I am writing this update from the balcony of my hotel on lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan but I know I will not be able to send it until we get to Almaty Kazakhstan.
It is incredibly beautiful. The lake is in the middle of the Tyan-Shan mountain range. The mountains are snow covered and have an average height of 10,000 feet. We rode here from Bishkek on some pretty good roads but for the most part the roads were straight which is boring to ride on. As soon as we got into the mountains the roads became really curvy and fun. For the most part we travel on paved roads but yesterday we took the panniers off of our bikes and went riding on some of the dirt roads near our hotel. It was a blast!
We rode up into the mountains to watch a group of local Kyrgyz people show us some of their traditional horse games. The first game was between a man and a woman and the goal is for the man to catch and kiss the woman while at a full gallop. Then they turned around and she chased him while trying to whip him with her horse whip. Then they put some colored cloths on the ground and the young men would try reach down and pick up the cloths while galloping. This was meant to be a test for the young men to show their strength and horsemanship. The young men also competed in a sort of wrestling match where the goal was to pull your opponent off of his horse.
The last game was not a game that has much of a future outside central Asia. The field has a circular goal on each end (approximately 1.5 meters in diameter.) There are four riders on each team and the object of the game is to drop a headless, hoofless baby goat in to the center of the goal. The game is very similar to rugby minus the dead goat. It is very physical for both the riders and the horses. The riders fight to hold onto the goat while whipping their horses and the horses of their opponents.
A bit about the goat....we did not see the goat before the games but we heard it scream just before the game began. After the game is over the winning team gets to keep the goat.
Unfortunately I do not have any photos of the game but here are a few from the last few days. (John and I got stopped three times in one dy by the Kyrgyz police. 2 out of the three let me take a photo.)