Horse trek to Song Kol. Day 1
In the morning we got up early and went to the Community Based Tourism office in Kochor to get picked-up and taken to the starting point of our four-day horse trek. Outside the office we met a couple with their young daughter. They had cycled from Beijing(!) and were on their way to Istanbul! The young girl was riding in one of those trailers for bikes that kids go in. Amazing! Who says you can't do stuff once you have kids?
We got in the car and hit the road.
On the way I saw something near the road which looked like the remains of a large burial mound but most of it had been dug away. Poking out from the excavated escarpment was a stone structure that looked something like Neolithic chambered graves in Britain and Ireland.
They are usually either completely buried and enclosed by an earthen burial mound (e.g. Silbury Hill) or, often in Ireland the earth is completely gone leaving only the stone structure standing in an open field. I was amazed to see this ancient stone structure hanging out the side of a cliff. It looked as though people have been quarrying this ancient burial mound for gravel.
And nearby there was a beautifully set modern tomb for contrast.
Looking south from the road towards Kyrgyzstan's Tien Shan mountains and in the direction of Song Kol (Lake Song), a big high altitude lake that is inaccessible by road.
We arrived at the spot where our horses and our young tour guide were waiting for us.
No that's wasn't our guide. This was our guide Bayrambek riding his horse backwards!
Now, Ruth hadn't been on a horse for a very long time. There was a good reason for this: Fear.
The only other time she ever went on a horse was when she was about 11 years old. It was a horse-riding lesson or something on a school day out. Her family were all there watching. At the end of the lesson Ruth couldn't get the horse to stop. It kept on going round and round with little Ruthie bumping around on the back, terrified. It didn't help that everybody else thought it was hilarious and was too busy laughing to realise how scared and unhappy she was. She hated horses ever since so I was surprised when she agreed to go on the horse trek at all! At this point, when we met the horses, she wasn't very happy about getting on one again.
Hannah; happy enough.
And we were off. We headed away from the road across the green grass in the bright and silent morning. It wasn't silent for long. The peace was continually broken by our horses HUGE farts. We all had to shout "Shoo! Shoo!" at our horses to get them to go. Hannah couldn't get her horse to move so she got towed along by Bayrambek.
Ruth wasn't sure about being on a horse at first.
But she soon got into it.
This was my horse. Here he is having some lunch while we all looked for Hannah's camera which she lost somewhere along the way. After 45 minutes or so I found it and we carried on.
Ruth on her horse.
Hannah looks a bit like she might fall off sideways. She didn't ride the horse so much as get carried along by it. Bayrambek did stop towing her sometimes but then she usually ended up far behind.
Hannah's horse stops for a drink from the stream.
And arrived in the late afternoon at the yurt camp where we spent the night. One yurt was for the family and one was for guests.
Our hosts went to milk the horse. They like to drink mare's milk in Kyrgyzstan.
Milking the horse.
The horses that belonged to our hosts.
We went for a little walk and saw lots of pretty flowers.
And went back to the yurt to drink homemade kymys; fermented mares milk. It has a similar alcohol content to beer and is naturally fizzy. It has an interesting smoky, yeasty flavour. I really liked it.
So did Hannah. But not Ruth. She wasn't feeling too well. In fact she had been ill since Tashkent.
Rough! Ruth and Hannah wouldn't even try them.
A bit more of a wander about after our kymys and cheeseball snack.
mmm the peace and quiet of the mountains! There's nothing like it.
That was our yurt for the night, the one on the right.
From the top of the ridge you could see all the way to our nextdoor neighbours yurt in Moomin Valley; the white speck in the distance.
Our nextdoor neighbour was also riding up to the ridge to see across to our yurt. There he is on his horse.
Needless to say it was beautiful.
That's Ruth sitting in the middle of the grass.
The light began to change.
Evening drew in and it soon got much, much cooler. We went back to the yurt for supper.
Our hostess and her guard doggy. He had a mean bark and was pretty scary! His job is to scare off wolves to protect the sheep. There are wolves and bears out here!
The dogs kissing and Ruth chatting to our hostess.
Ruth and Hannah outside our yurt.
Me and Hannah.
We had supper of mutton with pasta. It had a very strange taste which I think means it was fried in something like horse butter. After supper our hostess prepared the yurt for us to sleep in. As the daylight withdrew I watched the man go on the horse to bring the flock of sheep down from the mountain and into the pen for the night.
We settled down for the night under a HUGE pile of heavy blankets. You could hardly move underneath them. It was freezing cold but after a while under all those blankets we were warm enough and fell asleep to the sound of the sheep and the people chatting in the yurt next to ours.