Wild Kyrgyzstan - Part 2

Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
Trip End Jul 20, 2020

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

At the hostel, I met Laurant again (we stayed at Bahodir's in Samarkand) who also wanted to go to Jeti Orghuz the next day. I would have liked to do another 3-4 day trek and really considered going over the Teleti Pass to Karakol Valley but I couldn't be bothered with carrying the heavy tent and sleeping bag again. So, I decided to stay at Ecotrek's yurt camp in the Valley of Flowers and do day hikes from there. We sat off the next day at 9am and got lucky; a couple heading to jeti Orghuz gave us a ride (100 som). Near the sanatorium, one can see the red sandstone formations Jeti Orghuz is famous for - the 'Broken Heart' and the 'Seven Bulls'. From the sanatorium, we hiked up the valley to the yurt camp where I put my pack down and continued with Laurant for another 2.5 hours before saying goodbye and heading back to the yurt camp since dark clouds were looming over the mountains. Back at camp, it didn't take long until it started raining; the rain continued until the next day until about noon. The air had cooled down considerably but I was warm in my bed where I stayed until noon writing my diary, studying the map and solving Sudokus. After it cleared up, started to explore a nearby mountain. From the bottom, it looked like one can do a loop over grassland, hills, and a mountain range in about 5 hours. But once on the way up the mountain, I realized it would be a good full day hike, provided the weather complied.

I had about 4 hours to play with and marched up toward the first mountain top. On the way up, I came across a couple of yurt camps all featuring horses, chickens, geese and some donkeys. For my taste, these camps had way too many people running around. I folloiwed the animal tracks and crossed beautiful grassland that still had wild flowers. This area is known as 'Valley of Flowers' but there are not many flowers to be seen because of either being too late in the season (May is flower season) or due to overgrazing. But this stretch of the mountain was not only peaceful and tranquil but a sea of orange, blue, white and purple minature flowers. The orange flowers were the perfect landing place for the delicate orange butterflies blending in nicely with the flowers. From here, one had a magnificient view over lake Issyk-Kol, the red sand stones of Jetu Orghus Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges. By now, it was 3pm and I pondered which way to go. I saw some dark clouds in the distance but the sky above was blue, so I headed across the grassland and climbed another low mountain as I ws curious to see what the other side had to offer. My plan was to walk along the ridge and then drop down into the canyon. By the time I reached the top, a black cloud front was rapidly approaching and I decided to make a run for lower ground. And run I did, just in time to make it to a dense fir forest and sit out the rain under a huge tree.

The next day, I went on another hike during which met a Kyrgyz couple on a horse accompanied by 2 dogs. From the way they were talking to me and looking at me I could tell that they must have had a couple of drinks. As I just came down the trail they were heading up, I wasn't too excited about their invitation to go back up to visit their house and 2 daughters. Instead, we sat down and had a bit of a feast; bread, meat, kymies (fermented horse milk) and vodka. All this at 1 pm in the afternoon! I took a couple of photos and promised to mail them to their address (which I did). In the afternoon, I went up a mountain near the yurt camp and just sat there and observed life below me. It w Saturday and Kyrgyz families by the droves arrived at the valley. They sat up camp, cooked up a storm, ate and drank and then left - leaving their trash behind. One observation I made is that with the accumulation of trash - bottles, plastic, glass, paper, cans, etc. - and overgrazing, the valley is left vulnerable to become a wasteland.

Back in Karakol, I enjoyed a long hot shower and then got busy getting the photos for the Kyrgyz family developed and sent off. One night of relaxing at Yak Tour in Karakol (where I met Jane from Tashkent again) and meeting up with Tatjana and then the last 3 days would be spent in Bokonbaeva which offers more hiking opportunities. Karakol is an excellent base for multi-day trekking; preparing for a trek, joining other groups, renting equipment, buying food, washing clothes or just sitting in the garden of the guesthouse and exchanging stories with other travelers. But all journeys must come to an end and to end my Kyrgyz journey I went to Bokonbaeva on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kol. Bokonbaeva is distinctively different from the places I had visited so far - it's a pure Kyrgyz community with no Russian influence whatsoever. Whereas Osh is a mix of Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, Bishkek, many north shore towns of Issyk-Kol and Karakol all have a sizable Russian population that doesn't really mix with the Kyrgyz population. So at times, it felt like I am in Russia. I stayed with Vasilia's family (CBT homestay for 400 som including breakfast) overnight and took to the mountains during the day. It was a great way to say goodbye to the beautiful mountains, the yurts, the grazing animals, the people, the food and everything I had experienced in this country.

I wonder how Kyrgyz and Russians will get along in the future. Though the Kyrgyz speak Russian and Kyrgyz, the Russian speak only Russian. And in a country that is proud to have been independent for the past 17 years, there is no guarantee that 'Russian only' will win over friends and businesses. And there is no guarantee that the future generations of Kyrgyz will continue to learn Russian and be bi-lingual. Only time will tell how the future of Kyrgyzstan and its people will turn out.
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