The adventurous tourist can now travel to places unimagined just a decade ago. GoNOMAD writer Jessica P. Hayden hiked across Kazakhstan and learned about the need for Americans to practice their haggling skills in her article Backpacking in Kazakhstan: Negotiations at 10,000 Feet.
“Fifteen years ago, the Tian Shan mountain range was inaccessible to most backpackers. Located in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the region was once registered as a restricted zone. Today foreigners can now explore the peaks and valleys where great Soviet alpinists once trained, not to mention a place where British and Russian spies once vied for control.
The three-day hike would take us from just outside of Almaty, the crowded and busy capital of Kazakhstan to peaceful Lake Issik-Kyl on the Kyrgyzstan side of the border. Amidst all of this natural beauty, there we stood: five Americans and one Kazakh rider who had packed about 40 pounds of our gear into the saddlebags on his horse. He refused to continue. We refused to pay until he did. We haggled, we begged. We threatened to leave his payment at the border. He turned to leave with our tents, food and sleeping bags. We realized we were screwed.
In the end, we folded. The now infamous horseman unloaded our gear and took off, into the vast expanse of the Tian Shan mountain range. The next day wasn’t easy with the extra weight, but there is a certain sense of accomplishment when you hike through the mountains carrying everything you need with you, on your own. When we arrived in Kyrgyzstan, we were dirty and tired – but we had made it and it felt good.”