Kyrgyzstan 2017


by JoMarie Fecci

NEW YORK, USA– Today I leave for Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, an important crossroads of the ancient Silk Road caravan routes. It is going to take me a few days just to get to the starting point in Bishkek from New York. I have two very long flights and an 8+ hour layover to endure (hoping I can get some sleep on the flights!). Still, excited to be starting a new journey to an unfamiliar region, with new challenges and opportunities to explore. And at the same time, looking at the connections between this area and my more familiar environments, and the connection remains the nomadic experience — both ancient and modern… [read more]


by JoMarie Fecci

ISTANBUL, TURKEY — The flight from New York to Istanbul was long but Turkish Airlines has excellent service reminiscent of the golden era of air travel — which was a welcome change from the usual cattle class treatment. The food was “good” by airline standards with vegetables and fruit and recognizable meat, and I was even able to get some sleep. The sleep was very valuable since I had some plans for my long layover… [read more]



by JoMarie Fecci

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN — Another long flight overnight and woke up as we landed in Bishkek a little after 8am local time. The airport was much less hectic than Istanbul, and the border formalities were straight forward. I was very tired and glad to have someone waiting for me with a vehicle to take me to the Southside Guesthouse where I was able to sleep a little while before attempting to start my day and get acquainted with the new timezone… [read more]



by JoMarie Fecci

KYZYL OI, KYRGYZSTAN — Bishkek was quiet in the morning when I woke up and loaded the UAZ for departure. I had hoped to make an early exit from the urban area after hearing that the main road west out of town tended to get jammed up, however timing was against me. Despite my early start, I had to wait for the bank and the phone store to open before I could leave town. The supermarket was open early enough for me to get my supplies and lots of extra water, as I was unsure of exactly what kind of options I would find en route for buying water and some basic food items. However the two most important tasks of my morning were getting a local sim card (and a cheap phone that I could use it in) and getting enough som to make it to Naryn at a minimum — locally everything would need to be paid for in cash with som rather than euros or dollars. When the bank opened at nine I was first in line, but their computers were slow to warm up and the currency exchange took longer than I hoped. Ditto for the process of buying a phone and local sim … [read more]


by JoMarie Fecci

SONG KUL, KYRGYZSTAN — Woke up early and took a walk outside Katya’s place. I was staying with a local family in a “homestay” at the village, which is a great way to visit Kyrgyzstan and engage with the communities we are driving through. Though we had no common language we were able to communicate the basics and Katya was a wonderful host and a fabulous cook. I only wished we could have had a real conversation — the lack of language skills was frustrating for me as I could see we both wanted to carry on a longer discussion. After breakfast Katya and her mom saw me off with a few apples from her tree as snacks for later. … [read more]


by JoMarie Fecci

TASH RABAT, KYRGYZSTAN — The temperatures dipped to below freezing last night, but it was nice and warm inside the yurt at Baish’s camp. The night had been windy on the edge of the lake and I was up at first light, walking along the waters edge while even the animals were still asleep. Slowly the jailoo came to life as the sun rose over the mountains. The horses and cows began to stir. The sheep and goats started grazing in a slow wave of mass movement across the golden grass. It was a timeless scene of Kyrgyz life conducted in harmony with the natural world. The rhythm of the seasons defined time. And the cold night was an indicator that winter was on the way… [read more]


by JoMarie Fecci

NARYN, KYRGYZSTAN — There was frost on the UAZ in the morning when I came outside, but the sun was back to warm things up a bit. Last night I met a group of travelers who were making the crossing into China today. The ancient Silk Road route revived for a modern kind of tourism. Making the crossing was still complicated, though more politically than logistically these days. Tash Rabat, the old caravanserai was still kind of a way point for travelers as it had been when it was constructed — except now the travelers stay in yurts on the outside rather than in the rooms built for them within… [read more]


by JoMarie Fecci

TOSOR PASS, KYRGYZSTAN — Was up early this morning to get a jump on the road. The Tosor Pass route is unpredictable and can take anywhere from 6-12 hours to drive depending on conditions. From the start I was a bit concerned as it was drizzling and I was unsure what that could mean for the mountains. I was worried about slick mud on steep rocky trails, but the “rain” was not heavy at all, and it would be too bad to miss out on this “highlight” of the overlanding journey due to a few drops of rain. I set out to go ahead with the planned trail, determined to keep an eye on the weather situation and be prepared to turnback if the terrain started to get too muddy… [read more]


by JoMarie Fecci

BOKONBAEYVO, KYRGYZSTAN — Had to sleep a little bit this morning after the drama of being stuck on the mountain last night. Then it was time to meet up with one of the traditional Kyrgyz eagle hunters. Bokanbaeyvo is “home” to many of the practitioners of this ancient skill and I was lucky to be able to see first hand how the eagles are trained. We headed for the hills with the eagle in the car as I learned how the tradition is passed on from father to son… [read more]


by JoMarie Fecci

SARUU, KYRGYZSTAN — I left Bokonbaeyvo early enough to explore a bit of the route along the south shore of the great big lake Issy Kul on my way to Saruu where I was meeting up with the local Kok Boro team. Kok Boro is a game of horsemanship where the players compete for possession of a goat carcass. It is a test of skill, strength, courage and endurance for both men and horses, and to the uninitiated eye it can look a bit like a riot on horseback… [read more]


by JoMarie Fecci

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN — This morning begins the long journey home. I was up early to pack and return the UAZ. The city streets were calm so early and it was hard to relate the quiet emptiness of the morning with the chaotic crowds of last night. But I was glad for the calm. And a little bit sad at the thought of returning to the “modern” world after a week in the timelessness of Kyrgyzstan’s back country… [read more]


by JoMarie Fecci

NEW YORK, USA — I arrived home to New York today. The return journey had been long, but the flights were generally on time, and mostly I slept. I had pushed myself to keep going to a maximum while I was in Kyrgyzstan so that I could make the most of my limited time there and I began to feel the exhaustion once I was on the first plane. The transition back to modernity occurred in a fog of sleep and time zone changes… [read more]


JoMarie Fecci sets off for a solo scouting mission into a new region of exploration for USnomads — the famed Silk Road across Central Asia. This initial recce in Kyrgyzstan will lay the groundwork for a longer and more ambitious journey tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2018. Using this first trip in the region to get an introduction to some different nomadic cultures and to adventurous terrain that will pose new challenges, she will travel south from Bishkek to an ancient caravanserai at Tash Rabat near the border with China before looping back along the shores of lake Issy Kul…



The Kyrgyz Republic is a landlocked country in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and southwest, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek. Characterized by mountainous terrain, Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations, most notably as part of the Silk Road caravan routes. Though long inhabited by a succession of independent tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under foreign domination and attained sovereignty as a nation-state only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country’s 5.7 million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians. Kyrgyz is closely related to other Turkic languages, although Russian remains widely spoken and is an official language, a legacy of a century of Russification. The majority of the population are non-denominational Muslims. In addition to its Turkic origins, Kyrgyz culture bears elements of Persian, Mongolian and Russian influence. However, many aspects of ancient Kyrgyz culture have been preserved due in part to the geographical isolation provided by its high mountain terrain.

Bishkek | Naryn | Karakol

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