Elephant No. 38: Kyzyl Oi, Kyrgyzstan 



Unfortunately, Kyrgyzstan turned out to be rather thin on elephants. This was an ornament I found in a homestay in Kyzyl Oi, a small village in the Suusamyr valley – I think it was the only elephant I spotted in the whole country! We stayed in homestays pretty much the whole way through Kyrgyzstan, as there are not many hotels or hostels. It’s quite a nice system, as in each town there is usually a homestay coordinator (an organisation called CBT: community based tourism), so you can just turn up and they will tell you which homestays have spare rooms – it also means that tourists get equally roughly distributed between the different families, so everyone benefits from the incoming tourist money. It was also interesting for us to stay in lots of peoples’ homes, but by the end of the trip we were starting slightly to want to stay in places designed for tourists. Most of the homestays didn’t have any/many sockets for charging appliances, and the washing facilities were often rudimentary. But homestays would always provide breakfast, and often dinner too, so it was fun to see the differences between them. The better ones had a type of strawberry jam home-made all the way through Kyrgyzstan, quite different to English jam: much runnier, but with whole strawberries instead of chopped up ones. Delicious on warm home-made bread!


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