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A short walk in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
It was only a few days ago that I was searching for the Soul of the City in Almaty, Kazakhstan but here we are four days later and much has happened and I need to decide what should I write about. I could write about my first day cycling and stopping for a Kumis (an alcoholic drink made from mare’s milk), which I would highly recommend if you suffer from constipation. I could write about Tour Leader Andreas’s excitement when filming (using the newly acquired TDA drone) Jordan, our mechanic, testing a bike on the shores of a river bank. Jordan was pedalling amongst a herd of beautiful Kazakh horses when suddenly, the horses decided, in unison, to gallop along with Jordan – our pied piper -while the rest of us watched in disbelief. Andreas was already convinced that the investment in the drone was fully warrantied and that we just had potentially our first viral video – well, the second, after the most exciting bike packing video ever filmed – only to find from the director, our communications officer, Jacob, that the memory card was actually not in the drone’s camera.
I could go on but instead, as my fellow readers I hold you in high respect, I will “inoites” you on brief walkabout through our first rest day in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan. For those who need to catch up, the Kyrgyz Republic has five and half million people and its official flag has forty yellow rays emanating from the centre (the sun) representing the 40 tribes from which the Kyrgyz people originate. This former Soviet republic is located almost exclusively at over 1500 meters in altitude (93% of it) making it extraordinarily adventurous, not to mention photogenic.
In fact, no matter where you are in Karakol, you will see a background of stunning mountains and peaks. As a result, this fourth largest city in Kyrgyzstan – population around 70,000 people – is slowly becoming a centre of Alpine adventures with visitors not only from nearby countries but also from far away as well. You can tell this when you enter a restaurant and out of nowhere an English menu magically appears explaining the intricacies of this area’s mixture of Chinese, Russian and other ethnic cuisines.
But as always not everything here is at it seems. Take a look at the façade of this new building only to reveal when going around to discover a creative use of shipping containers.
And as everywhere there are stories to be told, whether there is an audience or as in this case, the shop owner sings a ballad about wars and lost loves – to his shoes.
And while the shoe storeowner was reduced in his loneliness to singing to his shoes, this lucky gentleman was having a ball, wining and dining a dozen of his female friends. The ladies invited me to join in, but a quick look at the gentleman told me it was not a good idea.
And though, as always, in former communist utopias, the outside may look shabby but on the inside life is always colourful and often surprising.
So dear comrade Lenin, I do not know what went through your head when you were planning the future of Karakol but fortunately you and your comrades did decide to leave this stunning Dungan mosque alone so that future generations of capitalists could come, and if not pray, at least take a selfie.
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