Thursday, October 11, 2007

Saimaluu Tash

No one told us it was a good idea to try to get to the Saimaluu Tash petroglyphs. Everyone said that it was way past the season, and way too cold. But those who know me, know how much I love petroglyphs and that I would not be too easily deterred. Saimaluu Tash is a collection of over 100,000 ancient petroglyphs high up in a mountain bowl. To get there, Tim and I would have to take a taxi from Jalala Bot over a mountain pass to a small village, then a four wheel drive up a jeep road, and finally hike 12 kilometers into a mountain bowl. The morning we had arranged to take the taxi brought bad news. The pass we had to drive over was closed due to a storm. Tim looked at our map and found another possible route. We would take a taxi to a small village this side of the mountain range, hike 35 kilometers up a valley and go over a pass by foot. After this, we would drop back down into the bowl where the petroglyphs are located. We reached the village and the taxi driver offered to take us as far as he could up the narrow road, ultimately shaving 15 kilometers off of our journey. We then began walking. The nomads were on there way out of the high country with their sheep, horses, and cows while we were on our way in. They kept saying to us "mnoga snic, mnoga snic". Much snow, much snow. We did not see that much snow, so we kept hiking. A Russian lady invited us for tea and fed us lunch, with chickens running around our feet begging. Yes, begging! The next morning a snow storm moved into the valley. Hoping that it would stop snowing and melt off, we hiked a miserable three hours before setting up camp, where we remained that day and the next. The fourth day dawned bright and clear, and hope began to return. We hiked to look at the route and saw that the snow was melting fast. We decided to give it the day to melt, and hike to the petroglyphs the next day. The following day we climbed up the pass, and back down to the petroglyphs. There was a foot of snow on the north side where the petroglyphs were, but they are carved on black rocks so they were partially melted out and visible. We trudged around in a foot of snow for three hours in our tennis shoes looking at them and finally hiked back to camp when we thought our feet would fall off from cold. The snow covered boulder field was treacherous, and we spent much of the time post holing with one leg, while the other banged forward onto the rocks. The petroglyphs were wonderful, though, and very well preserved due to the remote location. We saw mountain sheep, horses, dogs, Ibex, plows, people dancing, shooting bow and arrow, and other various carvings. Leaving the valley the next day with hardly any food left, we got lucky again, and caught a ride out of the valley with a Kirghiz nomad family moving into town for winter with everything they owned in a huge truck - including a donkey. We helped them load up. All of their worldly belongings consisted of the donkey, a puppy, a bunch of quilts, a hand made wool rug, several huge wooden crates of apples, a wood burning stove, a few buckets, pails, and pots, and a plastic clock wrapped carefully in a towel. They did not ask for money, but we gave them 500 som (about 15$). Way too much, but we were happy to get a ride, and I am sure that the truck they drove ate up petrol like crazy.

Looking up the valley towards the pass we went over

Shepherds on their way to winter grounds

Looking down the bowl towards the petroglyphs

The petroglyphs

Me in the boulder field

Tim in the snow covered boulder field. Is that love or what?

The truck and home of the family that brought us out of the valley

Mom, this rock was to heavy to bring back but I photographed it for you

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