Kyrgyzstan: verdant grasslands, purple mountains; children run out from their yurts where they spend summer to greet you. Horses, donkeys, cows, yaks. Was invited into one yurt with a few other riders to drink fermented mare's milk (blech!), thick cow's cream with breads and tea.
Only in Kyrgyzstan for few days, but learned that boundaries for countries formed by Russians were somewhat arbitrary. There are Kyrgyz people (high cheekbones, own Turkic language) in Tajikistan, and Tajiks (closer to Persians) who traditionally live in other countries.
Got stomach bug right before Tajikistan border, had to ride in truck for a day. Ugh
Tajikistan was vastly different on crossing border. Dry as a bone; barren mountains, but with the deep blue salt lake Karakul visible for miles. Tiny villages made of corrugated tin roofs, clay bricks. The tiny town of karakul with 10? huts next to the lake is where some of nomads we talked to spend winter... smell of locals burning cow dung in the mornings.
Yesterday we camped next to a Kyrgyz nomad summer camp, and our cook made a deal to buy some yak meat off of a still living yak. We watched as 5 men hobbled, prayed over, and cut the throat of the struggling yak. (We had yak stew that night.)
Today we passed over the highest point on the trip: 4664 meters (whats that in feet?); dirt washboard roads reduced me to walking (need more gears). But on the other side we quickly descended into a near Martian landscape; red, purple streaked mountains that remind me of Bolivia.
Tonight, a rare treat: a shower and a hotel in the slightly bigger town of Murghab, but still no wifi. I'm hoping the data network here will work to send this email!
We also walked down to the bazaar (market) here, and all the kiosks were set up in shipping containers, no electricity; selling jeans next to eggs and car oil...
In a few days we'll descend into Khorog (rest day), will hopefully upload some photos and send a better update there.