Thus far I have shared my experience in Kyrgyzstan of spending a couple of days at Son Kul where I slept in a yurt and learned how to milk a mare. We also traveled around Issyk-Kul lake. It is believed that the Chinese traveler Jan Chan Tzan explored this lake in 128 BC as part of his 6-year travels. The lake is a tourist area in the northeast corner of Kyrgyzstan, close to Kazakhstan and China.
Now a little information for those of you who like numbers. It is 668 meters deep at the deepest point making it the 5th deepest lake in the world. It is the world’s second largest mountain lake at 1606m above see level.
Issyk Kul is Kyrgyz for “warm lake” but it isn’t! We sat on the south side of the lake and put our feet in the water – for a little while. The only thing that made it tolerable was the very hot sun. The real reason why it is called warm lake is that it doesn’t freeze in the winter. It is probably due to the fact that it is at the bottom of a drainage hollow and has no outlet so the only way water is lost is through evaporation. This gives it a slightly salty composition.
Sharon and I were able to hire a driver with a van and a guide for 5 days with accommodations in homes that provided supper, B&B and a picnic lunch each day for a total of 777 USD – what a deal. This is our tour guide, Azamat, who is Kyrgyz and is decedent from a khan. And he likes Kumis!
Here are some of my favorite pictures and stories from our trek around Issyk Kul.
In the town of Karakol our driver let the three of us off at the mosque and then we walked through the town to the Orthodox Church. We were able to go inside the Orthodox Church to see the paintings and to purchase icons.
My picture of the inside of the church isn’t real good but I always feel like I’m violating the sanctity of places of worship by taking pictures of the interiors.
The walk to the Orthodox church was uphill and about half way up we came upon the town market. Sharon pointed out that the woman sitting on the steps was a beggar. I was intrigued so, being tired, I sat on the step a ways from her and we smiled at each other.
After a couple of minutes I moved closer and because she looked Russian, Sharon asked her in Russian if we could take her picture. She seemed pleased to oblige.
Her family is local and we learned that she has grand children and a new great grandchild. She was very proud of them – they were all well established but there isn’t a pension in Kyrgyzstan so she was begging to bring in a little more money. Azamat was somewhat bewildered as to why I would speak with her and concerned – or just curious so he sat behind where he could hear our conversation.
I thanked her and paid her for the privilege of taking her picture and sitting by her on the market step.
On the edge of Karakol was the town cemetery with the beautiful backdrop of mountains that were visible from everywhere.
The landscape changed frequently as we rode along the southern side of the lake.
Our driver took us to an area along the lake that wasn’t developed and to get there we drove along the floor of what they described as motley clay mountains. This was an extremely rough ride over boulders and through ditches with high canyon walls rising on either side. Even with seat belts on we were thrown around the back seat. I thought my all my insides were going to be shaken loose and my spine broken apart. He went through places that I didn’t think possible – and he was loving it.
But we were rewarded with a time to look for beautiful stones along the beach, sit and cool our feet in the water, and a picnic lunch – in the usual tail-gate style.
This is the market square in the village of Kochkor.
On this square was a shop where they made felt and quilted handicrafts and had a store where their crafts could be bought.
I bought some wonderful felt craft objects and a pillow cover made of antique embroidery.
After a supper of soup and bread at our B&B we went for a walk in the neighborhood. These young boys were more than eager to pose for us.
The next morning as we were leaving for our trip to Son Kul, we asked if the owner of the B&B would pose with us for a picture. She said yes but asked us to wait for a moment. When she reappeared she had on her traditional attire
This was a Kyrgyz woman of prestige and social standing which she was very proud of. Her deceased husband had been a doctor and a director of a hospital so he would have been trained in Russia. She had large portraits on the walls which is fairly uncommon in Kyrgyzstan and enjoyed using her nice table service when she served us our meals.