I rode across Kyrgyzstan last summer on a horse that I purchased at a local market. This is a series of images from that trip, that I shared on Instagram a month ago. Plus a few extras. I felt it was best to post them here too, though some have been up on my portfolio website for awhile. I titled the series "Learning To Ride" frankly because that's what I was doing out there! I had little to no experience on a horse, and I learned a lot about how to ride from the shepherds that live in the mountains. It was probably the craziest and most amazing thing I've ever done in my entire life.
The inspiration came from India. I found myself bed ridden in a Mumbai hostel for a week and half with Giardia when the idea originated, something that doesn't really surprise people when I tell them the plan to buy a horse and ride it through the mountains of a foreign country as a completely novice rider came to me when I was sick. I had planned to go to Kyrgyzstan anyway on my trip, as I had some friends from home living in Bishkek, but it was the inspiration of a friend that I met while I was sick in Mumbai that sparked the idea. Months later, I found myself in the Karakol animal market, with a horse on the end of a lead line that I had just spent over a $1000 to purchase.
The 32 days I spent in the mountains proved to be a challenge and an adventure unlike any other I had ever undertaken. A trek between the two major lakes of Kyrgyzstan took me a month, and over 600km of riding. On the journey, my horse ran away in the middle of the night, we got stuck in the mud, camped a little too close to a mountain lion den, ran out of food (and grass), got snowed on, hailed on, and robbed. But ultimately, it was time with the shepherds that made for the most memorable experiences of the trip. As a Kyrgyz friend of mine said, the shepherds live a beautiful and pure life. They are not truely nomadic anymore, most of them living the winter months in the villages, but their life in the summer is reminiscent of the legacy of the Kyrgyz as nomadic herdsman. They know their animals and land well, something that a thousand plus years of experience has taught them. Food and shelter is shared freely, almost as if they consider it a community possession rather than an individual one.
I shot the trip on 35mm film. It's been awhile since I've posted anything about photography related stuff, but looking back on the choice to shoot film, while I love the way it looks, I don't have the budget and it actually slowed me down too much. I think it would have been a better choice to go digital with a solar panel, as I think it would have given me more flexibility to shoot. Next time maybe. Enjoy!