Posted by: cousindampier | 11 March 2014

Kyrgyzstan Photo Essay: The Non-Running Edition

Edit: This is the beginning of a weeklong trip to Kyrgyzstan which Jon and I went on last week.  Up until the time we got stopped by the police twice in an hour, it was an awesome trip – and even that was entertaining in its own right.  We made it back before the next snowstorm hit, which is important because the Bishkek-Almaty road is perhaps the most terrifying ride I’ve ever been on when the road is dry, so I’m alive to send these off to you.  Whoever you are.  Anyway, let’s get to it:


My introduction to Kyrgyzstan: that gorgeous red flag, a statue of Manas – the uniter of the 40 tribes and fighter of dragons – and traffic.


Some kids warming themselves by Bishkek’s eternal flame – the Monument of Victory.  The eternal flame is essential in the capital of every former Soviet republic.  Like the Eddie Izzard sketch, in the Second World War the Soviet Union lost fifty times the number of people America did – minimum.  There are a lot of World War II memorials around.

Camera 360

The plaza around the flame.  This photo has an HDR filter on it, but I love how it makes the skater appear angelic.  She also had on these leather roller skates directly out of 1954 or a scene in Whip It.   I legitimately wanted them.

Camera 360

The monument has three half-arches reaching to a point at the top.  The whole image represents a yurt – a tent-like structure used by nomads in Central Asia – underneath which is a woman waiting for the return of her husband and sons from war.   I caught the setting sun behind this one.


Jon Jay is good at many things, but having an internal compass to the best dive bars in Central Asia is one of his finest qualities.  Dive bar isn’t even the best term – how about bars with wooden tables and benches, wooden paneling on the walls, a lot of old stuff on those walls, and live music.  That kind of dive bar.


Bishkek at night.  Or Leavenworth Prison.  I’m not sure.


That moment when you are walking through the dark and all of a sudden you stumble upon a plaza full of light.  The blue highlights made this photo for me, and different buildings had this outlining going on.

Camera 360

Jon Jay, epically.

Camera 360

This was a pit stop about halfway between Bishkek and Karakol.  I took this picture for two reasons.  First, it reminded me of Highway Two, which at this point in my time here I refer to in the most reverent of fashions (I miss driving).  And second, Jon and I both had the same reaction upon seeing it:

“Look at those TRAILS!


Camera 360

One of my favourite pictures: a bus stop near Karakol.  To be fair, I am still confused as to why the hammer and sickle is blue.  Red or yellow! Get your colours straight!

Camera 360

The valley leading up to the ski resort, with Karakol behind it.   There will be more mention of Karakol in the next post, which deals with flat land, but the view from the city is intense.


That’s just Kazakhstan out across those mountains.  The pile of rocks is the top of the Karakol ski resort.  We would run through this valley the next day, but being in the middle of one mountain range and seeing another that close is a sublime feeling.


My goal in life is to get as many photos of Jon Jay while he is on his phone as possible.  While you’re here, why not wander over to


The view from behind that stone pile.  We’re in the middle of some beautiful mountains, stretching from China in the northeast down through the southwest part of Kyrgyzstan.  On a map, it looks like one massive range, the Tien Shen, with Lake Issyk-kul splitting them in half.


Lots of this happened.  Kyrgyzstan has fantastic cognac.  I’d known about Bishkek before I left, but my friend Adil mentioned the Kyrgyzstan cognac was better, and he was right.  It is a little sweeter and smoother, and goes better with black tea.


As did lots of this face, as I tried to figure out where, exactly, I was on this mountain.  I had to hike out twice when I went down the wrong path (and therefore wrong valley).

But I learned to make really, really quick turns on a snowboard along a tight path.

The next day, Jon and I would embark upon a trail run of Odysseus like proportions, only if Odysseus was dumb enough to run through muddy farms instead of trying to return to Penelope.   But by this point, Karakol was making quite an outdoors statement.  The first day we arrived, we pulled a double – skiing during the day followed by a run in the setting sun.  It was short, only about an hour, but an hour outside of Karakol gets one to the quietest hilltops imaginable.



  1. […] stoked on a new place, so I’m glad the experience was shared with someone who appreciated it. You can read about his thoughts on the entire trip on his blog. Until next time, […]

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