Monday, 26 November 2012

Central Asia - first steps into a new world

It has been a roller coaster ride for the region since the Russians pulled out.  Some countries like Kyrgyzstan have taken tentative steps towards democracy, whilst others have veered sharply towards repression. Tajikistan is breath taking, but remains unstable, particularly  in its eastern province.
Now the old colonial power is making a concerted attempt to re-establish its influence in the region.

All the Stan's have one thing in common, they are a panorama of stunning landscapes and amazing peoples.

In the early 1990's, I was one of the first westerners into southern Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan after the fall of communism to establish what became a regional programme for one of  the more effective British NGO's.
The Tien Shan and the High Pamirs are utterly unforgettable but my lasting memory from the first few weeks was an outdoor shashlik (kebab) stall in sub zero temperatures. The vendor passed me a beer and in the seconds it took to open the lid and bring the bottle to my lips the contents had frozen solid and tragically remained undrinkable.

Central Asia in winter is not for the unprepared.