Kyrgyzstan is a country of hospitable people and stunning landscapes. Our favourite place would have to be Song Kol, a lake lost in the Kyrgyz mountains.
Song Kol is an alpine lake, the largest freshwater lake in Kyrgyzstan and lies at 3016m above sea level. The drive up through the mountains was incredibly beautiful. The road was so steep in some parts we were worried the car would overheat, but our Betty is tough and she pushed on over the pass and down into the valley by the lake where the local herdsmen bring their herds of cows, sheep and horses to feed on the lush summer pasture.
Once in the valley all that can be seen are animals and white yurts dotting the immense pasture around the lake. We stopped by a yurt that was advertised as a shop. We hadn’t found any firewood on the way up and with a three day camp ahead we would definitely need a campfire. We had noticed large piles of dried horse dung by all the yurts which the herders use to make their fires, so we traded a little vodka (after we’d had a few shots with the friendly herder) for three bags of poo, and set off to find a nice campsite.
We chose a campsite half way between yurt village and yurt city and our tent became the stopover for any cowboy on his way between the two. Every day we were visited by a number of cowboys. They would pull up and park their horse next to our car and sit with us and drink vodka and share our food. We would ride around on their horses. Eventually they would get bored of us, hop back on their horse and gallop into the distance.
Camped on a vast plain for three days made toilet time an interesting experience. You would take the shovel some distance from the tent, dig a hole, scan the horizon for cowboys and then do your business hoping you wouldn’t be sprung!
The nights were bitterly cold at that altitude and each night we had to climb into bed not long after sunset in order to stay warm. The night sky was absolutely incredible, looking up it felt as if you could just reach up and touch the Milky Way.
Our horse poo fires didn’t turn out so well. I’m not sure what we were doing wrong but it just didn’t seem to burn very well and cooking anything required constant fanning to keep the heat up…
…Thank goodness for our gas cooker.