We arrived in Kyrgyzstan via the Torugat pass and headed to Issykul Lake, where we did a beautiful seven day trek over several mountain passes into parallel valleys. Our hiking ended at a spartan hot springs resort, where we had two days to relax. Next we went to a beach town, about as far away from an ocean as you can get! Here, there were also many petroghlyphs to look at. Finally, we headed off to Bishkek to apply for visas. While waiting, we trekked up to a high glacier valley. Allthough the sun was shining when we arrived, we woke up the next morning to full on winter! Most of this day was spent in the tent. The following day we hiked out during a brief clear spell in the early morning, escaping just in time before the snow started coming down again, even harder this time.
There is not much English spoken here, and I am enjoying using the little Russian that I know. It is enough to get by, and occasionally even surprise someone with. Almost everyone speaks Russian when they are communicating with each other and the children still learn it in the schools. The language barrier makes it difficult to ask people my usual nosey questions. It's very interesting to me, having grown up in the cold war, being in a former soviet republic and I really wish I could communicate well enough to learn more about this period of history from the people here.
The people here are knowledgeable about current politics, even those that live in yurts in the mountain valleys. Despite the fact that little English is spoken, most people can say the words "Bush" and "Iraq" and make motions to show their disapproval, such as thumbs down or machine gun sounds and motions. But these people are very friendly to us, feeding us fresh milk products in the country or buying us beer and vodka in the cities. We were having fresh milk products in a herders yurt on September 11th this year, and the family pulled out their calender to show us what day it was.
Kyrgyzstan is pretty modern in the cities, but with some nice third world type features, such as lively bazaars, little shoe fixing stands, and tailors who will fix things dirt cheap. In the mountains, people still live in yurts and raise cattle and horses. However, now they are more likely to move the yurts from place to place in four wheel drive jeeps than on the backs of horses or camels, as in the past. In some rural areas along the roads, people have made homes out of old, abandoned train cars. In many ways Kyrgyzstan reminds me of my home in Alaska. Some of the old Russian built cottages look like the old cottages in the smaller towns in Alaska. And many of the Kirghiz people look very much like the natives peoples of Alaska. Walking down the streets here is a bit nostalgic for me.
The first trek we did was from Jetty Oguz to Altan Arashan. This crossed two passes and went through parts of four different valleys.
Heading into Jetty Oguz valley
The middle valley, just before going over our first pass
Fall colors along the trail
An absolutely wonderful campsite by the lake. Views, shelter from wind, soft grass, and a fresh spring pouring out of the mountain close by.
At the top of our second pass, before heading into Altan Arashan
This trek is to Ak Suy Glacier, near Bishkek.
The sunset the first clear, cold night was fabulous.
The next morning we woke up to a water bag that was frozen solid!
Ibex came around our camp in the early afternoon, as it was beginning to snow
The morning after the storm dawned clear, and some snow melted. We could see the clouds and fog moving back in from the mountains, so we packed up and left.
By the time we reached the bottom, the snow was falling thick and heavy
School girls in the black and white school uniform, complete with huge white bows in their hair
A couple in front of Tash Rabat, a caravansary originally built about 500 years ago
The traditional Kirghiz yurt
A train car turned into a home
Osh Bazaar in Bishkek