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Being the first Westerners, or Capitalists as our reluctant
host Dr.Bek regarded us as, did cause even more suspicions
when I spent a long time oogling the detailed Soviet map
he had of the area, and asked him all sorts of questions about
border crossings and which border crossings were open.
I was dreaming of maybe coming back and making the
trek overland to Kashgar in China. I knew there were flights,
but having spent since Sept 1989 in the Soviet Union/Russia,
knew how tricky visa's and restricted borders were.
I had heard rumours that some Westerners had crossed over,
and there were some Tours getting through, but no hard data.
The Torugart Pass (Elevation-3,752 m (12,310 ft))
is a remote mountain border crossing
between Kyrgyzstan and China .
Until 2002 when the Irkeshtam pass was opened for passenger traffic
between the two countries it was the ONLY border crossing between
China and the Kyrgyz Republic which could be used by tourists –
for example, those traveling the Silk Road .
Updated Oct 20, 2010
It all started some months before Yeltsin stood on a tank,
before Kirgiztan gained independence, in the kitchen of
my Russian girlfriend in Leningrad where I was living when chatting
to a Kirgiz boy who was studying there in the city.
The USSR was such a vaste nation and I wanted to see
places not yet seen by other westerners, hidden in the
far corners tucked away on the UNTRODDEN PATH:
Dr.Bek was an olf friend of his family and we got an address
in Barskoon and a phone number.
4 days and nights on a train to Alma Ata, a lift across the mountains
to Bishkek, then 4 more nights later we arrived.
Barskoon. Barskoon and Tamga are twin Kyrgyz and Russian villages at the mouth of the Barskoon valley - which has an impressive waterfall and is a good centre for trekking and horsering.
The 11th century scholar Mahumud al-Kashgari (also known as Barskhani) was a native of this area. He is best known as the author of the first Turkic languages comparative dictionary which he wrote whilst living in Baghdad in 1072-1074. His map of the then known world has Barskoon at the centre of the world. His tomb is South of Kashgar - on the road to Pakistan.
The road from Barskoon which passes up the Barskoon valley, (the A364) used to be one of the routes of the Silk Road, passing over the Bedel Pass (4284 m) into China.
It is now the main road leading to the Kumtor Gold mine - hence it is well maintained and there is a reasonable amount of traffic - including lorries making their way up to the mine and back.
There are two interesting things, along the road - a Soviet lorry mounted on a plinth and a bust of Yuri Gagarin, (Our host Dr.Bek told us it was his idea to erect this bust, who knows?) who holidayed on the South shore of Issyk Kul after his historic first manned space flight.
In the mountains to the East is a region known as Sytyr - an «alpine cold desert».
In Soviet times the road turned East along the upper Naryn River and looped round over the Yshtyk Pass (3689 m) to Ak Shyrak, Enilchek and eventually back to the city of Karakol. Unfortunately, some of the bridges are now down and the road, (never an easy route), is no longer passable
Updated Oct 20, 2010
We stayed in Barskoon several nights, we were the first ever Westerners to
visit this town. We stayed in the house of Dr.Bek and his wife was a school teacher
in the local school in Barskoon. There were only Kirgiz people in the town/village,
but up on a nearby hill, some Russians in some sort of scientific station.
We visited many places surrounding and Ak-Shyrak was one just up the road.
Ak-Shyrak. The furthest up the A364 that it is possible to reach following the A364 from Barskoon. Achaeologists have discovered evidence here of early ore excavations in the canyon here.
Updated Oct 20, 2010
Although we spent 6 weeks in and around the Issik Kul Lake, because it was winter, we didn't make many
places because the roads are blocked by snow and ice in the winter, or just darn dangereous.
At-Bashi. a town, which stands on the site of settlements that date from the 8th to 14th centuries.
The main road from Naryn to Torugart takes you over the Kyzyl-Bel pass with views along the crest of the At-Bashi mountain range, to the village of At-Bashi, and the nearby ruins of a small citadel at Kara-Suu dating from the 10th or 12th century. The 5 metre high walls are known as Koshoi-Korgon and are where the legendary Kyrgyz hero Manas is supposed to have buried his friend Koshoy. Just before the end of the asphalt, and the start of the gravel road - the highway widens and was an emergency military airstrip built in the Soviet period to be used in the event of hostilities with China (apparently it was never used and is poorly maintained today). Further on is the Tash-Rabat caravanserai - an architectural monument from the middle Ages. It is about 125 km from Naryn, and 80 km from Torugart border post, at an altitude of 3530m. The road continues around the end of the At-Bashi mountains, past Chatyr-Kul lake to the border post.
Updated Oct 20, 2010
valley - (southern shore of the Issyk-Kul).
Ala-Bash is a small mountain, dotted with sharp black and red cliffs,
which proudly stands in the center of the valley. By the south -
eastern foot of the Ala-Bash was once a medieval village,
the ruins of which are clearly visible from the slopes.
Many Petroglyphs with hunting scenes and images of wild goats
remained on the mountain. At the foot of the mountain is a rock
with carved Buddhist mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" on it
Written Oct 20, 2010
I guess not so many mosques around the world have such a distinct Chinese style. This is because the border with China is so near. The Mosque is located 600 meters from the Main Bazaar in direction of Ak Suu; it was build without nails by architects and artisans belonging to the local Dungan community (Dunga: term used in the former Soviet People to define Muslim people of Chinese origin who feld China in the 19th century).
Non Muslim women cannot enter the mosque itself, they have access to the gardens and to the backyard as besides in all the mosques I've seen in Kyrghyzstan.
Updated Jan 12, 2006
At Bashi is pretty far off the normal beaten path, but well worth the visit just to see the majestic mountains here that seperate Kyrgyzstan from China. Shepherd's Life runs a program to let tourists stay with locals in their Yurts in this area, so be sure to look them up when you're in Naryn.
Written Jun 16, 2005
Phone: 4 14 57 or 5 08 65
Meaning "7 bulls" in the local language, this valley is famous for the 7 red sandstone cliffs that local legend gives an interesting history to. On the other side of these cliffs is Broken Heart Rock, which has an entirely different legend to go with it. Even besides the interesting local legendry, the valley is beautiful and fully worth the effort to visit for a day hike or light camping. It's located about an hour from Karakol City on the south shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.
CBT Karakol can help arrange transportation to and from the valley.
Written Jun 13, 2005
Phone: 0(3922) 5 50 00
Follow the Road From Song Kul to Naryn south. After an impossible number of switchbacks lead you down from the high vally the raod looks to level off as a mountian stream begins to parralel the road. Take a break, you'll need one after the hairraising downhill drive, and walk up stream a bit, maybe a 1/4 mile. Hidden from the raod is a beautiful and powerful waterfall. the fall is only about 20 feet high but the volume of water is impressive. A beautiful and hidden sight.
Written Sep 2, 2003
Near Talas(ask directions in the town) there is a resoviour held into a valy by a large dam. Carved into the wall of the mountian, right over the dam, is a huge Lenin head. With his slightly asian looks he watches over the dam built by communist forces and watches a world very different from Lenins stomping grounds in St. Petersburg.
Written Sep 2, 2003
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