusch. A road totalling 440 km it covers the full journey along the Wakhan Corridor of Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

All the images were taken with my Canon 1100D and my two lenses the Canon Kit lens 18-55 mm and the Tamron 70-300mm(which I used mostly for this journey)

Welcome to my pictures from the Wakhan Valley. This was a journey through some of the most breath taking, unspoilt places on this Earth in 2012.

We picked up our car in Dushanbe and took the Wakhan corridor to Khorog and then onto mugharb, then the epic crossing to Osh in Kyrgystan. This is a longer than my usually video but documents the stunning Valley and mountains of the great Pamirs and stunning views of the Hindu Kusch. A road totalling 440Km

General info: Courtesy of; https://againstthecompass.com/en/wakhan-valley-tajikistan/ A guide to the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan The Wakhan Valley is a mountainous region which belongs to the Pamir and Hindu Kush ranges, most of it being part of northeast Afghanistan.

For centuries, the Wakhan Valley was an important principality of the famous Kushan, a great empire which extended from southeast Tajikistan to the Ganges Valley itself in India. For this reason, despite being a very mountainous area, in the valley you find several fortresses located on the top of very high hills, offering the most epic and impressive views ever.

Historically, the region served as a division line between west and east Asia, so the valley became an important Silk Road route as well. In the 20th century, it also marked a clear border between the Soviet Union and the British Empire. With all this historical context, its incredible landscape, and awesome people, the Wakhan Valley is the ultimate adventure and a place you can’t miss in your journey through Tajikistan. By the way, even though most of the valley is in Afghan territory, the Lower Wakhan is located in Tajikistan which, unlike the Afghanistan Wakhan Corridor, is very easy to visit with just a bit of planning, a little money and following the advice shown in this comprehensive guide to the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:08 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountains sky water desert view wildlife nature park hiking landscape travel mountain river rocks clouds valley panorama holiday summer way life beautiful countryside hill day stone farm wilderness highway road shore cliff sunny flood asia tourism outdoor wallpaper corridor altitude riverside tajikistan pamirs wakhan afghanistan panj pamir khorog badakhshan wachan Comments (0)

Arge e Rayen- Iran

Arge e Rayen- Iran

I wanted to visit Arg-é Bam on my trip along the Silk Route in Iran, but went to Rayen castle instead. When i saw a picture of Arg-e Bam I knew I would go there no matter what. To my regret the horrible earthquake of 2003 ruined it completely and many people told me that there is nothing left to see besides piles of rubble and few ruined walls (below the Bam castle before and after the earthquake).

The medieval mud brick city of Rayen is similar to the Agr-e Bam but smaller in size. It is extremely well preserved, despite numerous natural disasters that have destroyed similar structures nearby, and it is one of the most interesting sites in Iran. Arg-e Rayen was inhabited until 150 years ago and, although believed to be at least 1,000 years old, may in fact have foundations from the pre-Islamic Sassanid era.

The outer walls of the castle enclose the main governor’s citadel, houses and other structures around the latter. Most of the houses are dilapidated and just few still stand but you can easily imagine how the city looked in the past. Especially with some of the continuing restoration that was/is going on.

Remaining walls and buildings were freshly covered with hay-mud mix in the course of reconstruction and you can see in one of the frames i took where this has been done, even the hay is still on the ground ready for mixing!

The castle is quite small and you will need much time to walk around. The most interesting part is the governor’s citadel. It has a square shape and many buildings on its territory, which include a governor’s bedroom, his office, rooms for official ceremonies and guests The whole area of the citadel is covered with a roof, with several staircases leading to up. The citadel includes several yards similar to traditional Iranian houses which have square form and no roof above them for access of light to rooms facing these yards.

You can climb up to the roof and the walls and walked around the citadel. From up there you can see all around the castle and will have a better view of the houses surrounding the citadel. The yards, rooms and other structures in the citadel are freshly renovated. You can see that some more lights will be installed soon here and there. A big hall looks like a kitchen and there may be a restaurant in the near future. Besides that all the spaces are completely empty.

Posted by TheJohnsons 00:34 Archived in Iran Tagged architecture desert tower culture history traditional travel fort mountain province city building world heritage mud castle rock stone old big medieval wall east asia middle ancient tourism historic brick fortress iran kerman bam persia construction landmark e persian protection era iranian citadel sandstone arg sassanid stronghold rayen arge pre-islamic mudbrick 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-Gaochang

Gaochang

Here from my epic journey on the silk route in 2012/13 is my look at Gaochang in China. It was one of the highlights for me of the trip, I am a bit into ancient sites, I have a great connection with them, and I don't know why? Anyway I hope you get a taste for what out there and how the Chinese are trying to restore it!

Located 30 kilometres south-east of Turpan City, Gaochang, is an ancient city built on the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert and to the south of the Flaming Mountains. Built in the 1st century BC, Gaochang, was an important area along the Silk Road. It was burnt down and destroyed in the 14th century due to increased warfare. The old palace and city ruins can be seen today as they've been well-preserved.

Gaochang was once a fertile and prosperous city serving as capital for three western states in ancient times. The location of Gaochang was ideal as it was located in the middle of the Turpan Basin and the city’s layout was designed with high walls and deep moats, making it a significant military fortress for the Western Region for centuries. With an area of about 2 million square meters, the Ancient Ruins contain the outer and inner cities, along with a palace.

The layout of the city is similar to that of Chang’an (capital of the Tang Dynasty at that time, today’s Xi’an). It is said that, “If you want to learn about the prosperity of the Tang Dynasty, Gaochang Ancient Ruins will show you.” The outer city is surrounded by 11-meter high and 12-meter wide mud walls and nine city gates. The inner city is a 3-kilometer long rectangle that shares its southern wall with the Palace in the northern part of the inner city. A pagoda called, “The Castle of Khan” (meaning “Imperial Palace”) stands on a high stage there. With a history of about 1,300 years, Gaochang, has witnessed many ups and downs in the Turpan region. These delicate ancient ruins have been listed as precious cultural relics under state protection.

Posted by TheJohnsons 20:37 Archived in China Tagged architecture desert culture temple history travel ruins vacation fort mountain city china building cave sand place national stone old road bc destination buddhist attraction wall asian asia first antique ancient tourism historic chinese landmark cultural hall outdoors key silk century khan ruin basin protection relics xinjiang floor heat past lecture turpan units gentleman uyghur gaochang jiaohe tripitaka taklamakan tamrin Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Yumen Pass or The Jade Gate

In 2012 I took the minivans that do the trip out to the Jade Gate on the historic Silk route. Everyone had to go through here to access either China or the Central Asia continent and beyond into Europe. This is where my Silk Route Journey finished and my South East Asia Trip began.

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Posted by TheJohnsons 20:35 Archived in China Tagged sky architecture water desert tower view nature landscape history travel vacation province scenery china blue building famous sand heritage hill castle rock stone old road historical scenic yellow sunny wall dry antique ancient tourism historic chinese outdoor gate landmark pass silk dynasty jade ruin gobi han dunhuang gansu yumen fangpa Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Pong Dueat Geyser

In 2013 whilst driving around the Ma Hong Son Loop we stopped off at Pong Dueat Geyser and hot springs. The geysers were not blowing very high but the hot springs were lovely and i would definatley go again! This place also offers you the hot springs with great facilities situate amid the picturesque views of the mountain forest. There are tents and bungalows offers for visitors who want to stay overnight

Posted by TheJohnsons 23:12 Archived in Thailand Tagged fog water view nature park landscape travel mountain thailand green tree fall scenery white famous garden beautiful smoke chiang mai national rock stone pool mist scenic forest spring hot geyser attraction natural geothermal thai wet ñam steam warm geology mineral outdoors mae heat background surface boil sulfur flow dang fume huai vapour Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-The Plains of Jars

The Plain of Jars is a collection of large stone jars interspersed throughout the Xieng Khouang plain in the Lao Highlands. The stone structures are mostly made of sedimentary rock and, ranging from 3 to 10 feet in height (1 to 3 meters), each can weigh up to 14 tons.

There are approximately 3000 of these vessels, dated from 500BC to 500AD. Limestone and sandstone are the predominant stone used, some with their lids but most without. There are three different sites that I visited on this trip and each one gave a unique view and feel for these unusual structures. 

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:52 Archived in Laos Tagged food architecture nature park landscape history travel of laos glass white famous place rock stone old historical object field tourist unesco site asian natural asia southeast war ancient tourism archaeological landmark outdoors jar indochina plain age delicious product healthy lao fresh snack background isolated organic phonsavan vector illustration jars xiengkhouang Comments (0)

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