After our amazing time in the Pamir’s we had arrived in Osh. This is one of the major cities in Kyrgyzstan home to around 300000 people. It was hot when we arrived which made a nice change from being half frozen in the mountains for the last week.
The highlight of Osh was definitely Sulayman Too. Although, the quintessential soviet era theme park would be a close second. This has been a historic pilgrimage site for centuries. Panoramic views were mixed with the call to prayer of several different mosques, making for a great place to take in the evenings. An interesting rock slide on the mountain is used by the locals to increase fertility. There were also claims it could cure back pain, though it seemed more likely to cause it.
A quick flight to the north landed us in the capital city Bishkek (previously Frunze) where we spent a night, including one last trip to a stolovya which had become our principal source of delicious but excess calories while in Russia and Central Asia.
We set out on a two week tour of lake Issyk-kul (or as issy likes to put it, Issy’s cool). A marshrutka took us to our first stop of cholpon ata. This place was known for being a soviet holiday destination.
Since the fall in the late 80’s it has gone to seed, leaving behind massive abandoned hotels and a eerie feeling around the town It was a nice place to relax, and provided a more than adequate remedy to our long standing beach cravings, even including the traditional sunburn.
Karakol beckoned with the call of the mountains. We were surprised to find a new take on our favourite food noodles . Karakol is the home of Ashlan-fu, a cold noodle dish consisting of two types of noodles (rice and wheat), some spring onion, a little scrambled egg and doused in vinegar. These tasty bowls were everywhere, and went down a treat with a fried potato pancake. By the end of our time we had eaten more bowls of this than one lifetime needs.
After returning battered and bruised from our hike (see other post)we headed out to KolFest. This was a three day music festival located on the south shore of issyk-kul. The festival location was amazing.
This was put together by some Germans, Japanese and locals, which made for a fun mix of cultures whilst double parking lagers and sake. We our time in the sun, swimming in the lake, drinking, eating and enjoying the music.
The acts were a mixture of local talent and international DJs. Notable acts were Alina, Kyrgyzstans premiere female beat boxer, Steppefish a Kazakh indie band (the best act of the festival), and Dj Dawee with his afrobeats. One memorable moment was on the final night when the entire festival sang a spirited rendition of ‘All you need is plov’ (The Beatles all you need is love, reimagined).
After the hike and Kolfest we were pretty beat up, notably Issys hiking wounds, and had to spend 4 days recovering around Karakol Here we went to Jeti-oguz, and managed to catch the 150th anniversary celebrations of the city, and demolish another 10 bowls of ashlan-fu (each)
Leaving Karakol behind we went to Bokonbayevo for 3 days. This is a small village located on the south banks of Issyk Kul. From here we went to the fairytale (skazka canyon) and swam in the lake which is just incredible, clear, cool, deep. Perfect.
We joined a locals picnic on a beach, and were plied with bottles of vodka in the early afternoon. Everyone we met in Kyrgyzstan lived up to their reputation of incredible hospitality.
The following day we went to a traditional eagle hunt, where our new mate Lightning showed of his skills, including a particularly gruesome scene involving a rabbit.
Song-kul was next on our list, this is a high altitude lake is one of the major features in every Kyrgyz guidebook, blog, and travellers tale. We decided (optimistically as it turned out) to do a two day horse trek to reach the lake. About 1 hour into the day we both agreed that we had had enough.
Unfortunately for our bums, we had to ride another 8 hours over the next two days. Our horses seemed to understand our reluctance and took the chance to assert their authority, going at their own pace no matter how much we insisted otherwise. The yurt camp at the lake was pretty, but pretty cold, thankfully we had a constant supply of hot tea and bread.
We got back to Bishkek, a leafy, modern city, just in time to watch New Zealand edge out India in the cricket. The ensuing celebration wrote off the next day.
Our final adventure after a month in Kyrgyzstan was white water rafting, The weather was getting seriously hot (38C) so the cool river was a welcome change.
We then spent a week in Almaty in Kazakhstan. A modern, european city, where we forgot to take any photos. we weren’t able to get out too much due to illness. But had a lot of fun exploring the city on the metro, and swimming in lake Sayran. The highlight was a crazy roller coaster in the dark on the hill above the city.