above the clouds

International Travel and Lifestyle Blog


Arriving in Almaty, Kazakhstan

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I left Chopan Alta, Kyrgyzstan at 8am this morning and arrived in Almaty, Kazakhstan at nearly 6pm. If there wasn't a mountain range between these two points, a line of site drive would probably be a few hours at most - but the route around these mountains through the main border crossing is much longer. Kazakhstan recently opened the border as visa free for citizens of the USA as well as select other countries on a trial basis and supposedly … [Read more...]

The Realities of Adventure Travel Sometimes

Horses on road up to Arashan

I finally arrived in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan on the Eastern edges of Issyk-Kul Lake - ready to head up into the mountains that are always in view from wherever you are in this town. In late summer this town is extremely dusty - washing socks and shorts in a sink left the water brown again and again many times. This town looks like it has seen better days - most of the roads are dirt with lots of rocks and a number of the streets are torn up for … [Read more...]

End of Tian Shan Mountains Trek & Drunks in Minibus

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Upon cresting a Tian Shan Mountain pass at 3200 meters above Song Kul Lake we were treated with spectacular views of a valley far below and towering mountains in the distance. The scenery reminded me of parts of Southern California - especially around Bakersfield or around Death Valley. We hiked for several hours, ultimately reaching a small village in the valley. Looking back at the tall mountains it was impressive to see the great distance we … [Read more...]

Oh the “Yurt Mice”, Fermented Horse Milk, Travelers in Kyrgyzstan and Visa Woes

An oasis in a remote area - Yurts along the shoreline of Song-Kul Lake

It was brought to my attention that our latest yurt was infested with little mice running around the edges. I dutifully assumed the role of "mice whisperer" and tried to encourage them to leave our habitation. However this was to no avail, as these pesky little furry critters kept up their scuffling about all night. My spot in the yurt this evening was next to a 2 liter plastic soda bottle filled to the brim with some sort of berry jam that was … [Read more...]

Travel Massive October, Los Angeles

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The latest Los Angeles Travel Massive was held poolside at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills. I've been to the mega shopping complex, the Beverly Center across the street a number of times (one of Los Angeles's premium and very profitable shopping centers) but never actually visited Sofitel. Travel Massive Los Angeles is co-chaired by MaryAnn of JetSetExtra and Arnette of Round the World Girl. I've attended these meetups several times in town - … [Read more...]

Exploring Song Kul, Kyrgyzstan

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Waking up late at night and stumbling out of our Yurt we were overwhelmed by the clarity and brilliance of stars in all directions - the Milky Way stretched nearly from horizon to horizon and millions of little lights shone so clearly without any distractions of nearby cities. Earlier this year we saw the same awe inspiring sight from the Outback of Australia but here the brightness of the galaxy was even more clear because of the high elevation. … [Read more...]

Writing from a Yurt at 3000 Meters in Kyrgyzstan

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As I write this the temperature is falling dramatically, and the familiar mountain bone chilling air permeates everything. This Kyrgyzstan Yurt is spacious - there are seven of us sprawled out on various mats on the floor. The locals tell us it takes 2-3 hours for four men to setup one Yurt. The insides are colorful with thick canvas and blankets forming the walls. A circular portion of the ceiling opens up for fresh air and sunlight during … [Read more...]

Trekking in the Tian Shan Mountains above Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan

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Waking up early this morning after a restless sleep, I watched the sun rise and I also watched one of the ladies milk several cows. The splish splash of milk from one teat to the next into a metal pail reminded me of the last time I saw this - in a small village in Romania. I have been battling a nasty flu and subsequent cold and ultimately a back breaking cough the past three weeks. A cough that is so spasmodic at times, fellow travelers … [Read more...]

Home-stay in Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan

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I always enjoy the "real" aspect of living as the locals live - having done home stay in various countries around the world. Before setting out on a 5 day trek into the Tian Shan Mountains of northern Kyrgyzstan, I stopped by the Shepherd's Life tourism office to make trekking arrangements. They also recommended a nearby family who rents out rooms. This elderly couple speak no English - we communicated via a few words in German, Russian and … [Read more...]

Start Building a Bucket List For 2015. Consider these!

Yurts, Song-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

It is never to late to build your personal bucket list - creating a list of must do activities and experiences. Our motto as it relates to travel is, "do it while you can", and now is the perfect time to start planning some trips and experiences for 2015. One company, Contiki Tours offers a number of worldwide based activities and experiences for those in the 18-35 range. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. Climb a Mountain - choose … [Read more...]