Altyn Arashan - Day 25
Updated: Jun 24, 2020
We walked from our camp site at Jeti Orguz to the village at the entrance to the valley. It was a beautiful route of about 9kms through grassy valleys fringed with mountains covered in Spruce trees. I felt like Julie Andrews in the ‘Sound of Music’ and gave a twirl or two on the meadow, although I refrained from bursting into song. At the mouth of the valley stand massive sand stone hills that are a dramatic feature of the area. They are called the Seven Bulls, although I thought I counted more. I guess it’s all in how you number your bulls. We drove on to Karakol where we had lunch in a café with really good Wi-fi. I was able to check emails, bank balances and even send an email to work. Of course, I’ve no idea whether they ever received it, but it felt good to be part of the modern age! This afternoon we drove to Altyn Arashan. What a phlegmatic way to describe one of the most nerve wracking rides of my life. What a route! It’s affected annually by landslides, river flooding and rock falls. We had to transfer to Russian military vehicles to get up the road to the valley and the road appeared to be routed exclusively over a river bed and its boulders. Not that any normal vehicle could negotiate around deeply gouged muddy corners that tipped the whole vehicle over at 45 degrees. I wasn’t sure whether to be appalled that we were coming up here, or exultant at the thrill of the experience. New Zealand, you think you have tricky roads? Talk about Skipper’s Canyon? Eat your heart out. That road is strictly for amateurs compared to this. The road was adventure enough, but when we arrived at our destination things took a turn for the worse. It seems that our rooms, newly built, were unready – not in the normal sense of a hotel booking where you may have to wait an hour for maids to make up the beds, but in the sense that all the bedroom furniture was still stacked in the yards, the beds and cupboards unassembled and lying about the place. A far cry from worrying whether they were covered with linen. I ended up writing this blog while waiting for them to finish their work. Poor Cavan will be out in a yurt tonight which they are still constructing. So far there has been no indication that they are installing a floor, so he may have to sleep on the hard ground as we didn’t think to bring our sleeping pads on this journey. Fortunately, we have brought our sleeping bags. If conditions don’t improve we are going to have a very bleak time tonight, even though the physical setting in this valley is glorious. We plan to hike tomorrow. My hand is sore, but doing OK. I hope to change the dressing tomorrow. I’ve brought along the blue glove so that I keep it dry when we try out the hot springs that make this area famous. Our Hotel has access to three of them, and I look forward to trying them out. Later: My room, shared with four other women, is now ready. It’s brand new, clean, and the beds look warm and comfortable. Alas, poor Cavan. His yurt is still under construction. Dinner was a fairly dismal affair. Whether because EVERYTHING was in such disarray, or because the two women slaving away in the kitchen are genuinely incompetent, the meal was a bit of a disaster. It consisted of a stew of potatoes (and some spices, I presume) all of which was very nice. But the meat that was the other half of the stew was gristle filled, tough and largely inedible. I ate a lot of potatoes, drank some wine, and went to bed. Later Cavan joined a group of defectors who have shifted to accommodation across the river. At 9 pm the yurt still was not complete, so he moved across, and reported the next morning that he’d had a wonderfully comfortable night in warm, dry facilities. Even later we heard that those who DID use the yurt were leaked on during the heavy overnight rain. Tomorrow we are hoping for a fine day and we all have individual walks and excursions planned.