Adventures in Roadside Camping

In which our convoy makes Mongolian friends and learns why not to start conspicuous campfires by the side of the road.  Kick your feet up for 20 minutes while we tell our story.   Blog this! Bookmark on Delicious Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Tumblr it Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on […]

Mongolia Day 2-3: To bridge, or not to bridge (August 25, 2011)

Words are no longer very useful. Mongolia is a land of vast silence. Except for the (increasingly frequent) moments when you find yourself at an impasse. Sometimes there are no bridges. first river crossing 2 from Kara Van Malssen on Vimeo. Sometimes there might as well not be a bridge. first scary bridge crossing from […]

Mongolia Day 1: After a night spent in the border compound (August 24, 2011)

We arrived at the Mongolian border shortly before closing time. Although we managed to pass immigration as individuals before the doors shut for the night, the car didn’t. We were locked inside the gates of the Mongolian border compound, and told to pitch our tents where ever we’d like. They would process the vehicles, which […]

Russia Part II, aka we finally made it to Mongolia (August 21-23, 2011)

Russia Part II, aka we finally made it to Mongolia (August 21-23, 2011)

Although it seems like it should be possible, there is no way to cross directly from Eastern Kazakhstan to Western Mongolia.  A 1200 km drive through Siberian Russia is required.  With our double-entry Russian visas close to expiration, we forged ahead toward Mongolia. View Semey to Mongolia in a larger map We found ourselves rejoicing […]

Kazakhstan Part II – Almaty to Semey (August 18-20, 2011)

Kazakhstan Part II - Almaty to Semey (August 18-20, 2011)

We didn’t have nearly enough time in Kyrgyzstan, and I think we all agree that of all the places we passed through, it’s the first place we would go back to.  Now, to get to Mongolia we had to cut north through eastern Kazakhstan and east across southern Siberia.  We had to do it fast […]

No eagle hunting, but a private concert by the members of Kut (August 18, 2011)

No eagle hunting, but a private concert by the members of Kut (August 18, 2011)

We had been invited to a Yurt Camp on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan before leaving on our trip.  At that time, we estimated our arrival to be around August 15.  The Yurt Camp regularly holds events and performances by musicians from around the region and the world.  Upon our arrival on […]

The Kyrgyz Podcast – Komuz Together

The Kyrgyz Podcast - Komuz Together

We selected many of these tracks from CD-Rs we bought from a particularly grumpy-looking vendor at the Osh Bazaar in Bishkek.  Others are from a CD given to us by KUT, a family of incredible musicians we visited at their home on Lake Issyk Kul. You’ll hear a lot of komuz in this podcast.  The ancient […]

How to wear a Kyrgyz hat

How to wear a Kyrgyz hat

Many of our backers will be receiving new hats in a few days. Once these packages arrive, the recipients will likely be wondering, “What is this funny hat?” The hat is known as a kalpak, and is traditionally made of four panels of felt or sheepskin, embroidered with lovely patterns. It is worn primarily by […]

If there is one country I would return to in a heartbeat…

If there is one country I would return to in a heartbeat...

…it would be Kyrgyzstan. This small, mountainous country had us completely enamored from just about the moment we crossed the border from Uzbekistan (which, though we have much love for, we were ready to leave). The beautiful landscape, friendly people, and easily accessible ATMs were welcoming and comforting. Here, let me show you: Shortly after […]

Food poisoning, crack dens and swimming pools: the highs and lows of eastern Uzbekistan (August 12-14, 2011)

Food poisoning, crack dens and swimming pools: the highs and lows of eastern Uzbekistan (August 12-14, 2011)

View Burkara to Andijon in a larger map Our second evening in Burkhara was a rough one. Three members of our crew had contracted food poisoning the previous day at the lovely pondside restaurant. The next morning, the troops emerged looking haggard, either from having been up all night with illness, or having been up […]

O’zbek in the (former) U.S.S.R

O'zbek in the (former) U.S.S.R

In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of Bukharan Jews left their homeland after 70 years of Soviet oppression and a new ugly rise in Uzbek nationalism.  Most ended up in Israel, but around 60,000 found their way to Rego Park and Forest Hills in Queens.  If you live in […]

Bukhara, Uzbekistan – “With Aziz, anything is possible!” (August 10-12, 2011)

After two nights in Khiva, we made our way to Bukhara.  It was a brutal day of driving, 250 km that alternated from awful, pothole-ridden old road to road that had been completely torn up in preparation for the new road that was being constructed alongside.   The gleaming smooth slab of white cement that awaited […]

Things That Are Hard to Do in Uzbekistan

    Uzbekistan’s black-market economy can be tough for outsiders to navigate.  The Uzbek Central Bank has set an exchange rate that significantly overvalues the som.  When we were there, the official bank rate was around 1850 som to the dollar.  However, the government makes it nearly impossible for Uzbek citizens to buy dollars at […]

A day in Khiva: Our first ancient Silk Road city! (August 9, 2011)

We hit three major Silk Road cities in Uzbekistan.  The first was Khiva, a former slave market town.  Its walled-in old city with its blue and green mosaic minarets housed dozens of museums, hotels, tourist shops and market stalls but managed to remain tasteful and un-Disneyfied, probably due to its remote location.  Khiva is about […]

Entering Karakalpakstan (August 7-8, 2011)

Entering Karakalpakstan (August 7-8, 2011)

As we left Beyneu at around 5:00, we were a little over 50 miles from the border.  Those 50 miles would take us two and a half hours.  The first half-mile was by far the worst and we ended up driving on the dirt track parallel to the road for most of it.  Then it […]

Friends in dry places

Friends in dry places

View Larger Map We spent a quiet but fun evening in Dossor sipping Ukrainian vodka that the Aussies had picked up, getting to know the people we’d tied our fortunes to, and attempting to feed a malnourished kitten who attached herself to our group. We were fortunate the next morning to notice the kitten sleeping […]

Қазақстан pай білдіру – Kazakhstan represent

Қазақстан pай білдіру - Kazakhstan represent

For Kazakhstan, we put together a slammin’ half-hour of tunes hailing from a few of the cities we passed through.  It’s by far our most diverse podcast.  There’s some opera, some metal, and a lot of hip-hop.  There are also a few fine samplings of Kazakhstan’s two most typical traditional instruments, the lute-like dombra, and […]

Atyrau, Dossor (August 6, 2011)

Atyrau, Dossor (August 6, 2011)

Western Kazakhstan was difficult to navigate. During the next two days, nothing truly exceptional happened, but we were often inconvenienced. For the first time, we found it difficult getting cash from local ATMs, and our limited options for food were beginning to grate in their monotony. The ever-reliable Lonely Planet that we consulted mentioned that […]

The end of the world as we know it (August 5, 2011)

The end of the world as we know it (August 5, 2011)

The morning was full of great anticipation amongst all 20 or so Ralliers who had enjoyed a comfort-filled stay at Astrakhan’s Park Inn by Radisson: today was the day we would enter Kazakhstan. I had read in a travel blog written by a bicyclist I believe that this border was sort of the final frontier, […]

Astrakhan, the Gateway to Kazakhstan (August 4, 2011)

Astrakhan, the Gateway to Kazakhstan (August 4, 2011)

The morning was bright as we left Svetlograd. Our hopes were high as we anticipated reaching Astrakhan, on the Russian border, 330 miles away, by nightfall. The shrunken woman selling kvas outside of the hotel only bolstered our optimism. Kvas isn’t sold widely in the United States, and I’d found it underwhelming when I’d tried […]

A night in stunning Svetlograd (August 3, 2011)

It had been a long day. After 7 hour wait for a ferry to cross into Russia the previous day, we were eager to make progress. We were happy with our short experience in Russia so far though: the customs people were incredibly friendly and helpful, immigration was “rent free” (just as a signed penned […]

Gobstop ’til You Get Enough – A Night in Mykolaiv (July 31-August 1)

Our car repairs in Odessa were done by early evening and we had a couple of hours of daylight to finally make it to Mykolaiv. We were headed there to meet up with Sergei Pavlyshko, a musical engineer with the dance-music collective DuraSound. It wasn’t until we found him that we learned what our delays […]

Learning Protocol in Ukraine (July 30-31, 2011)

We left Eric Hamilton’s place in Galati before seven on the morning of July 30 and headed for our first major border.  We were racing to meet up with the fourth member of our crew.  She was supposed to arrive in Odessa on the 28th, and we had gone from planning to pick her up […]

Singin’ in the Ukraine

Singin' in the Ukraine

This hour of tunes was culled from over 1000 songs we picked up on CDR in Ukraine. The exception is track 1, which we got from Far From Moscow, a fantastic catalog of artists from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and the Baltics.  You’ll notice as well that, because the Cyrillic track information sometimes didn’t upload properly […]