Km 5164 – Almaty, Kazachstan
WEATHER & GENERAL STUFF
From now on Kyrgyzstan is one of my new favorite countries! Seeing breathtaking nature while hiking during the last two weeks we again became witnesses of how versatile this country is. Therefore, we were not only able to discover glaciers, rivers and lakes, but also the traditional nomadic life in yurts surrounded by horse, cow and sheep flocks. Besides that, the weather is perfect in the mountains in the summer: mostly sunny, but with pleasant temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees (depending on the altitude). This is a lot more pleasant than the 35 degrees in the lowlands (e.g. in Bishkek).
KOCHKOR – KÖL ÜKÖK & KÖL TÖR
After almost three weeks of a break in Bishkek, we are looking forward to the nature again – this time as backpackers. Our first hiking route ends next to the beautiful mountain lake Köl Ükök where we put our tent right next to the water – with a wonderful view onto the streched lake with the small yurts right next to the wild mountains in the background.
The next morning we hike to another köl (=lake) – the glacial lake Köl Tör, which is even further up, still a little clearer and colder. It lies right next to the snow threshold of the steep mountains that surround the lake.
While hiking down I wave a far away hiker to indicate the right way and all of the sudden you can hear a sound in the valley saying: “Jana?”. A couple of minutes later Manu & Jonathan stand in front of us! What a surprise! Although we are already a couple of kilometres behind our scenic lake camping spot, we decide to go back all together to stay there for the night. Once arrived, we meet Pauline & Joe, a Swiss couple, whom we had recommended the camping spot half an hour before. We all jump into the cold mountain lake, cook together, tell travel stories. Funnily, the Swiss couple are also cycling and have parked their bikes in Georgia – just like Manu & Jonathan. So three cycling couples meet hiking in the Kyrgyz mountains – all by coincidence.
- On our way down we have great conversations with Manu & Jonathan, among other things about how it is easily possible to look at different projects/ideas (e.g. eco villages, meditation, yoga, etc.) while travelling. Also about consumption we talk.
THOUGHTS ABOUT CONSUMPTION II
Because of many different reactions to our last blog entry we kept thinking about the subject:
We all consume and so we could transform the famous sentence from F. Schulz von Thun „it’s not possible not to communicate“ into „it’s not possible not to consume“. But everybody can ask himself at least two questions: first „Do I really need this?“ and second „How can I consume sustainably?“
Regarding both questions there is a great 20 minute shortfilm that summarizes it to the point:
This and other filmlinks can also be found under impulses/environment protection
Going down from Köl Ükök Jonathan told us about the above comic that has been hanging for years above the toilet of his old shared flat. The comic fits to the subject, because it is asking for the reason of consumption. It is generally not a bad thing to buy something and therefore work for that (concerning nutrition this is even necessary for surviving), but for certain things one could ask themself: „Is that really what I want or am I just blindly following the system?“ If work and consumption take turns in a vicious circle, it might be time to question it.
The person who needs less also needs to provide less money for it. So if one can manage to live with less luxury, this person can afford to work less and as a side effect the environmental influence is less, too. But the bottom line is that one will receive a lot more valuable good: freetime. Of course, each person should decide herself what is especially important for her and what she wants to use her lifetime, power (and money) for. The most important thing is that consumption decisions happen (more) conscious(ly).
KOCHKOR – SON KÖL
- We hitch to Kyzart and trek a long way to the mountain lake Son Köl. Once arrived at the top we ask the sourrounding yurts, if they would rent us a horse for the way back. Interestingly, it seems that each yurt only has one horse for riding. The rest of the flock serves exclusively the Kymyz (milk drink) and meat production. That’s also why they are a lot more expensive than donkeys whose meat is not eaten.
- The nomads who use the lake’s summer pastures for their flocks are extremely friendly. Especially one old, wrinkly woman who explains us that she only has „kymyz loshet“ (loshet is Russian for horse) and two men who explain us the way back.
- Above of a little hight we find a beautiful camping spot: we sit at over 3000m of altitude in the grass and watch a wonderful picture streching out in front of us: The sun shines onto a little green plain. From far, some yurts seem like white colored dots in the yellow-green landscape, right behind the blue shimmering lake which reaches onto the high snow cowered mountains at the horizon. Around us we see horses, cows and sheep, some insects hum and at times a marmot is squeaking while looking out of his hole. We are watching a horse flock which is gallopping free and wildly into the valley.
The following day we descent which is easier but still strenuous. Down in the village we stop a van and ask if he can take us with him to Kockhor. Haftandil agrees, but that day he doesn’t want to go all the way to Kochkor and so he spontaneously invites us to his home (approx. 20 km before our destination). There, his wife Anja greets us with a hearty smile. The family lives simple but seems happy which shows for example in the way they interact with their children Arslan (12), Albina (9) and Sultan (1). After dinner (pasta including an apology that there is no meat on the table) we sink into the bed. The next morning the 12 year old impresses. He drives the Mercedes van totally on his own, carefully and accurately to his uncle’s house three roads further. For the main road Haftandil takes the steering wheel again. These kids seem a lot more developed and mature as European kids of the same age.
KOCHKOR – BARSKOON
After so much trekking we want to relax for a few days a the Issyk-Köl which with 1600m altitude is the second largest alpine lake on earth (after Southamerica’s Titicaca lake).
- We experience a perfect hitch and travelling day. At first Bolot stops right after Kochkor and even drives a little detour for us so that we can get out closer to the huge Issyk-Köl. Shortly after that we enter the car of Ernis and his friends. They are on their way to the beach to celebrate Ernis’ birthday. So Alex and the boys jump alltogether into the lake and we all enjoy watermelon together. When barely at the road again a Korean Kyrgyz couple stops for us. The Korean guy speaks English and the two take us to a remote little town (Bar Bulak) that apparently even few Kyrgyz people know of. There we can find hot springs. For 30 Som (approx. 50 Cents) one can dive into a bath tub full of hot (approx. 45 degrees), sulfurous, mineral water. After the two treks we did this is the perfect relaxation for our legs. At our beachside camping spot, we enjoy the rest of the evening cooking vegetarian Laghman and just being happy about all our luck.
The next day we manage to get to another remote place: a saltlake. At the first moment it seems unspectacular, but as time passes we meet many nice people, and through Alisa, who leads us to the back side of the lake, we discover the healing mud. So we cover ourselves in black and green mud, dry in the sun and wash it all off again. We had already come through this procedure 6 years ago in Israel and supposedly, Israel and Kyrgyzstan are the only two places where you can find this skin friendly mud. Again we camp at the huge Issyk-Köl and jump in to the sweet water to remove the last salt particles from our skin. The setting – also during swimming – is wonderful!
BARSKOON – TAMGA
Because we don’t have drinking water anymore we leave the trekking trail and two adventures from this “cross field operation” (crossing a mountain river with a decent slope and hours of clambering up through the brushwoods) cost us time. In the evening we have to count our food portions to see if we still can and want to follow the trek. We have just enough to eat and throw a coin: it says we keep on walking and won’t return.
The next day is a long one (overcoming a 4000m pass and descent), but we are glad we are allowed to experience all this beautiful nature. We wander through the idyllic high plateau and are surrounded by glaciers, snow fields and mountain lakes.
After a second night and many hours of descending we get to the Issyk-Köl again and anew go swimming. The cool water washes off all of the last days’ stresses and strains. But after a while the beach gets to hot for us and we slowly but steadily hitch towards Bishkek, ending in the beach town Ottuk. Here we can see another tent in the semidarkness. Around it four British guys who are on their way to Tajikistan. They are participants of a socalled charity ralley and will leave their car in the destination country. We cosily sit all together around the camp fire and chat. Around midnight we exhaustedly fall asleep.
BISHKEK – BORDER
Back in Bishkek we organise our further travels, do grocery shopping and look after the bikes. I am really looking forward to be able to sit on my bike again. The two weeks of backpacking have shown us that with a bike you don’t have to carry all of the weight on the back and – again – that you are not dependent on other means of transport. That’s pure freedom and independence!