Beldersoy Mountain Climb

Oliver resting with Beldersoy Ski Resort Piste in the background

This past Sunday, Owen, Oliver and I went hiking in the Ugam-Chatkal National Park. This was my second visit to the park and we were led by the famous guide Boris. The Chatkal Range, part of the western Tian Shan Mountains, covers “the finger” in far Eastern Uzbekistan. It is only about a 90-minute drive from Tashkent.

We climbed a steep ridge running parallel to the Beldersoy Ski Resort to begin the hike. The ski piste and hotel was below as we scrambled over rocky outcrops. Boris is known for not using trails, instead going for more difficult routes and he didn’t disappoint. We made it to the top (2,000 meters / 6,500 feet) of Beldersoy and had gorgeous views of the Beldersoy River valley and several peaks. After a rest, we walked through the Urttakumbel Pass down to the Marble River. We had lunch along the river and surveyed a 30-meter waterfall in the narrow canyon.

Big Chimgan in the background

Walking back up a side trail we saw hundreds of fossilized cockle shells. It is awesome to think about geological time scales. Those shells were once living mollusks living on the bottom of a sea and today they are found on a mountain in the middle of a double-landlocked desert nation of Uzbekistan. I collected a bunch of nice specimens to display in my office.

Cockle Shell Fossils in the Marble River Canyon

We finished the hike by going over to a “solar glade” an open pasture on the way back to our car. The glade reminded me of a desert Sound of Music mountain meadow. It would also have been a great place for a medieval battle scene. Oliver is reading Game of Thrones and is re-watching some of the later episodes. It would be a perfect spot for filming.

The “solar” glade

Of course the best part of any hike for me is spending time with my family. Being able to talk and explore with my sons gives me so much pleasure. They are two really good guys and we enjoyed each other’s company, despite the early start on a Sunday morning.

The initial ascent from the parking lot

The one aspect of hiking in the park that bothers me is the ubiquitous livestock grazing. We didn’t see any horses, cows, sheep or goats on this walk, but we did see plenty of evidence (feces) of ruminants. I wonder what the mountains would look like without the pressure of grazing? I know people have to make a living, but it makes me want to forgo meat all together when I see the impact of livestock on the environment.

I am looking forward to seeing the mountains change as the seasons change. My two hikes so far were during the driest part of the year.

Marble River Canyon

Cycling in Tashkent

There is a growing cycling community in Uzbekistan as the country is opening up to international influences. Last April the Asian Road Cycling Championships were held here and last March, a cycle marathon to the Kazakhstan border took place.

Velo Market – “the” bicycle repair shop in town

My friend Matthew took us out on a 40 kilometer social loop around the city yesterday morning. We stopped at the bike shop the expats go to for repairs and service. It was funny to see Chinese city bike-share cycles among the selection of bikes for sale. I read where last spring there was an overproduction of bike share programs in Chinese cities. Two of them ended up in Tashkent.

Despite some reckless driving and underdeveloped asphalt road system, the cycling is quite good here. The wide avenues from the Soviet years and vast public spaces make cycling in the city center quite pleasant. There are also many routes outside the city that I am anxious to explore.

Finding Tennis Courts in Tashkent

Owen and Oliver at the Eco Park Tennis Courts

This weekend we started looking for a tennis center for our family. We are avid tennis players. On Saturday we found two hardcourts at Eco Park. The city government built an “ecological” sports complex and park in 2017 on the grounds of the former Tashkent Zoo. It is really nice with a 1.4 meter running/cycling paved loop, badminton, table tennis, beach volleyball, exercise/yoga areas and best of all, two hardcourt tennis courts. There are also kiosk and cafes/restaurants in the complex. It is across the highway from the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

The courts are beautiful! It was a bit tricky to play however, as we had to call from the kassa (main office) to a manager? named Marina. The courts cost 50,000 soum or around $6 to use. It was 96 degrees so no one else was using the courts. It felt great to get back on the courts after a few weeks here!

We came back the next day and Marina said we couldn’t play because the courts were “being cleaned”. We did not see anyone there. Entering “tennis courts” in Google Maps, we found a sports complex called Burevestnik, so we thought we would give it a try. We could see several clay courts upon arrival in a nice sports complex, but were denied entry by a man dressed in pixellated-camoflauge gear. One of the tennis pros or player from the club came out and explained that the complex was owned by the National Security Service, the FBI of Uzbekistan and not open to foreigners. Oddly, the Burevestnik is the name of a Russian nuclear cruise missile. The gentleman kindly suggested we go to NBU Stadium, also known as the Yoshlik Sports Complex.

Walking To the Indoor Courts at Yoshlik
Running Track and Soccer Stadium at Yoshlik

These courts were a bit more expensive, 60,000 soum ($7). Once again, we called an English-speaking manager who was very friendly and offered equipment and a coach. We asked for the indoor courts. I was expecting a hot bubble, but instead we came to a glorious indoor tennis stadium. A bit dated, but so nice on another scorching summer day. The club had 5-6 clay courts, one named the Raphael Nadal Court and several hard courts as well. We played a mini-tournament and ended the session with an epic doubles match. The club seemed promising and we’ll follow up with phone calls this week to inquire about memberships.

The Kralovec Family is Moving

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I would like to let all of our family and friends know that we will be leaving Japan in July 2019 for Uzbekistan. I will be taking over as director of the Tashkent International School. We are sad to be leaving Osaka but excited for our next adventure. Many of you may have never heard of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Nadia and I traveled there last month and found it similar to Sofia, Bulgaria, a mix between Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is an excellent IB World School and the city is safe and seems to be a pleasant and fascinating place to live. Below are some articles about the country and a photo gallery from our visit.

“Uzbekistan: The most fascinating country you’ve never been to” The Telegraph

“8 Reasons to Go to Uzbekistan” The Independent

Rough Guide to Uzbekistan