After 24 hours of flights and layovers, I landed/bounced and skidded into Bishkek Manas Airport/massive US Air Force Base. Bishkek is very pretty and reminds me quite a bit of Almaty, Kazakhstan which I visited last summer, but with more trees, less glitz and high fashion, and more laid back. I was happy to have instantly better infrastructure and fresher air than Ulaanbaatar.
The backdrop of the city is the spectacular Ala-Too Range, part of the Tien Shan, which rise higher than the Alps. Kyrgyzstan is ridiculously mountainous, with 94% of the country mountains, 40% of the country is over 10,000 ft and 30% of the entire country is permanant snow or glaciers! The UN forecasts that of the 8200 glaciers currently in Kyrgyzstan, fewer than 150 will remain in 2050.
I’ve been put up in a self-proclaimed 5-star hotel, which mixes the ridiculously swank with confusing Central Asian reality. My room has a huge living room, full kitchen, two balconies, but lacked soap, hot water, or internet and I got locked in the building.
I spent the day running errands, meeting the nice people at my travel outfitters, and exploring the city. I even carried my first big load of the expedition…all six weeks of food about three miles uphill back to the hotel.
Tomorrow, I have a morning flight to Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan, followed by the 8-10 hour drive to base camp. I’m looking forward to being in one place for a bit. I haven’t stayed in the same place for more than two days in the last month, so my 16 days on Lenin will be perfect. I’m on vacation!