Bishkek/Бишкéк, Kyrgyzstan to Shymkent/Шымкент, Kazakhstan–540 km this section (Total Mileage: 8156 km/40,075 km)
Heatstroke to freezing rain in 48 hours. The last six days have driven into my skull, with force and repetition, the importance of water in a water-scarce region.
Academics and politicians are fond of saying that water is Kyrgystan’s only natural resource. In reality, gold is the nation’s top export, but hydroelectricity and water-intensive crops take the other top spots, and the nation’s control over the watersheds of many of the region’s key rivers may be increasingly a point of geopolitical leverage in years to come.
While many areas of the world take fresh water for granted, the nations of Central Asia have faced repeated crises stemming from drought and unsustainable water use. The Aral Sea Crisis, which I hope to learn more about when I visit, is perhaps the most striking example of this, but many such conflicts over shared water resources have stoked tensions between nations and communities throughout the region.
Wanting to see regions of Kyrgyzstan that lay beyond the heavily populated northern valley, I cut south and then west. My route took me over two big fun climbs (~1500 m and ~1000m, respectively, with the highest point around 3300m) and through the country’s middle highlands.
3 thoughts on “Summer in the Valleys of Kyrgyzstan: 13 Photos from the Road”
Spectacular scenery as in your previous blog. Especially interesting: shot of water plume from spillway of dam with concrete bust of some bigshot above the upper structure. And, as before, combination of pix and captions is very effective. Your travel reports help flesh out our otherwise abstract reading of just colors and lines on a map.
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That was an astonishing moment–I knew dams were a big part of Kyrgyz infrastructure and development, but hadn’t actually seen any since entering the country. I had expected a slight uphill coming out of that lake valley, but it turned out it was the head of a huge reservoir. Clearly, snow melt was near its peak and the dam was spilling out water as fast as it could just to keep things steady. I’m not sure the photo really communicates the scale there, but water looked to be shooting at least a hundred feet from the base of the dam into the air.