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From the Atlantic to the Pamirs
Miami (USA) to Osh (Kyrgyzstan), May & June 2015

We had a fantastic time in the Caribbean, but when we're on board of the cruise ship "Brilliance of the Seas", on the way from America to Europe, and evaluating our trip through the Caribbean, we had to conclude that we found the value for money for most of the islands we visited, poor. Cuba and Jamaica were absolutely an exception. These two places with their own unique character are still relatively pure and tourism is only present to a limited extent. On the other hand, islands like Barbados, Cayman, Grenada and St Lucia and St Vincent & The Grenadines to a lesser extent, have lost huge parts of their identity. These are still beautiful islands with a friendly population, but not very special (anymore). The first three have become very popular holiday islands where everything revolves around tourism. And because many islands attract wealthier tourists with deep pockets, the prices are incredibly high. Too high for what you get in our opinion.

Our next destination is Central Asia again, and we are looking forward to it. They are often called the 'Stan' countries. We visited Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan before. Now we go back especially for Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. But first we're still two weeks at sea, as mentioned before, on the way from Tampa in the US to Zeebrugge in Belgium. Those two weeks went smoothly. The weather was 12-15 degrees Celsius, and that is cold. So we didn’t spent a lot of time on the outside decks of the ship. But there is also a lot of things to do inside the ship. We drank a lot of coffee, stuffed ourselves in the restaurants, worked on the website and our travel diary, and chatted with other tourists on board. Before we really knew we were sailing in the waters of Europe again. After a short stop in Cork (Ireland) and Cherbourg (France), we finally arrived in Zeebrugge, where the parents of Edwin picked us up (read the article about the cruise).

Ivonne enjoys a Kyrgyz party during the FIFA qualifier Kyrgyzstan - Australia

We stay this time only for a short period in Europe. We were already here last January. Incidentally, this is the first time since the beginning of our journey in 2007 that we are in the Netherlands without the parents of Ivonne present. They a currently traveling by bicycle along the Danube River in the direction of Budapest. After a stop of two weeks we pack our backpacks again and fly from Düsseldorf, via Istanbul, to the capital of Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan is the ideal starting point for many travellers in the region, since many nationalities are currently exempt from a visa for Kyrgyzstan. In addition, the country is a good place to arrange your onward visas for the countries in Central Asia. However, it’s still not easy. Especially the visas for Turkmenistan, Iran and Uzbekistan can be a pain in the ass. "

The visa for Tajikistan is fortunately not a problem. When visas are issued by the embassy, you generally get one without problems. It can happen that Tajikistan temporarily stops issuing visas to travellers because of riots in parts of this mountainous country. Tajikistan is in fact a country where instability occurs regularly a result of the wide variety of ethnic groups. Especially in spring, when large parts of the country are accessible again due to the vanishing snow, unrest temporarily flares up. People can move again after being snowed in for many months and that leads to problems. Usually these problems disappear after a few weeks and the eastern part of the country reopens again.

The spectacular road between Bishkek and Osh

The eastern part of Tajikistan is the most appealing one for travellers. The so-called Pamirs are among the most remote and rugged mountain areas of the globe. The mountains are part of a series of mountain ranges that together are sometimes called the Roof of the World. The area is close to the Karakoram mountain range, the Kunlun mountain range, the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush and the Tian Shan. The highest mountain in the chain is the Ismail Samani Peak, which is 7495 meters high.

Within two days we arranged our visas to travel to Tajikistan and we also got the authorization to visit the eastern part of the country (called GBAO permit). We decided to explore the region by jeep and driver. Parts of the region can also be reached by public transport, but because we expect a lot of the area, we decided to arrange their private transportation. We now arrived in Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second city, and from here we will start the trip to Tajikistan at the end of the week. We postponed the visit for a week because of a blustering belly, but now we are ready. We cannot wait much longer!

Bishkek's Dordoi market, the biggest in Central Asia
Soviet architecture in Bishkek
The 11th century Burana Tower is restored by the Soviets in the 1950s
Little girl enjoys an attrataction in Osh's amusement park
Big and expensive cars are popular rentals for Kyrgyz weddings
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