Since Tashkent was persistently failing to honour the “get colder” part of autumn, I fled, as soon as I was decently able to Kyrgyzstan, about which I knew little but that it was high, and therefore cold, and that it had to be better than dusty Tashkent with its sputtering fountains and artificially green flowerbeds that serve only to emphasise the dryness of the air. I believe it was at the point at which I was stuck in the middle of a blizzard on the ascent to a 4000m pass, clinging frantically to my horse as it floundered through snow up to its chest that the thought occurred that perhaps there were less uncomfortable ways to escape. Surrounded on all sides by the massive peaks of the Tien Shan range, I felt that such a setting deserved slightly better than my flailing. One hundred and fifty years ago, British and Russian spies disguised unconvincingly as Turkmen horse traders were sneaking through these mountains, vigorously intriguing against each other all the while, and now here I was, trying not to fall off my horse and feeling utterly incapable of even the smallest intrigue. I couldn’t help feeling that I was lowering the tone of the landscape somewhat.