Thursday, November 17, 2011

Son Kol

This will be the last post on our trip to Kyrgyzstan (for a little while anyway...)

M was interested in getting in touch with his nomad roots and asked his father to takes us on a trip to the heart of rural Kyrgyzstan. Son Kol is an alpine lake located over three thousand meters above sea level.

We got on the road straight after Issyk Kul, when M's dad and his wife picked us up. On our way we stopped by the home of relatives, who were far too nice and welcoming and served us a lovely lunch. I wanted to post a few pictures of what their house looked like.

the kitchen

the living room, it is typical to hang rugs on the walls for decoration (that's M's dad)

blankets stacked in the bedroom, in case guests decide to stay over night, a comfy impromptu bed on the floor can be prepared 

lunch! salad, lamb stew with potatoes and home made noodles, bread, biscuits, tea and jam

Muscat wine from Moldova! Civilization! Finally something I don't have to drink in shots! 

my nemesis: the letrine
(my eyes sting just by looking at this photo, the memory is still too fresh)

So, on our way....

After a looooong, windy, narrow and terrifying high mountain road, we arrived at this:

Which got me extremely optimistic and excited. The sun came out and the steppe is actually very beautiful. Farmers move to the mountains during the summer months in order for the cattle to graze freely.

life forms!
This was the first family we met. This woman and her son, between the two of them they look after  20 cows, 10 horses, 400 sheep and 2 dogs. All they have is each other.

our first serving of kumys, fermented mare's milk

the making of a photo

the end result (photo by M)

the cow was looking at me!

please note the vastness of this place

Then it was back in the car...

Then a storm came in... then I wasn't such a happy trooper anymore. We could not find the road to Son Kol, where we wanted to spend the night. By road I do not mean the modern (by comparison) trail depicted above, the road we were looking for was simply defined by tire marks on the grass leading to the lake.

We stopped for help at a yurt that sold gasoline, and while we were filling up, two very drunk men started harrassing us over how much to pay, and whether we were good muslims and who knows what else. The fact that I could not understand a word, and that everyone became very apprehensive and there was a lot of yelling, made me feel.... well, scared. I started to realize I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

It was getting dark and it was raining. We left the drunkards but had to find a place to spend the night so we stopped at the next yurt. The farmers here sometimes pitch more than one yurt to accomodate travelers for a pittance. We found a family whose yurts were all filled (all two fo them) but they said they would let us crash in theirs.

People from all over the world come to this very remote place, but they did tell me I was the first Venezuelan they ever met and that I was pretty, unlike the German women :-)

They fed us a dinner of ramen noodles, potatoes and lamb. And of course, tea, bread and jam was not missing.

It was dark, wet, cold and light years away from a civilized toilet or shower, and I was overwhelmed with nerves.

inside the yurt
The photo above is the living room, dining room, bedroom and kitchen. The table was moved after dinner, and several layers of very thick bankets were laid on the floor. They made a bed for us, and another for themselves and their little girl. Then they warned us there could be mice walking around and night. We could not all fit in the yurt, so M's dad setup a comfy bed in the car for him and his wife to sleep.

morning sun coming through

the stove (dried manure i burned for fire). photo by M

overcast morning

good moooooooornin'!

sheep sleep together in a kennel overnight, but are free to graze during the day

M and a taigan puppy

A what puppy?

Taigan, is the local breed of hound dog.

taigans (photo by M)
Eventually it was time for breakfast! We brought the melon with us, but i don't know where the tomatoes and cucumbers came from. It was so refreshing to eat veggies!

The bread, jams, cream and butter were all home made.

photo by M

our host family (photo by M)
Eventually, we did make it to the lake, but it was so cold, windy and gray that I did not bother take a photo. 

After we left our new friends we had lunch at the yurt of some "other" relatives. How are we related to this people? Don't ask me, but we are! I thought I should show you a different yurt.

In this particular community, only the women and children were left behind to pack everything up and move the cattle off the mountain when the summer is over. The men left a couple of weeks earlier to prepare the stables and what not, where the animals will live for the better part of winter.

the fish came from Son Kol lake
photo by M

these gals had not bothered to build a shed and dig a hole in the ground, so guess where I had to go? (ps. lake in the distance!)

Even though I was quite cranky for some of the time, Son Kol was quite a humbling experience.

15-day old baby donkey (photo by M)

M did take so many beautiful photos, not all of them are shown here. Please visit his flickr page for a wonder....