Central Asia

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, […]


A few shots from the road

A few shots from the road

We are in Semey, Kazakstan, crossing into Russia today, and then onward to Mongolia! We’ve come a long way, and so has our little Hyundai, thanks to the support of our backers, whose names all over our car attract attention where ever we go. Here are a few shots, more to come later: Blog this! […]