uzbekistan sleepless nights

Andijan, Uzbekistan. July 2019

Uzbekistan

crazy heat and sleepless nights

The world is evolving in many a positive way! When I was making my plans one year ago, I decided to go around Uzbekistan because its visa rules and border policies made it too complicated for me. But as I make my way down through Kyrgyzstan, good news arrives from fellow travelers. Uzbekistan is undergoing a serious liberalization and its borders are now open to foreigners, visa-free! Not only this allowed me to go through instead of the long way around, but I could discover some of its people and culture which I highly regard.

In fact, the people were so generous it was embarrassing. I hadn’t even finished crossing the border and the first Uzbek man I meet asks me “Do you have any money?” I answer hesitantly “yeah, a bit…” “I mean, Uzbek money! Here is your first bill, as a welcome gift!”

And that was just a drop in the ocean of the immeasurable kindness I encountered there. And yet, my little bit through Uzbekistan was one of the most difficult. This was the hottest region of my trip, which, thanks to my ingenious planning, I happened to be crossing at the hottest time of the year. It was hot. The mid-afternoon sun almost had me pass out and I couldn’t even consider going further. But I had to do my distance because the Chinese visa date is near, and missing it is not an option. So here was my plan: walk all night, walk half the day, and find a cool shady area in the afternoon to fit a bit of sleep into my life.

The only problem was, a “cool area in the shade” was a long shot, and reality turned out a bit less cool and shady then my silly ideas. In the end, for 4 days I hardly slept, and would summon all my inner strength just to take the next step without closing my eyes and falling down. Once in a while, I would pass out on a rock at 3am and wake up an hour later, clumsily hurrying back onto the road with a yawn. Half of my time was thus spent in states of semi-delirium, ranging from relentless laughter to visual distortions to losing balance and nearly getting hit by traffic.

Does all this sound negative? It was not! It was the peak of the adventure, the climax, the ultimate challenge of mind and will-power. And it was fun. Plus, I would otherwise never have figured out that sleeping on a rock was more comfortable than a bed. Nobody told me! I blame the bed manufacturers. Anyway, this greatly simplified my life and where I define my comfort zone.

A Nomad Amongst Nomads

Too Ashu, Kyrgyzstan. July 2019

A Nomad Amongst Nomads

I can’t describe how free it feels, back on the road, back in my element. Somewhat familiar yet thrilling and new: crossing Kyrgyzstan, making my first steps up the Himalayas. It is scattered with yurts, wild horses, and shepherds leading a nomadic lifestyle since thousands of years, who will give you anything they own if you just happen to walk by. It also means camping at 3200m in a storm, and waking up to the sound of horses joyfully neighing good morning.

Life is full of divine beauty and intense challenges. Definitely worth living! I rate 5 stars.

Final Bureaucracy

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. June 2019

Final Bureaucracy

Today is an utmost day of specialness. For all of us North-Hemispherians, it’s the longest day of the year, the day with the most light, the night with the least night, and the summer solstice. To celebrate, allow me to offer you beautiful news in the form of 2 slips of paper glued to my passport. It may be mere paper, but it’s more than mere paper: these visas for China and Pakistan were the most uncertain, as well as the most time, paper, brain, and money consuming of my whole trip. As of now, along with two feet, I have all that it takes to conclude this last bit of road, and make it to the Indian border.

Hallelujah! l’Hamdulillah! Hare Krishna! Om Nama Shivaya! Om mani padme hum!

Speaking of Hamdullilah, I happen to still be in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek. It’s been an 8 month break from the walk, oh my god! But I highly enjoyed every sip of highly fermented horse milk, and also really loved my time here. I send you all the love and sacred energy for this sacred day and thank you for being there!

Issyk-Kul

Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan. January 2019

Issyk-Kul in Winter

Here I am in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, for a total of 5 months, before hitting the Himalayan mountain passes when the relaxed April weather will allow it. I love life’s the twists and turns. This temporary sedentariness balances the fervor of my walk through Kazakhstan, and besides, who said sedentary can’t rhyme with crazy?

Crazy is the best way for me to describe the New Year’s retreat organized by my mom and Phillip Guruji, towards whom I cannot possibly express enough gratitude. Choosing the coldest time of the year to plunge into the coldest conditions – a nearly frozen high-altitude lake named Issyk Kul, surrounded by the Tian Shan mountains – the beginning of the Himalayas. On top of the everyday Yoga practice from dawn to dusk, we would cross the snow to take gradually increasing dips into the lake, starting at 5 minutes, then 7, 9, 11, 14, 17, and finally 20. The states this would put us in are hard to describe – psychedelic to say the least – and the deepest bonds formed between us as we sing, laugh, shiver and shake uncontrollably in a slightly worrying state that we come to appreciate.

And Midnight of New Year’s was spent neck-deep in the lake, with a bottle of champagne (don’t tell the other yogis), a heart full of joy and a sky full of light. All that to say, happy new year to all, may this cycle start freshly, brightly, full of awareness and love, of appreciation, of love, of sacredness, of breathing, of love. May you be happy. I love you all!

the place in between

Kyrgyzstan, November 2018
kazakhstan-1

The Place in Between

To my close friends, far relatives, those who have brought me water on the road and allowed me to live, those who have kept me well fed, warm at night, dry in times of storm, those who follow my story from near or afar, providing encouragement and good vibes to keep me going… Hallelujah! Habdulilah! I bless you all.

I joyfully managed to avoid the scorching heat of the Kazakh plains, only to find myself, before I knew it, in fluffly white wonderland. After this beautiful 5-month relationship I wave goodbye to my friend Kazakhstan, now finding myself at the junction between the world’s flattest plains and its gnarliest peaks. At the foot of the Tian Shan mountain range, the beginning of the Himalayas. Seeing both extremes, it’s… nice. I like it. I think it can lead to seeing the middle.

As of now my home is Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where I will spend 5 wintery months before tackling the Himalayas when the season lets me, a high path that will lead me from China to Pakistan, and finally, yes, India. Not many countries left, I must say I’m scared!

kazakhstan with dad

A Piece of Kazakhstan with Dad

After embracing this nomadic way, I’m sharing richer things with my family than I ever would, had I stayed unwillingly in the box of a routinely sedentary lifestyle. In this instance, they came to see me in Kazakhstan, my Dad even deciding to join me for some of the way, getting a taste of life as a walker through the immeasurable spaciousness of the Kazakh barren lands.

kazakhstan-camel-land

North-West Kazakhstan, June 2018
kazakhstan-1

Kazakhstan

Having crossed the bit of Russia that I needed, I am now in the largest country ever that no one knows a thing about. Land of mixed faces, camel milk, wild horses, desert wolves, and barren untouched plains that go on for thousands of miles… Land of extremes where scorching sun and deathly cold peak at +50 and -50 Celsius. Land of extreme hospitality too, where 9 year-old boys invite me to their parent’s humble homes for dinner, a bucket shower, and a night’s sleep on the family rug. Land where Borat has never set foot.

However enchanting the desert may be, and however meditative it is to walk for days without seeing a house, I’d rather avoid the dryest part of the country at the hottest time of the year. I’d rather live all the way through Kazakhstan! That means during the next 2 months, I am settling down, teaching English in a Kazakh school, working in web design, and recovering my feet. After which I will complete my walk from Kandyagash, a humble town with loving people, headed south-east towards Kyrgyzstan and China.

muslim russia

Muslim Яussia

Ever since the plan started taking shape, people told me to avoid this part of Russia. Most overland travelers go from Georgia to Kazakhstan by ferry through the Caspian sea, specifically to avoid Chechnya and Dagestan. These two Muslim states of Russia have been recommended against by dear Russian friends themselves! However, as far as the walk is concerned, I had no choice. Russia’s strict 30-day visa prevented me from taking any other route. So the choice was made for me by the world, and how grateful am I! Thank you world, just in case you’re reading this!

I am grateful because these regions that hardly ever see a tourist have been more generous to me than any country in my travels. Not only was I fed and cared for, but people also stopped to give me money. Every day. More than you’d think, more than I could even spend!

Not that money is important. Remember kids, it’s not! What’s important is the intention of helping people. And how could such an immeasurable amount of people – police officers, soldiers, supermarket clerks, 9-year old children, gypsies, and poor shepherds – give the little bit that they have to a total stranger they see walking on the road? I’m not sure, but I bet God is involved.

The Funeral

The Funeral

My Russian Visa in hand, I’m counting my last days in Tbilisi, Georgia, after nearly 4 months of sedentary lifestyle with a humble Georgian income. I have made genuine family, my time here has been blessed with the most beautiful people, I am overwhelmed. I cannot be thankful enough to the world, to love, to everyone who makes my life so holy.

But life has its ways, and every end must be celebrated as a new beginning.