Bob Perry, one of ElderTreks Country Directors, will be blogging from the road as he sets off on an epic 25 days across central Asia as part of ElderTreks The Stans tour. Keep your eyes on the blog as Bob will be posting updates throughout his tour.
Our last full day in Kyrgyzstan and true to form the weather is still overcast and raining slightly. We are scheduled to go hiking in the Al Archa Gorge which is only 30 minutes from the city, but that 30 minutes takes us from a bustling city with monuments to Lenin (They actually keep them for 2 reasons one is that it is part of history, good or bad, and second, they have discovered that tourists want to see them!!! One of the last places in this part of the world that still has a few statues and where a whole floor of the state museum is dedicated to Lenin's life.) to the Al Archa Gorge where the mountains still have snow.
It's a real shame the weather is not better as the group is decked out in rain gear for a 2.5 mile hike into the park. The birds are quiet and hiding because they to do not like getting wet. The scenery however is magnificent.The hike (walk really) is refreshing, but it is cold. You can see your breath. It is then onto the memorial for those lost in the Stalin years. During that time Kyrgyzstan was suffering sufficiently that a group of local citizens wrote to "Uncle Joe" asking that he help the people of Kyrgyzstan who were suffering greatly, if he could not help they respectfully suggested that Kyrgyzstan no longer be part of the Soviet Union. Well does "off with their heads" mean anything? All were rounded up and shot. It was only found out years later after the collapse when a daughter of one of those shot spoke up and in the ensuing investigation they found the remains of this group in the woods outside Bishkek.
The sun is shining the next morning as we say goodbye, maybe Kyrgyzstan is happy to see us go, and it is off to the airport for our flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Roger, our tour leader, has warned us of the security we will go through at the airport but 4 times!!!!! Twice before we have even got to check-in. This is our first introduction to the forms that we will be completing every time we enter or leave Uzbekistan. Two copies detailing everything. But the flight is on time and Uzbekistan Airlines impresses everyone with the seat pitch and the service on this 60 minute flight. Many grumblings about the bag of pretzels they get on American Airlines compared to the service onboard Uzbek Airlines.
Upon arrival the line takes us about an hour to clear customs and immigration which, when you think about it, is less that arriving at Toronto with half the formalities. Not sure what I expected about Tashkent but it is a long time since I have been impressed by a modern city. There are parks everywhere, wide boulevards lined with the best shops and, best of all, it's hot!!!! That short hop over the beginning of the Pamir mountains has taken us to a beautiful city, where the streets are clean and there is a sense of a nation on the go. Our day in Tashkent is filled with Islamic Madrassas, Mosques and Mausoleums.
Tired after two days of the heat (yes I know we are never satisfied) tomorrow we aree off to Samarkand.