Neil lied. We aren’t cooking in the snow. We’re in a beautiful upland valley and staying in yurts. Spruce trees surround our glade and a mountain stream rushes through it. To add to our enjoyment, horses roam free with their foals.
The weather has been changeable. Originally we were meant to spend two days here in Jeti Orguz, but rain had turned the road into impenetrable mud. It’s a gnarly road at the best of times and we must have bounced and bumped along it for an hour before we reached our camp.
There were camps lower down the mountain, but Neil has assured us that it was much too ‘touristy’ down there. We, of course being travellers, not tourists.
Earlier in the day we went to the ‘Fairy Canyon’. One of the most startling things about Kyrgyzstan is the variety of scenery – arid hills and valleys give way to fertile fields. The ‘Fairy Canyon’ is a sandstone gulch in which the various rock formations combine vividly different shades of ochre. It is dramatic and beautiful. Those of our group who’d travelled in the USA compared it to Arizona or some of the other dry states.
Then we drove up an adjacent valley where, for once, the road was smoothly graded and a pleasure to travel on. It transpires that a Canadian operated gold-mine operates at the far reaches of the valley and keeps the road pristine. This is Kyrgyzstan’s main source of national revenue.
We stopped some kilometres up the valley. Rather abruptly the terrain had changed from the somewhat arid lakeside landscape to steep, spruce covered mountains with lovely green glades between them. We parked by a bust of Yuri Gargarin who visited here after his space exploits. Not only is there a bust, but his face is carved into a large rock.
A rather sadder tale of this valley ( and some of the neighbouring ones), relates to 1916. At this time Kyrgyzstan was ruled by Russia. The time of course us just before the Russian revolution.
Russian troops fell out with Kyrgyzstani tribes and other ethnic groups and proceeded onto a course of genocide. The Kyrgi’s fled up these valleys which lead eventually into the high Tien Shien mountain ranges that run from here to China.
Russian troops would stalk the valleys, finding yurts, offering children sweets to tempt them out, and then murdering them, raping the women and killing the men.
Those that managed to make it deep into the mountains were foiled by the bitter winter snow that blocked the passes. Some made it to China, who didn’t want to receive them. Most died of cold, or were murdered on the mountains.
Estimates put the destruction in the hundreds of thousands, but in truth, no one will ever know how many met their death. They are remembered each year in a day of mourning. Many attempts have been made to find their bones and bury them appropriately, but it is recognised that the high ranges will hold many for ever.
Our group is responsible for cooking tonight. My first contribution to this has been to put a knife into my hand. I’d been intending to slice red peppers. Instead I sliced myself. The cut is deep, but just missed the tendon – although I could see it.
Neil dressed it, gave me a blue rubber glove to wear over the wound, and it was game on.
One of our group has done this job before so I’m just following orders. We’d provisioned earlier at a market, so we had everything we needed for the Butter Chicken and Chilli con Carne (or Chilli con Vegetables, as this was the vegetarian option).
It seems a pity that we can’t stay in this lovely spot for longer than one night, but tomorrow we have to move on.
Yurt details at Issyk Kol
Yurt details at Issyk Kol
The truck got stuck again!
Cavan the warrior