Tag Archives: central asia

Khan Tengri from South Inylchek Glacier Base Camp

South Inylchek Glacier Trek

In Up To Our Necks: South Inylchek Glacier Trek, August 2013

A good travel story is worth telling even if the events took place nearly three years ago. We also noticed that there wasn’t too much information out there about this trek from the perspective of non-expeditionist backpackers. We hope you enjoy the crazy tales and awesome photos.

What better way to prepare for a friend’s wedding in South Kazakhstan than going on the demented Inylchek Glacier trek into the heart of the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan? Yes, it sounds rather ridiculous to us now too in hindsight! But, that is precisely what we did.

We super excited when our friends, Eric from Seattle and Assela from Kazakhstan, told us they were to be wed in the bride’s hometown of Kulan, 400km west of Almaty. The wedding and related activities would take up four days but we weren’t going to fly all the way there and not check out more of the area. We had always wanted to do an extended Central Asia trip and this was a perfect opportunity to test the waters.

We looked at the map and figured we could visit the Tien Shan mountains across … Read more

Planning Central Asia Overland Travel

Central Asia Overland Travel: What You Should Know

We had grand plans for the beginning of our round the world trip. We would travel across Central Asia overland from Istanbul to Xinjiang in the footsteps of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great. We had dreams of visiting the ancient cities and mosques of the Silk Road and trekking in the land of the snow leopards in the high Pamirs.

This wasn’t our first trip to Central Asia. In the summer of 2013, we attended our friends’ wedding in Kazakhstan and did two treks in Kyrgyzstan. But our Central Asia overland trip threw up a few more challenges than we anticipated. In the end, we didn’t make it all the way to China, and it wasn’t quite all overland. We saw some amazing sights, met a lot of interesting people, and went to a lot of remote locations that most people will never visit. We also experienced a lot of bumps on the road. For several reasons, we cut our trip short and bailed out to Bangkok.

Travel in Central Asia has more pitfalls than in many parts of the world – and some pleasant surprises. Here are some of the things we wish we had known when we … Read more

Uzbekistan Travel is Awesome. Here’s Why

We got a lot of blank looks and horrified stares when we told our friends and family we were going to travel to Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan travel isn’t on most people’s bucket lists. People who have heard of the country might think it is dangerous because it ends with -stan! On the contrary, Uzbekistan travel is safe, straightforward, and highly rewarding.

Uzbekistan is recovering from a bad reputation among independent travelers. In the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, foreign travelers to Uzbekistan were routinely harassed by police. I had always wanted to visit the Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan. When I mentioned my dream to a group of seasoned travelers in a European hostel in the year 2000, they warned me off with horror stories of corruption, bureaucracy, and dodgy Soviet hotels. Those problems have since disappeared and Uzbekistan is a surprisingly easy travel destination. It’s also a well-kept secret. When we were in Uzbekistan, we felt smug that we were visiting this fascinating country at the perfect time. It’s an underrated gem that should be on every independent traveler’s bucket list. Here are some of the things that we think make Uzbekistan worth visiting now.… Read more

Tajikistan 2: When the wheels come off

Plus, what is scarier: the Taliban or your driver?

Not much had gone right for us in the past month or so. We are definitely not quitters but we were beginning to think that a ‘stick or twist’ moment was on the horizon. I doubt we seriously wanted to head home but it did come to mind. We chatted briefly about heading back to Washington State and hiking in the Cascades for the remainder of the summer. However, the crazy weather that had hit Asia this year was being replicated at home. We definitely did not want to go wildfire dodging in the Cascades since we had had a fair amount of that in 2014. So, we planned on finding a spot where we could chill out and recharge our batteries. We wanted a cheesy backpacking spot with banana pancakes, muesli fruit curd, and Bob Marley’s greatest hits!! If there is one thing that Central Asia truly lacks it is a relaxed backpacker haunt akin to Gili Air in Indonesia, Goa in India, or Koh Phangan in Thailand. So, what the hell to do? We still really wanted to go to Xinjiang in China but that was out of the … Read more

Pamir Highway scenery, Tajikistan

The Pamir Highway: Adventures and Misadventures

The Pamir Highway: Everything looks great on paper… and then you hit the road!

Tajikistan was the one of the countries we were most looking forward to on the entire trip. It had the lure of high alpine treks, legendary road trips, and intriguing and remote cultures. We never expected Tajikistan to be an easy ride but it was the first place where we felt that we had bitten off more than we could chew. Maybe spending the first three months of our trip on roads less traveled was not our smartest move. Or, maybe, the record temperatures we experienced had finally worn us down. Or, was it the monotonous, taste-free food of Central Asia that was taking its toll. Either way, Tajikistan did not work out as well as we had hoped.

The persistent rumors coming out of Tajikistan in the week prior to our Pamir Highway trip were not encouraging either. The extreme heat has been melting the massive glaciers at an unprecedented rate, creating huge landslides on parts of the Pamir Highway. The Highway had also been closed for a couple of weeks earlier in the summer for alleged Russian-Chinese-Tajik joint missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan. … Read more