So next Monday is a public holiday and M and I had been planning a camping trip for months, quite literally months, only to arrive at this:
Which only means that it is probably a good time to blog and add a few more pictures from our trip to Kyrgyzstan. M and friends decided we should all go for the weekend to Issyk Kul, which is a beautiful (and huge) mountain lake in the East, and the closest thing to a beach vacation for the people of a land-locked country.
Rest stops along the way... people sell fruits, corn cobs and meat inside dough (pasties if you're British, empanadas if you're hispanic)
Lots of mountains everywhere, but as you can see, not many trees grown, only shrubs and bushes.
You can get to Issyk Kul by train from Bishkek, but it takes well over 6 hours vs. 4 in a car.
(by the way, props to me for such an awesome moving train shot)
Entrance/Exit to the Issyk Kul National Park.
Our humble resort/apartment. It came down to $37 per night, per person and included 3 meals a day...
...Ah, watermelon and water, the basics. Yes there is a bottle of vodka at the top but it wasn't for drinking. M's sister (B) used it for disinfecting the bathroom, no joke!
A convenience store in town where we did buy vodka for drinking.
Aha! Kumys! Fermented horse milk, sold on the sidewalk, how can you not trust that? The murky choleric looking water next to it is some other fermented-grain drink the locals seemed to enjoy, called maksym.
These were the "changing rooms" at the beach.
This was the lake, and this is what people look like when they are going to swim in it. It was gorgeous, refreshing, delicate, wonderful water to swim in. I really loved it. You cannot see in this picture but there were snowy mountains on the opposite shore.
A little pop culture: Issyk Kul is a saline lake, not like seawater but it does have a salty tinge. The legend says it came about from the tears of a girl who forever waited for a lover who never came. Eat your heart out Justin Timberlake.
The dining room at the resort had a lot of these raised benches for people to sit on and eat off of a low-rised table. They are called "tapchan" and often seen in establishments with an outdoor eating area. Out of courtesy you must take your shoes off before hoping on.
Meals were OK, but not amazing. What was amazing is how many people in our party were so deeply indignant about the poor quality of the food that they opted for not eating very much or at all. I think I must have been the only person who finished her full plate at every meal. In my family I was raised not to waste! M's sister on the other hand, ate very little because she did not trust the cleanliness in the kitchen. I think you're getting a pretty good idea by now that B likes things clean :-)
In the resort's defense, the quality of the food was not so terrible that was inedible, c'mon! It may have needed a little salt here, or a little less oil there, but where I'm from people don't usually leave food on their plates!
Ah yes, the drinking, eventually we got to it, or at least the others did. Like every culture, boys like to get raucous and loud. Unlike every culture, they also like to play backgammon.
The boys where taking shots of vodka and cognac, and chasing them with juice. At the beginning of the night there were not chasing at all, but towards the end they'd be drinking 4 times the amount of juice after a shot of liquor. It made me a bit nauseous to watch but it was also viciously hilarious.
This is a good one! Ladies were going around the beach selling smoked fish. It was so salty yet so delicious! Imagine smoked salmon, but a lot firmer and a lot saltier -or- jerky but a lot softer and a lot saltier. Anyway, deliriously good, it also makes you very thirsty and goes perfectly with beer.
In this one, M pretends to be an Arab prince. Or a bollywood star, either one.
We also played bingo one night, and that is how I learned a whole bunch of numbers in Russian. You see that big pile of money in the middle (= $1.25)? I won all of that!
A spider, or "pauk", there, I just taught you some Russian.
This shot is inside the resort's game room, where they had table tennis, a PS2 (!!!) and a table of Russian billards. The billards table is significantly bigger than the standard western pool table, and in my opinion, made M look like he had been shrunk.
The end! stayed tuned for a grueling weekend in the mountains coming up next! Featuring latrines, yurts and baby donkeys!