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  • Penelope Haines

Kochkor to Issyk Kol - Day 23


Unsurprisingly, the washing hadn’t dried. It had been hung out in the car port on a cold night, with dew in the air, and rainfall. We are now carrying an additional two plastic bags of wet gear with us. There were several grim faces around the breakfast table as we absorbed the problem that this could represent. Our itinerary isn’t very generous at accommodating such domestic problems.

Neil announced this morning that our route has been changed due to weather conditions. Consequently, we will be spending the next couple of nights at yurt camps rather than ‘freedom camping’. As it’s now extremely cold, with, at altitude, snow in the air, the appeal of bush camping is rather limited so we all accepted the change with some relief.

The trip from Kochkor took in a visit to a yurt manufacturer. I have become rather enamoured of these large tents, and the man we visited was clearly a craftsman. He took us through the various stages of yurt construction, and this man was clearly the real deal. The skill, techniques involved, respect for his materials and sheer competence was amazing. Every detail, every material, served it’s purpose.

Later, after a packed lunch on the bus we arrived to watch an Eagle Hunter put his bird through it’s paces. As an aside, I imagine this must always be a difficult display for Dragoman to handle if there are any vegans or vegetarians on the bus. I’ve noticed however, perhaps not surprisingly given the adventurous nature of these trips, that there is small support here for fussy eaters, whatever legitimacy they may claim.

We are now happily ensconced in a well set up ‘yurt camp’ by Issyk Kol. Alas, the place is new, well set up, with clean toilets, showers, new yurts and a good central tent. It has also been established in a sand pit on the edge of the lake – the net result being however hard we try, we convey sand from one surface to another, a situation causing serious angst to the very house-proud owner.

We’ve also turned our environment into a Neopolitan laundry, with wet washing over every fence and washing line.

The poor owner has apparently come from a military background, having worked in the canteens. This explains her attention to detail, the fact her serving girls (so terrified they wouldn’t move if our guide didn’t help them) have their hair covered correctly in nets, and the welcome cleanliness that prevails. We aren’t an untidy group, but our needs are running counter to our hosts, and causing conflict.

I just hope all the washing will be dry by tomorrow morning.

We will be heading into the mountains tomorrow to Jeti Orguz and it will be my group’s turn to cook. Neil, with unsuitably inappropriate glee, tells me we’ll be cooking in the snow.

How to make a yurt


The yurt maker's daughter


Shaping the wood for a yurt



How to make a yurt


Yurt maker at work



The eagle hunter


Cavan, the eagle hunter


Eagle at work


After the kill


Coming to the lure


Successful after the lure


The eagle



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