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Published: September 6th 2014
Sept 1st Today started off with a great disappointment when we were advised that we could no longer visit Sailmaluu Tash because there were no horses available to do the trek up the range after the jeep had dropped us off. And if we were to walk it would take 6-8 hrs of oneway UP climbing to get there, and there would be no time to get back on the same day. So it was not to be, so we left Kaazaman on the road heading east to Bishkek via Naryn over the same range that proved to be as spectacular and scary a road as we had experienced the previous day. Jaw dropping hairpins which hopefully you can see in the pics. Finally into into Bishkek about 1800 for a well deserved nights rest.
Sept 2nd First action item today was to make our applications for our Khazak visas, which we did successfully after having to return back to the town to pay the $30fee at a bank, and then scurry back with the receipt and re-apply at the embassy. We are very hopeful that we can pickup our visas following Tuesday. Then it was off to Chopon Ata
round the northern side of Lake IIsyKul. Chopon ata is described as Kyrgystans version of Cancun - sunbathing Russian men in the speedos , disco and clubbing, etc. The only redeeming feature of Chopon Ata was the Bronze Age petroglyphs which are to be found in a huge field of glacial boulders about 3km nth of the town. Some were dated as early as 1500 BC, but most were 8th. BC to 1AD. Ibex, wolves, snow leopards were all clearly visible, so John was in his element photographing all the faint scratchings. There's nothing else to do or see in Chopon Atat so it was off to the hotel - a bizarre Russian style beach resort complete with spartan overpriced dinner.
Sept 3 Chopon Ata and around the nth edge of the lake to Karakol was the drive today, and the Nikolai Przewalski museum was the first sight to visit - the much revered Russian explorer was famous for his exploration of Central Asia and Kyrgystan in the 1860's. He died in Karakol in 1888, and hence the mausoleum and museum in Karakol. The holy Trinity Russian Orthodox cathedral with five onion domes restored in the 1960's after partial
demolition by the Bolshieviks in the 1930's was well worth a visit. Finally a visit to a strange mosque - the so called Chinese Mosque built in 1910 by the Chinese Moslem Dungan community - built "without a nail" it was also partially destroyed in the 30's by the Bolshieviks, but restored in 1950
Sept 4 The most popular excursion from Karakol is the spartan hot spring called Altyn Arashan (Golden Spa) set in a spectacular alpine valley at 3000m with the 4260m Pik Palatka at the far end. To get there we travelled up the roughest road we have ever done - an avalanche prone, boulder strewn 4WD track that took two hrs to complete just it's 15km length ! We had to hire a 'special' vehicle that turned out to be a Russian ex-WW2 jeep/truck thing with amazing suspension - multiple hairpins as we crawled and bounced up the cliff face road to eventually reach the Hot Springs centre. After a 2 hr hike in the rain to see a natural spring bubbling out of the river bank, we eventually crawled into the Spa only to discover that the water was nearly at boiling point, and proved
almost impossible to dip ones extremities into with any comfort. John managed a very brief partial submersion, and I got as far as bum dipping. And then we had to repeat the road trip from hell, this time doing down the hairpins whilst bouncy over the boulders. Luckily the driver we had was really an expert who apparently repeats this trip up to twice a day escorting us lambs to the slaughter !! Unfortunately the pics I've posted don't really show the amount of bouncing we were doing, as most of my shots were all blurred - from the bouncing !!
Sept 5 -our last day of Karakol excursions was us head 25kms around the lake and then south to Jeti Oghuz Canyon - an amazing formation of red sandstone cliffs. The first great hill is called Broken heart - with an accompanying local legend of spilled blood and a broken heart. The other side forms the main wall of the canyon and is known as the Seven Bulls -again brilliant red sandstones erosion masterpieces. Arriving at the Yurt camp, we set off for a gentle 3hr hike/climb up the track and thru the Valley of flowers (Kok Jayik)
- unfortunately we were not in the flower 'season', but still beautiful, to finally get to a breathtaking view of Oguz Bushy glacier poised above the rushing glacier-fed river.
Returned down the track to the Yurt camp where we 'enjoyed' what we are now getting used to as the std Yurt lunch - tomato/cucumber salad, bread and jam, hot tea, and a big dish of cabbage/potato/pepper/beet root (little bit) of nonspecific meat. Back down the valley, and home to our B&B for the last night in Karakol.
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