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October 14, 2002

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Last night we followed our guide on horseback to his village - a 40 kilometer ride under the moonlight. It might have been romantic if we weren't worried about breaking our necks. In the dark the horses sometimes surprised us by jumping over unseen rocks or ditches. Several hours later we found our guide's home, an old trailer set in a field. His family welcomed us with open arms, even though they weren't expecting guests, and the embarrassing moment came when we ate the dinner intended for them while they watched. Kyrgyz hospitality knows no boundaries. In the morning we led our horses out with the sheep, met our car 10 kilometers from the village, and kissed our horses goodbye. We also left our boots with the guide's family; the least we could do for dinner.
The "Broken Heart"
Red sandstone cliffs of Jeti Orguz canyon have become a trademark of eastern Kyrgyzstan (not quite as famous as the Golden Arches).
Kyrgyzstan, especially the area around Issyk Kul, was off-limits to foreigners during the Soviet times. Locals remember huge opium plantations, officially sanctioned, that covered the area up to these alpine valleys.
Yurt hospitality.