Food poisoning

Karakol Travel Blog

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People i met here who contributed to and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

Our minivan terminated in the North East of the town and from here it took 10 minutes to walk into the centre. Plenty of pretty traditional wooden houses lined the street, which was little more than a dirt track. I had expected Karakol to be a modern little town, so it both surprised and pleased me to find something a little dated, yet traditional.

The first hostel that we came across had doubled its prices and was now charging 485 Som ($13.5) for a dorm bed in a yurt. We swiftly left here and continued to the Yak Hostel, which had also raised its prices in the last year, although only by 50%, to 300 Som ($8.

30) per person, for a small twin room. Kyrgyzstan is supposedly the cheapest country in Central Asia, although they appear to be doing their damnedest to jack up the prices of anything connected with tourism.

After been shown around the hostel, we inquired as to the cost of food, only to find Dinner costing 250 Som ($7), which by Kyrgyzstan standards is extremely expensive. Instead we walked 50metres up the road to Lux cafe, where 70 Som ($2) bought a very good sized portion of beef stroganoff with fries and salad. Sadly like almost every other cafe in Central Asia, they tried to rip us off with our bill, something that is wearing incredibly thin on my nerves.

It was already dark when we left the cafe and the stars were shining brightly in the sky, whilst the full moon helped guide us around the streets, most of which were lacking street lighting! For an hour we searched for a bar that might have a TV showing football, but found only blank looks from bar women, who presumably had never heard of Euro 2008, and possibly even football! In the end we gave up and went home to get an early 'football free' night.


The following morning was once again glorious, as the sun beat down from a cloudless sky. Located one block from our hostel was a delightful little wooden Orthodox Church, so we went and looked at this to begin our day. After grabbing some food, we went and collected information from trekking companies and the tourist information centre, so as to plan where we would head in the mountains, over the coming days. Once this had been accomplished, we decided to visit the Przewalski Museum, dedicated to famous Russian explorer Nikolai Przewalski, who died in Karakol on one of his many expeditions to Central Asia.

A shared taxi costing 20 Som ($0.55) per person shuttled us 10km North to the Museum entrance, where i paid 50 Som ($1.40) admission and Julia as a Russian citizen only 10 Som ($0.
30). The Museum contained some interesting photographs and descriptions of Przewalski's expeditions, and also some wall paintings that changed perspective as you walked past them. At the back of the grounds were his grave and a memorial, and also a statue to Karasay Kuseyen, whoever he might be!

Exiting the museum, we flagged down a passing bus that took us to the nearby beach. A little girl 'befriended' us at this point, although she ended up asking us for money later, so i won't mention her any further! The beach was packed with people soaking up the rays, but as we hadn't brought any swimming gear, we headed to a little restaurant at the edge of the sand to enjoy a couple of beers. Sadly a group of Kyrgyz men came and sat down and started necking vodka, which soon led to one guy being abusive to another one of his friends and the feeling that a fight could erupt at any given moment.
Soon after, the sky clouded over, a wind picked up and it was not only the mood in the restaurant that had turned chilly! Therefore we called it a day and caught a shared taxi back to Karakol.

In the evening we went back to Arzu Cafe, where we had eaten lunch, even though my food had contained a big black hair. This really should have served as a warning, but there weren't too many options in town, so we hoped for the best. In fairness, the food tasted pretty good, i had meat and potatoes stewed in a pot, whilst Julia took a beef and mushroom salad. Unfortunately something that was in the salad wasn't as it should have been and Julia spent the entire evening running to the bathroom.

One of the main reasons to be in Karakol over the weekend was to go and see the Sunday Animal Market, located in the Northern outskirts of the town.
I woke up at 06.00 and set off on my own, as Julia was still feeling horrible. It took about 30 minutes to walk there and on the way i passed a very nice house that was decorated with the Kyrgyzstan and Russian flags.

The market was in full swing by the time i arrived, with a mixture of people and animals  intermingling. I waded my way between goats, cows and horses, all the time wary about one giving my a kick in the head as i passed by! A couple of times i saw animals thrashing around, but the locals didn't seem to care and it surprised me there weren't any accidents.

The people were also interesting to watch, so i went and stood on a mound overlooking the area where the locals were haggling over the goats. Men wearing 'ak kalpak' hats stood holding their goats on a rope leash, whilst rosy faced women accompanied their husbands to inspect the livestock.
Their Larda cars and motorbike side cars stood just metres away, waiting to shuttle away whatever may be purchased. At one point i saw a woman carrying a cloth bag, which seemed to be squirming around in her hand. A few seconds later i heard the squeals of a piglet and then a lot of liquid seeping through the bag, nice!

From here i wandered across to an adjoining area where the cows, bulls and horses were been sold. Some of the horses were really beautiful, and i enjoyed standing and watching one get horse shoes put on. On the other hand, a few of the bulls were far less pleasant and were trying to head butt each other, as they stood tied to a wooden beam by their heads.

I found the place interesting and i was pleased that i had gone for a look, although its not something that I'd go out of my way to go and see again.
I left around 08.00, as it had really started to hot up and i wanted to go and get a drink and sit down. When i got home to Julia she was still feeling ill, so we decided to scrap our plans for the day, so she could rest and try to recover. We didn't seem to be having much luck with our health in Kyrgyzstan so far!

I had a nap for a few hours before going out to get some lunch and also collect some snacks for Julia, although she wasn't really up to eating much. When i got back we sat in the kitchen and played Yahtzee, but after a while she had to go back to bed, so i took the chance to catch up on my blog.

In the evening Julia accompanied me to Dinner, although she was only capable of stomaching some green tea. We ended the evening with another yahtzee marathon, in what we decided would be the first to 100 sets, with each set been best of five, with the loser buying the winner a slap up meal!

Deats says:
Yeah the condıtıons ın Central Asıa were pretty shockıng on the whole. Lots of dıorrhea! They now charge ın Som, but theres stıll a Russıan feel to almost everythıng there!
Posted on: Feb 16, 2009
londonstudent says:
Just out of curiosity, do you remember whether the tickets for entry to the Przewalski museum were still priced in roubles? When I was there in 2005 they were, some 13 years after they switched currencies, which suggests an undue degree of optimism as to the number of visitors!
Posted on: Feb 16, 2009
londonstudent says:
Coincidence! I got the worst food poisoning I've ever had just a few miles from Karakol. I blame some tomatoes that had been washed in a stream! Unfortunately the "bathroom" was a hole in the ground at the bottom of the garden of the dacha where we were staying. Oh dear :(
Posted on: Feb 16, 2009
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Karakol
photo by: Biedjee