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During this trip ...  we spent  90% of our transit time , even from country to country .... on the road.

But the pace was always relaxed ... with plenty of   "Hey ... let's stop here for a bit ... okay ? "   experiences.

So the drives were always interesting.    And the fact that this turned out to be an extremely cohesive group ... certainly added to the fun !!!

Even  the notoriously dreaded  Border  Crossings  ... although time consuming ...  turned out to be pleasant.  ( big relief & surprise to our guides )

On one occasion,   for example ....  I sat down on a piece of concrete .... while waiting for the rest of the group to be  "processed".

A  guard came over .... made me get up .... then put down a rug for me to sit on ,  so I wouldn't  get my slacks dirty.


Our first  "stop"  of the day was at a unique  roadside  facility.


Then we traveled on a bit to our  al fresco  Lunch Site  ... on the cliffs  overlooking the  Charyn  Canyon.

The  50 mile long canyon is full of strange shaped and colorful rock formations.

The  Charyn  River ... which runs through the canyon  & fed by streams from the Tien Shan  Mountains  .... is a challenge  ( even  for  expert  rafters )





Our  First  "Pit Stop"  In  Kyrgyzstan

We girls took possession of this old ruin  .....  while the guys headed for the bushes.

I was a bit distressed about having to tramp on what I guessed to be some lovely little berry plants.

(  turned out it was a whole field of  MARIJUANA  PLANTS  !! )


Wellll ...  it worked.


Yep .....  it's our  "fish-gift".


And this is our Tour Manager .... with our hostess & family members.


No ..... it's  NOT  the photo   ( or  the  photographer ) !!     The tower really is leaning.


Hey !!  Look ..... fur therapy is fur therapy ...

no matter what the source is .


The  "open-air"  museum  here  also contains  ancient  Bal-Bals  ( carved stone figures used as monuments )  ... as well as burial mounds.



Sorry .... this is as good  a  "border shot" as you're going to see.  It was taken micro-seconds before we got out to go thru security.

They really mean it ... when they say  "No Photos".


While the roads here

are not  "terrific" ....

a lot of  them aren't  too bad.


But then again ..... some need a bit of work.


After we made it thru the  "official"  border station ...

we passed thru one of the old  "gates" .

( so much more attractive than the modern border crossing )



Then ... as usual when entering a new territory ...  THE  ILLUSTRIOUS LEADER  statue.

( Can't keep them all straight )


The town is not much ... so we just drove thru.


I always find it a bit poignant  ... to come upon what was once a thriving scene of prosperity & activity ....... and now find it a place for sheep & goats to graze.

( hmmmmm .... but now that I really think about it ... there were probably lots of animals wandering throughout the city  in the  "good old days"  too.)





Had  lunch with 2 members of the Peace Corps.



Then   went to the  Market



Our hotel was very nicely located. ......  Photo was taken from our balcony.

( that's the Presidential Palace with the gold dome )



You take a diagonal lift up one of the legs ......

 then a straight shot up thru the center .......

to the top  balcony.  GREAT  VIEWS !!


Parliament  Building  ... a stone's throw from the Tower.



Presidential Palace


Mosque .... inside shots to come.


They have their own  World Trade Center



"El Presidente" ..... his statues are  everywhere.

( mostly covered in gold ... as this one is )


These were part of an entire series of statues in one of the Fountain Parks ..  We thought they were very striking.


These were two  particular fountains we saw from the top of the Tower .... and figured aerial shots would show them off better.


This represents the particular breed of horses that Turkmenistan is famous for.



This is the mosque ... seen from the Tower.

We really fell in love with this particular mosque.         So many of them are dark & have a rather somber atmosphere.       But  this one is just filled with light !!


This is their  version of a  "Disneyland"  type  of park.


Not a clue what this is.    Just thought it looked  "neat".


Probably the most elaborate  Statue of Lenin  we've ever seen.


Couldn't  resist  the pigeon on Lenin's head



Most people who live outside the city .... have dwellings like these.


City dwellers have apartments like this ......  ( Complete with  those satellite  dishes, I might add.)


But by golly ... they had a  fountain !!



One of the old  city walls.        Could be from the first settlement  in the 6th century .... but I'm not sure about that.


Great  Kiz  Kala  .... outer & inner views


Askhabs's  Complex ... 15th century                    The ceramic tile work has held up pretty well ... considering the location, weather, age, etc.


Sultan  Sanjar  Mausoleum.    He lived  1085 - 1157.        The design work is still remarkably fresh.


Yusuf  Hamadan   Complex



Every one in the  "Stans"  seemed to think that their  " task  from  Allah" ... was to feed us.                                  Have no earthly idea   what  was in that bowl.


Everyone was so friendly and welcomed us as if we were a group of  "prodigal sons".  

 Often would grab our sleeves to  guide us to some thing or other that they wanted us to see.   And absolutely all of them wanted to shake hands.

Guess they don't get many visitors from America.


What a fantastic face she has !!


The mother suddenly handed me her child.

The last 5 years especially ..... people have been doing that ... A  LOT.

"Hand the blond woman the child ... whip out the cell phone ... take a photo."

Where are they getting all those cell phones  ??!!

Obviously Roy was in the wrong business.


Lots & Lots of Poppies around.   Hmmmmm.


That's  Elias on the right of the photo.


Have you noticed that the women all sit at one end ... while the men sit at the other ?


They even had their own Photographer


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