Getting Away

Our B&B at Son Kul, Kyrgyzstan

This week I was once again thinking about getting away. Not going far, not getting away from people, just getting away from a few small worries and responsibilities that I’m carrying on my right shoulder, making it sag a little. Sometimes we get away for a few nights with our camping trailer and that will be happening in early August. I’m also planning a longer trip to northern New England in September but right now that is feeling more like a worry of planning than an excitement of “getting away.” Usually I get that feeling of wanting to ‘get away’ that doesn’t have a destination, that is a close cousin to wanting to ‘run away.’

Mountain Pass to Son Kul that almost wasn’t passable in early June.

When I saw this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Getting Away I smiled, almost chuckled, because I think they read my mind – and maybe a few million other minds. I started thinking of all the little getting away trips, maybe even day trips, and thinking of all the “big” trips we have taken over the years. I even started looking at some of my photos but my spirit just couldn’t connect with my brain to bring on the excitement necessary to do the writing. This topic was too much fun to have it get delegated to my unfinished-posts-that-may-get-finished-before-I-die heap. During the past couple of weeks I have also been enjoying the photos I took in 2009 when I visited my daughter who was working in Kyrgyzstan. We took a private tour, with a Russian driver and a Kyrgyz guide, around the countryside, including going to Son Kul, a mountain top pasture and lake where farm families from the arid villages take their herds to graze in the summertime. This was a trip that was a whole different kind of “getting away.”

Taking herds over the mountain to highland pastures for summer grazing.
This truck is bringing another family, their yurts, and all they will need for the summer season.

The only infrastructure was two tire paths that were used only by the trucks that brought family members and their belongings up to their summer pastures. The only other vehicles were our van and a van of Swedish birders who went into the mountains during the day. Water was obtained from mountain streams and the lake, the only fuel would be dried dung from their livestock and a small amount of kerosene brought up from the village. There is no electricity or modern means of communication.

Neighbors communicating.

This is a place where getting away means getting away from all modern conveniences. These modern day nomads are there to maintain their livestock and care for their families – tourists are an aside that brings in a little cash but isn’t supported by an infrastructure. There are no gift shops, no grocery stores, no gas (petro) stations, no museums, no fudge shops, no tee-shirt shops. And no hotels or restaurants. We slept in a yurt that was like the one the family sleeps in and by chance (the birders didn’t want us to join them in the dining tent) we were invited to eat a simple supper and breakfast in the family’s living yurt.

The tour company had made reservations with a family for us to spend the night but when we arrived our tour guide couldn’t find them (did I mention there are no street signs or lot markers). They hadn’t arrived yet. Asermat (our guide) stopped at this site and asked if they could accommodate us and they graciously said yes, but the birders had the official reservation and they were there to talk birds, not socialize with unplanned guests.

Simple meal of soup and bread, with candy and cookies for dessert.
Ensuite, nomad style.

We walked here and there although the view was mostly the same. What I noticed was the silence – no motor noise, no mowers, no phones ringing and no wind blowing through trees or birds singing. Just a silence that somehow made the world seem larger than life. And I noticed how quickly I felt short of breath because of the altitude. As the sun descended behind the mountains and the temperature dropped we went to bed, with only the light of flashlights (torches) to help us navigate our bedtime activities of laying out bedding and deciding how much of our clothing we would keep on. We woke when light started coming through a small opening at the top of the yurt covered with thinner felted wool. That day it snowed.

Evening entertainment.

I wanted to know how they milked their mares so the next day our guide stopped at a group of yurts on the other side of the stream (no bridge) to ask who was milking mares. These were mares who were first-time mamas and they had just started milking them so all (horse and human) were skittish and it appeared to be a dangerous activity. They offered me the pail of fresh milk to try and I didn’t let this opportunity pass. It was very good.

Milking a mare.

This trip to Son Kul was much more than “getting away” to a different culture. It felt more like getting away to another world. You can read more post on my trip to Kyrgyzstan by scrolling to the bottom of this page, clicking on “choose category” and then click on Kyrgyzstan.