Published: July 23rd 2010July 10th 2010
Song Kul lake is a mountain lake located in the Tian Shan mountains at an altitude of 3016m. the lake is used by people in the summer as a jailoo, a pasture during the summer months. It is considered the pearl of the Kyrgyz jailoos. The road to Song Kul winds through mountainous terrain until it seems to disappear into the skies. This is probably why Song Kul is translated from Kyrgyz as the last lake.
From Kochkor we left our homestay after breakfast around 8am and walked to town to the CBT office, where we were supposed to meet our guide for our horseback riding trek to Song Kul for 3 days. The CBT office was still closed, past 9am already and no one was still there then the (bitchy)lady whom we dealt with the day before arrived, Aynora, short haired woman, asked us where is our guide, Russ was pissed, you told us to come here to meet him! he retorted, oh yes he lives near you so I asked him to pick you up! Before Russ and I lost it, come Irgiz our 19 year old guide, miscommunication we surmised but anyway, Irgiz is a nice kid,
, speaks good English, a University student in Bishkek, we walked to town center and negotiated a taxi ride to Kyzart pass where we start the trek, the taxi drivers are hovering around us yelling out their prices until we finally agreed to one, 800 soms to get us there for the taxi hire. we got on, it is a hot day already but the windows on the taxi are shut and doesn't wind down except at the front!
The ride was scenic it took us more than 30 minutes to get there, we passed beautiful valleys, odd mountain formations, browns, greens, blue, this region is very colorful and varied in landscape. Arriving at the pass, we were greeted by kids selling smoked and dried fish, souvenirs etc. We walked down the valley a little bit until we found the yurt where to rent horses from, we negotiated a price but it is"standard"CBT price of 3,600 soms for 3 horses for 3 days, we have to agree to it. We now picked our horses, they were grazing up the hill so we went there and of course most of the horses tried to get away as we approach as
they know what our purpose was, we eventually got 3 horses on a leash, the young kids, sons of the owner help us gather the animals, they put on the saddle and everything then the kids mounted the horses and fed them a bit while we have some tea with the wife of the owner in their yurt, traditionally here women serve meals and they serve tea to guests as they eat. When we were done we went out and get acquainted with the horses.
My horse is Torat, beautiful animal, Kyrgyz horses are strong and sturdy, not really that tall but used to the terrain, Irgiz gave us some simple pointers, yank on the reigns to point direction, to the left or right and pull together to stop the horse, "tsou" is go. I have ridden horses before but I have to do nothing, they were all trained and go their merry way whatever the route was, but now we have to stir the horses towards different directions, a sense of panic came over me especially when i got on Torat and he won't move, he keeps eating grass. The boys have to "tsou" him, and encourage him
to move, but after that all else is smooth, we learn as we move along, and I was surprised how easy it was to ride them. We went slowly at first, we passed through green rolling pasture hills, past grazing animals, sheeps, goats some horses. It is so unbelievably green, chilly air as we near the higher pastures, occasionally we see some yurts with cars, locals bringing their animals to pasture for the summer.
We ascended to the top of the hills and incredible views took our breath away literally, we are getting higher and higher
I take photos as we go some eskewed cause I don't know how to stop the horse yet. Later I got better and I can stop and take in the views then go again. The scenery throughout the journey is spectacular, words does not give it justice, you just have to look at the photos. 4 hours of riding eventually got us to a CBt yurt camp high on the hills, we were greeted by barking dogs, they were shearing the sheeps and we quickly got on to help them, one dude had me try cutting the wool with scissors, it's pretty hard
and the wool is oily. Anyway we got settled, I set up my tent, no flat surface but managed to find a"better" location near the animal pen. Irgiz and Russ went out to ride the horses again after tea, I begged off, I have saddle sores, damn that Russian saddle, Russ has the Kyrgyz one and is more comfy than mine. At the end of the day we got more confident with the horses we galloped a few times, quite exhilirating and hence too the saddle sores for me!
While they were gone I went up the hill to get a better view of the surrounding valley, it's magnificent, all green, jagged snow capped peaks from a distance, I saw some patches of snow atop one hill and tried to get there, took me ages and rain is coming so I settled to the lowest snow patch I could find and played with the snow. Then rain came so I literally ran back down hill,Russ and Irgiz is back and sitting in the yurt. It is cold now and raining, we had tea while waiting out the rain, when it stopped we witnessed the beautiful colors of sunset. After
dinner I settled in to my tent, it was cold but manageable until i slept and midnight I was freezing cold, my 40 F sleeping bag is no match for the cold and I struggled to keep warm, needless to say I slept badly. The next morning I woke up to hooves on top of me, this goat thought I was a rock and was trying to go and past and over me by stepping on the tent! I shooed it away, then some more tried to go over me, i got tired of this and got up and put my tent away, I saw hoof marks in my tent everywhere!
After a hefty breakfast we started again, Irgiz and I have to fetch the horses atop the hills, only on horse got leashed the other refused but followed us down to the camp. Eventually we got the saddles on and we headed up the hills, scenery again is out of this world, some narrow high passes, it's a bit dangerous but the hoses know what they are doing, i have to swap horses with Irgiz cause his horse refuse to carry our backpacks, his horse is a bit
slow, but Torat my horse farts a lot and it's not nice to be behind him, they poo and fart as we go, the colors of the flower fields is incredible, the yellows, blue and purple, white,orange, wild flowers everywhere, and some wild herbs too, thyme, scallions, and in some places gorgeous wild hyacinth smell perfumes the air as the horses trod on them. This, we thought is why we came to this country for, to experience nature, breath fresh mountain air and observe the way the local Kyrgyz live their lives in the jailoo.
For lunch we stopped at Kilenche, a jailoo near the Song Kul lake, we galloped the last bit and my bum got worse, I have to put neosporin and put band aid on it but did not help. it was sunny and we just sat in the grass, shoes and socks off while relaxing, a team from a Martial Arts club from Bishkek is here doing some training, we watched them a bit, young men training to be expert kick boxers, we had a hearthy lunch then Russ took a nap, irgiz summoned me and asked me if I could take a group picture
of the wrestlers, their coach was very friendly, he can't speak English much, hablas en espanol he asked me, i said yes, so i started blabbing in Spanish only to realize he can't follow me, his Spanish is bad as well! Anyway I chatted with them, the boys surrounded me and though understand nothing they are very curious about me, they are headed off to Cholpon Ata, so I said goodbye to them but not after a swig of kymyz which they offered me, a fermented horse's milk, quite sour but the locals swear by it's healthy attributes, the national drink of Kyrgyzstan.
Before we left the wrestler boys played music on their car radio and this little 2 year old boy started dancing and everyone watched him, he was so funny, i videod it, he accidentally landed on the sleeping Russ and his dancing ended there, the poor boy cried embarassed and so then it was time for us to go then.. we slowly moved towards the other side of the lake, we see rtain in the horizon but the sun is still intense, Russ and Irgiz went and galloped and my horse followed, but after a few
minutes my bum again acted up and this time I have chaffing in my inner thigh so i pulled the reigns on my horse and just happy to trod as they disappear in the distance, I caught up with them and we eventually made it to the camp site, the lake is beautiful. we got to our assigned yurt and I set uo the tent, the woman host told me I was crazy, it is cold in the night but I told her I should be alright, just an extra blanket I need from them and she gave me one, i have to "steal/borrow" another one later as it got colder. After settling in and setting my tent I followed Russ along shore of the lake we were supposed to swim in the buff but the clouds have quickly rolled in by now and the wind picked up, I begged off and Russ swam nude as i took photo from his camera on his request.
Back at the camp it started to rain and it is colder now, when the rain stopped we met a family of Americans from Georgia, they just arrived in a car, the daughter is
a Peace Corps volunteer, her parents here on a one week visit to see her. Nice family. We watched as the kids play with the donkey, they take turns riding the poor animal. Some local tourists also came and chatted with us, the Kyrgyz people are generally friendly. I have to mention the drop toilets, they are surprisingly clean and not very smelly. Russ and i have been using nature to go to the bathroom, but here since it's flat you have to use the loo provided and it wasn't so bad. We went to bed and I have a comfortable tent with 2 thick borrowed blankets, I slept well apart from the barking dog and a noisy donkey and the rain that came in the night. Oh I have to mention the delicious fish we had for dinner from the lake!
The next morning it was cloudy and drizzly, terribly cold, as we said goodbye to Irgiz, he had to take the horses back to where we started, a whole day affair, Russ and I was picked up by a taxi to go back to Kochkor, meanwhile we played with the kids as we wait to leave, the
drive was 3 hours over mountain passes,lots of snow still in the mountain passes and roadside, we got back to Kochkor past noon time and chilled and had a sauna in our homestay then played with the kids, tomorrow off to Karakol to do more hiking.
There are more photos below