Those are the directions to the Karakol, Kyrgyzstan bus station. Some things change, some things don’t I guess. Bishkek had a large Lenin statue, which they moved only one block north after independence. I’m sure we’ll see others before we’re done.
We’re down out of the mountains, a little cold and wet, but safe and sound. Fall is upon us. There’s new snow in the mountains right above town. We got rained upon, with a little hail, but the snow stayed at higher elevations. Last night we spent in a yurt in what the guidebooks call the Valley of the Flowers and the locals call Kok Jaylik. It was a quaint valley, reminiscent to me of Rocky Mountain National Park, but there were no flowers (they’ve come and gone by May), there were too many cows and horses (I’d prefer the Rockies’ elk), and it felt like the circus had left town and no one told us. Maybe folks had heard that the rain was coming? Maybe the tourist season is over? Either way, it was our sign that it was time to move on. We’re off to Kazakhstan tomorrow.
The previous three nights were far more enjoyable. On Monday, we hiked about 10 miles up into Altyn Arashan valley which you can find on a map south of the small town of Ak-Suu. I’m still suffering from the lingering effects of ten years behind a desk, so I was grumpy and haggard when we reached our destination, a small hotel at about 10,000 feet with dorm beds and, glory be!, hot springs. Two hots, a cot, and a dip in 140 degree water all for about $30 a day! We were rejuvenated in minutes.
The next three days we spent exploring the canyons and mountains in the area. Those of you who have been to Alaska can imagine what the alpine mountains and glaciers look like. With the occasional Kyrgyz cowboy and horse ambling through the vista, they certainly could make Western films here. CeCe joke that they could call them ‘plov Westerns’, plov being the ubiquitous Kyrgyz rice dish, served swimming in animal fat with a few anonymous pieces of flesh as garnish. That’s not to be confused with “boots of Bush”, a chicken leg concoction named after everyone’s least favorite American president. By the way, I think it’s likely that I’ve eaten horsemeat in plov at some point or another during the past two weeks. But I digress…
Tuesday’s highlight was the opportunity to summit what was probably the smallest peak in the area which topped out at about 13,000 feet. As always, I wished I’d lingered up there longer. On Wednesday rain thwarted our plans to hike to the nearest glacier, although consolation was tea around a hot fire with two Austrian tourists and two Kyrgyz guides. Each day though, we found plenty of time to sit and watch waterfalls, which we’ve realized is among our favorite activities. I think we’ve also spotted a golden eagle a few times and yesterday we paused to watch 500 sheep cross a small bridge two at a time. That’s Kyrgyzstan in a nutshell.