Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back in Bishkek, once again.

So if you could get points for the number of days you stayed in a place longer than you expected, and there was a worldwide competition, I'm pretty sure i'd win hands down... About a month and ago I planned to spend a few days in Bishkek, mainly to organise a few visas and then move on down the road.

It is now a day away from November, I have one visa (which I got my second day in Bishkek), and i'm still here. Granted I have almost iron-clad intentions of leaving this city in the next 3 hours, but who knows what might happen in the enigma that is Bishkek.

In the last two weeks I've been to a eagle and dog hunting festival in the middle of nowwhere, the biggest animal market this side of Kashgar, also in the middle of nowhere, been held up in a blizzard by a farmer with a pitchfork (he chickened out in the end) and had my worst bicycle accident yet (the bike was in the boot of a car at the time)

For the last week, me and Chris (the American Lada driver/photographer) have been travelling around lake Issy Kul in the East and down into the central South of Kyrgyzstan, taking pictures and eating almost continuously. Our triumphant return to Bishkek was delayed by a day when our host woke us up in the morning with "why don't you guys stay another day and we'll cook up a sheep tonight?" (my translation of the russian...)

This set the course of the day, we drove the lada (a beautiful feat of soviet engineering) cross paddock, picked up a nice juicy 'baran' (sheep) and hauled him home in the boot. After a swift execution in the middle of the driveway, all the tasty looking meaty bits were swiftly removed, and placed somewhere far away... and the real work began. Every piece of stomach, hoof, head, bladder and bowel on the other hand were prepared with love; braided, stuffed, roasted over an open flame. In the evening we sat down to a large plate of what would be considered off-cuts back home, and everyone ( two slightly nautious foreigners) loved it!

So, i'm not promising anything, but if all goes to plan, this may in fact be the last message from Biskek...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bishkek baby!

So they say that when Kyrgyz men go over to Russia for work, they cram as many guys as possible into a tiny little apartment, to save cash to send back home. Apparently, there's two different rates for accomodation in these flats. You can pay 50 roubles and sleep on your back, or 25 and sleep on your side.

In keeping with this fine Kyrgyz tradition, my accomodation in Bishkek for the past week and a half has been the delightful strip of floor between the foot of Chris and Grisha (the rentpayers) beds, and the wall. With the only remaining section of useable floor in our one bedroom ex-soviet flat taken up by Marcus the Finnish Hitchhiker, extreme caution must be exercised when waking to use the bathroom at night.

Bishkek is a brillliantthis time food is not the number one reason for my opinion on the subject. Somehow the last week and a half have vanished into a vortex of good times and great people that have made the town feel like home, even though I don't speak the language, can't read most street signs, and have developed the ability to get lost on a regular basis in the streets.

My main reason for hanging about Bishkek was to collect visas. Visa collection is not like collecting stamps or records or butterflies. Those things are fun, at least for some people. Visa collection is like a little bit like stubbing your toe on the edge of a chair, then taking a step back and slamming your toe into the chair again, and again, and again. If you continue to slam your toe effectively, sometimes you get a sticker in your passport that lets you into the next country. I ended up scraping through with 50% of the visas I wanted, no thanks the the lazy bloody Tajik travel agent who never sent through my paperwork...

My relatively unsuccessful visa escapade more than compensated by the copious amount of fun times and good people. In two weeks I was introduced to the worlds of (in no particular order); Dutch street art, American wit (or lack thereof), Lomography, Finnish eccentricity, Turkmen activism, Russian Beatles tribute bands, US pro street skating, Kyrgyz drum n bass, Jam making, Dairy production and the feline reincarnation of Buddha. Not bad for a small central asian city!

So after 2 weeks of kicking back and relaxing, it's back on the road with F.Y. for more adventures. The weather is getting very cold very quick, which promises to make things a little more exciting.

There's new photos up in the gallery, and more stories coming soon.