Thursday, Sep 9 — Bishkek
I'm going to call this day the 9th, even though we arrive on the 10th, but we haven't really gone to sleep yet from the 9th, so it still seems like the 9th. Our Turkish Airlines Airbus 321neo landed at Manas International Airport, Bishkek at 1:55am. After we cleared immigration, a health station asked for our PCR test, but we showed our vaccination cards instead and they waved us through quickly. After grabbing our bags, we meet our guide Azamat and driver, Alex. Azamat is a Kyrgyz and Alex has Russian ancestory, but he was born in Kyrgyzstan during the Soviet era. The 35-minute drive to the B Hotel goes quickly and we soon check in to room 203, a nice room with a large balcony. It is tough to fall asleep, but we eventually do at 4:00am.
Friday, Sep 10 — Son-Kul Lake
The alarm goes off at 9:30am. We are exhausted, still being on Istanbul time, meaning for us it 6:30am. Breakfast is satisfactor and we are soon on our way to a local bazaar to buy some warm clothes. I find a blue Golunbia jacket and some socks and Zara buys a fleece top and trainers. And we hit the road.
We driver for what seems like four or five hours, over the gorgeous Kalma Ashuu pass (3,400 meters / 11155') and down to Song Köl lake. We pull into the Ak-Sai yurt camp and unloud our gear into yurt #3, which features a nice view of the blue lake in the distance. The weather is about 2 degrees Celsius so we all change into our warm clothes. Dinner at 7:30 consists of besh bar mak, aka: 5-finger pasta (thin spaghetti noodles, beef and broth), shor pah (beef soup), salad, tea, buiscuts and sweets.
The camp hands put some coal in our yurt to heat it up and it got very hot in there. Tough night sleep with the altitude, minor jetlag, heat and cold, and lump mattress, but we were all quite thrilled, nonetheless. What a day!
Saturday, Sep 11 — Tash Rabat
Cold morning, breakfast, drive to Tash Rabat. After breakfast drive over the Moldo Ashee pass (3,346 meters / 10,978 feet) and on to Tash Rabat. At one point we stop at a burial ground and see some dirt-brick masoleums. We have lunch in Naryn at Anarkul Apa Café (Анаркул Апа Кафе) We ordered a greek salad with some lettuce, meet dumplings, and a meet dish with wood-ear mushrooms. After lunch we do a quick shop, buy some beer and toothpaste and drive to Tash Rabbt. According to one author, Tash Rabat is probably the best-preserved Silk Road site you will find and “no other retains as much of its original atmosphere”. This is a carefully restored stone building that once housed an inn on the Great Silk Road. Its date of origin is strictly unknown - but there is archaeological evidence to suggest that the site was occupied in the 10th century. Set some 15 km up a small, beautiful valley in the foothills of the Tian Shan, embedded against the hillside. There is evidence that it was a place of both rest and worship and would have served to protect caravans to and from China from both the ravages of the weather and of bandits - from before the time of either Tamerlane or Genghis Khan.
After visiting Tash Rabat we drive to nearby Nazira Yurt Camp, pick a yurt and chill. I climb a nearby peak. There are a group of wild horses on the peak opposite the valley. Back at camp, I meet several dogs, some which are big, and a lamb which was kept arount because its fur says Allah. We have a nice dinner of yak meat, carrots and potatos, shredded carrots, and beef soup. There are many bicuits and sweets on trays around the table. We strike up a converstation with two Belgium chaps and their driver. They just completed a 7-day trek. They finish our potatos.
It is cold again at night, but the clouds have cleared, and I brave the cold weather to gaze up at the Milky Way. I haven't seen this many starts in years. It is absolutely amazing.
Sunday, Sep 12 — Kochkor
We wake in the morning, have some eggs, cream of wheat oats, wild cherry jam and tea. After breakfast we notice a large group of yak are eating across the stream and coming quite close. We spend many mintues photographing them and enjoying their presnece. The dogs don't seem too thrilled though and after some time, chase them away up a nearby canyon to the right.
We pack up, and walk for an hour or so back toward Tash Rabat, along the orginal norther Silk Road route. We chat a bit about the Sil Road and its history.
Syma syan (spelling) a man from China, originally explored the Silk Road. East of China, he found horses, fat-tailed sheep, grapes. And China had silk, which was soft, light and kept away insects, so trade began.
The Silk Road lasted from the 3rd century BC to 16th century AD. But was then replaced by boats. Now tourism keeps the Silk road alive.
The road was more than an exchange of good; language, culture and technology were also traded, copied, and enhanced.
It begins to rain and driver Alex collects us and we drive back to Naryn and grab lunch at the wonderful Khan Tengri Hotel. (Xан Tенгри) We orderd meat dumplings again, vitamin salad (shreded beet, cheese, mushrooms and some arugula, lentil soup and Sichuan chicken. After lunch we stop at some road-side wagon where a famioy is selling Kumis, or fermented mare's milk. It doesn't really taste bad; the smokey fatty flavor is complimented with that fizzy, yogurt, alcohol taste. We then walk down the Old road Canyon and walk passed a hedering family's yurt where two currious boys and two giddy puppies are checking us out as we walk by. After our walk, we drive to Guest House Mira and bring our stuff to the second floor room, which has a nice balcony and a heated-floor bathroom. There are many nice flowers in the yard and an apple tree with a hundred red apples. I take an hour walk around town to the bustling main street. For dinner we have a nice lentil, rice soup, beef with rice, and a wonderful cucumber, tomato, onion salad with a bit of oil and salt.
Monday, Sep 13 — Karakol
In the morning depart Kochkor and drive to Karakol. On the way visit to Jety-Oguz gorge. Your guide will tell you a legend about Jety-Oguz (seven bulls) and Broken Heart rock. After short walking around drive to Karakol. City tour in Karakol: visiting Prjevalsky museum, Wooden Orthodox Church, Dungan mosque in Chinese style. Kyrgyzstan is a multiethnic country and during this tour you will have a chance to get acquainted with different nations and cultures. Today you will have a dinner in Uigur or Dungan family with Kyrgyz national music and songs. These nations came to Kyrgyzstan from China and live in Karakol since 1869. Overnight in the guest house.
Tuesday, Sep 15 — Bishkek
Tuesday, Sep 16 — Flight to Tashkent