Given By Mountains
In the summer of 2016, four of us pedaled across Kyrgyzstan from Lake Issyk Kul to Bishkek. Our several weeks in the Tian Shan —the celestial mountains — gave us much. This movie is about inspiration and the hope of returning the sustenance we receive from a place by putting beauty back into the world. Watch and find Joe’s thoughts on the film here, plus a new photo gallery and more on the route…
Words and film by Joe Cruz, photos by Logan Watts
On August 1, 2016, Lucas Winzenburg, Joel Caldwell, Logan Watts and Joe Cruz set out on a 23 day trip across Kyrgyzstan. They rode fat bikes over marshes, through valleys, and atop high passes. This is a film about the beauty of this place and how it remains with them. Watch below, and scroll down further to see Joe’s thoughts on the film as well as a new photo gallery…
All three of my travel companions are artists and makers: Joel Caldwell is a professional adventure and conservation photographer whose writing and photos have done so much good in addition to being beautiful. Logan Watts is a graphic designer and is incredible in his own right behind the camera. He is also a writer, and the loveliness and functionality of this very site, bikepacking.com, is an expression of his vision as a publisher and editor. And Lucas Winzenburg is a storyteller, Leica film photographer, and cartographer; many of you will know him as the publisher and creative director of the cycling journal Bunyan Velo. I had a chance to see Joel, Logan, and Lucas draw in Kyrgyzstan and its people and I know that they’ll someday boomerang those soaring heights in their work.
Travel on bicycle is, in my view, a powerful catalyst for inspiration. The pace, the exhaustion, the vulnerability, and the cyclical cadence extended over time open us to creativity. We connect to sublime landscapes and the kindness of others in order to be refracting lenses for beauty itself.
We found exuberant mountain herders, grass tracks unfurling into the horizon, craggy breathless 14,000 foot passes… we also found inspiration.”
Our 613 mile ~20 day route followed a stitchwork of grass carpet single and double track, rocky scree fields, and gravel roads. We rolled through seemingly endless river valleys between 5,000 meter snow covered ranges and crossed countless delirium inducing mountain passes with the clack and rattle of scree under tires. And all the while we encountered friendly and outgoing nomadic horsemen herding sheep and cattle. Kyrgyzstan soars to every superlative and defies you to invent new ones. It’s beautiful, culturally compelling, and physically challenging. See the full route guide here.
For related reading, check out Logan’s story, Don’t Whistle Indoors. Also find our Guide to Mountain Weather Preparation and Joe’s Rider and Rig, showing off his Seven Treeline that accompanied him on this trip. You can also read Joe’s story with Joel’s photography in the latest Bunyan Velo, as well as find Joel’s photos in print in Wilderness 04.