I Gave A Kid On A Donkey A High-Five Today

Saturday was among the most amazing days of our trip, perhaps of our lives.  Near Kadji-Sai, Kyrgyzstan, we visited a “jailoo”, a high-altitude pasture where nomads graze their animals during the summer.  I guess I knew places like this existed, I just never thought I’d visit one of them.  Here’s my journal entry for the day:

I gave a kid on a donkey a high-five today and that wasn’t the highlight, far from it.  Kadji-Sai gave us our first real opportunity to get up into the legendary Tian Shan mountains.  Unfortunately, we got a late start exacerbated by our decision to head first down to Lake Issy-Kol, the world’s second largest alpine lake.  Aside from the opportunity to buy lunch, two loaves of bread and two Mars bars, it was a waste of an hour.  It was 1:30 by the time we headed into the hills, up a non-descript canyon beside a dried-out stream bed. 

Counterintuitively, as we headed uphill, the stream began to grow in volume, although we didn’t notice it at first.  Before too long it was a gorgeous, rushing, gurgling brook.  (We guessed later that most of the stream disappeared underground or was siphoned off for municipal use before reaching the lake.)  With it as our companion, the walk uphill was immensely more pleasurable, especially given our recent dusty Uzbeki sojourn.  For the first time in ages we saw an abundance of birds and green fauna.  How wonderful!  What is it about the sound of rushing water?

While we were almost tempted to lounge all day by the stream, something propelled us to go higher.  What we found will stay with me forever: a jailoo, a summer pasture for nomads and their livestock.   We estimated that the verdant field encompassed about fifteen square miles, nestled beneath jagged alpine peaks and nourished by countless small springs.   There were occasional permanent dwellings and just as many ruins, a cemetery, and, impossibly far away, a small village on the opposite side.  The colors of fall were beginning to emerge and every five minutes we would pause and take it all in.   My only regret was that we couldn’t reach the village and be back before dusk.  (If we had known what was in store, we certainly would have lugged our tent.)

Reluctantly, with a few hours of daylight remaining we turned around to ensure that we would arrive back in time before dark and dinner.  CeCe promises to upload some photos as soon as she can.

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