A funny walk in Central Asia

riding to the lake

Tian Shan Mountain Range - Cholpon-ata' - Kyrgyzstan - Central Asia - 42km

My funny travel story happened when I was in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, I set out together with another 21 yr old girl, mostly unprepared for what the nearby grey bare rocky granite mountains had in store - we had heard stories of an icy lake one days walk away. We took a few boiled potatoes and eggs and a few summer apples and 1.5L of water to share between us. We set out early and started towards the foothills of the mountains along a mostly disused dirt road covered in huge potholes and jutting rocks.

Within the first 4km we came across an overheated soviet car with a disgruntled pensioner trying to start it. We stopped to help, running several times with 10L tin buckets to and from the river to replenish the evaporated water of the radiator. It was a funny sight, two small girls pushing a wreck of a car while the elderly gentleman urged us in an annoyed tone - as if it was our sole task to push his car. The car started and he drove off without a thank you, leaving his buckets to us.

We took the buckets and continued on, stopping briefly to take off our socks and shoes to wade through a freezing cold river - that originated from the glacial ice that coated the farthest mountains. Along the way we met two young boys on horseback that guided us to a small isolated wagon and yurts belonging to the nomadic herders. We sat in the shade of the wagon, among the shepherds, and were given fermented mares milk to drink in generous portions, while we shared our apples.

The local people told us that it was too late to go to the icy lake, we had wasted too much time with the broken car, and promised to take us there themselves next time. Instead they offered to take us on horseback to see their sheep herds and to a small lake.

Seeking adventure and unbelieving our luck, we mounted the horses, with our guides sitting behind us. They took us past the women milking the horses, and explained how the milk we just drank was fermented - I wish I never heard their explanation. The milk was alcoholic and we started feeling a bit unbalanced, we thanked them for their generosity and gifted them with buckets. On the brief ride to what turned out to be little more than a puddle swarming with frogs, my toothless guide specified with great detail of where I should bring the photos I had taken of him - the directions were simple - yurt next to lake - Bosteri.  He also told me that I shouldn't worry too much when his horse started vocalizing his challenge to a herd of horses, but grabbed and pulled wildly at the reigns, when his stallion started to prance wildly, and chase the other horses. My heart was in my throat, and I was very relieved when my guide was able to steer our steed over the ridge.

After the little lake we continued on foot, and the scenery changed from Granite Mountains, to grassy pasture, and then to pine forests. It was midday and we stopped for food - taking the advice of the friendly shepherds, to leave the icy lake for another day, and decided to head back via a different outcrop of mountains and valleys. We were inexperienced and by this stage getting tired, the water was half finished, and we still had a long way to go. The mountains were no longer bare and the vegetation prevented from seeing what was ahead. To our surprise we came across a huge waterfall, but were no longer in the mood for exploration, continuing on, around it via steep and very spiky mountain side. It took us at least 3 hrs walking through knee high spiny plants; we had to backtrack many times because we would realize that the animal path just led to a sheer drop.

Slowly the colour of the mountains changed, and they became red-brown clay that crumbled and slipped.  Both of us fell down many times, and all the scratches from the plants stung our legs. By this time we really needed water, but we had left the river and waterfall far behind.

Over the ridge we were delighted to find another wagon, and happily smiling started to approach - only to be met by angry barking, and chased back up the ridge by two huge mountain dogs. Small children from the old wagon regarded us with curiosity, but made no effort to stop their dogs from chasing us.  We ran very fast, stooping every once an a while to grab a rock incase the dogs cornered us.  Luckily for us, the dogs chased us out of their territory and were satisfied.

We wanted water even more than ever before. Several hours later, covered in dust and spikes, we were past caring and started singing all the songs that we could remember to keep up our spirits. After going over one more ridge we saw signs of a beginning of a village, we were so happy. We wanted to run down, however the last few mountains were tricky, we spent 1.5 hrs picking our way down. In the end my friend who was a lot more thirsty than me, started to run headlong down the mountain, still to this day I cant believe she didn't fall or break anything. By the time I found her - she was lapping up water from a small stream. Moments later from upstream we saw a herd of cattle wading and stirring up mud. I wondered - what kind of bacteria she had just ingested.

One of the final and most disappointing factors of our long walk was to discover that we had to walk another 5km through the dusty village streets before reaching our beds. This was a fantastic and at the same time potentially dangerous walk that we had embarked on as unprepared and inexperienced hikers. Since then we have learnt a lot. Later via terrain google maps, we estimated that we walked about 42km that day - and this is without taking into account all the backtracking.

Posted By pjan3202 on 13th December 2009

Updated : 28th December 2009 | Words : 1055 | Views : 3074

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