We spent a couple of hours this morning with the yurt family who had become our impromptu hosts when our truck pulled up beside their campsite yesterday evening and asked if we could camp on their land. They were amazingly hospitable, and apart from insisting that we used their feral long drop, couldn’t have been kinder.
We got the chance to be entertained in their yurt, eat their food, drink kumiss (fermented mare’s milk which I’ve never tried before – not bad), and hear a little about their lives. Our Kyrgyzstani guide is magnificent. She translates for us, smooths issues on both sides of the language divide, works like a navvie, always looks good and is charming to boot.
A pleasant result of our long journey yesterday has been that the trip to Song Kol lake today is a reasonably short drive.
There had been some discussion about whether the pass into the lake basin would be open. Snow had fallen recently in the area and it is still very cold.
The road to the lake started as an alpine zigzag upwards, before leaving the grasslands below us and heading ever upwards towards the pass. Snow and ice was piled into banks at the side of the narrow road, and the drive had hair raising bends. I couldn’t help wonder what would happen if we had to turn the truck around on the road and retreat.
As it was the road was handled easily by Brett and the truck and we came over the top of the pass into a big open basin of grassland and a lovely lake spreading out in front of us.
The yurt camp we are staying at is delightful; our hosts hospitable and charming, and the beds warm and inviting. Cavan has been assigned to the “male” tent, and I’m sharing with five other women.
The yurts are fascinating. Mine has six mattresses on the floor. The walls are layers of padded felt and grass mats. Inside is a log stove which wonderful, silent people light at 6 pm, and refill at 8, 10, and I believe, midnight. The result is a warm, snug retreat.
I woke up the first morning and looked at the roof where sunlight filtered through the lining. It was like looking at amber.
There is a corrugated iron hut, with a permanently burning log fire, which has hot water for tea and coffee permanently on all day. As a group we assemble here for meals, but it’s also a space for writing up diaries, sketching (one talented woman is keeping a visual diary) and just chatting.
The toilets are clean, the floor painted and we have a choice of squat or western, catering to our individual tastes. Water to wash hands, clean teeth and shave is always available, and clean towels appear throughout the day.
There is even a ‘bathhouse’ where you sit on a stool and pour hot water over yourself while you soap off the cares of the day. We were allotted five minute slots, so Cavan and I shared to speed up the process, taking it in turns to pour water over each other’s backs. The main danger is being careless, forgetting the furnace is in the middle of the small room and bending over as you dress. I don’t think anyone burned themselves but the danger was ever present.
This is a heavenly spot.
Impromptu camp with shepherds
Child on holiday
Welcomed into the yurt by our hosts
Top of the pass to Song Kol
Our shared yurt
The dining shed
Going for a walk... Cavan befriends a donkey