The Best Little Guesthouse in Tamga

Tamga Travel Blog

 › entry 47 of 83 › view all entries
A lovely day at the sanatorium

Despite waking up early I still waited in a cold marshrutka for about 30 minutes and was ushered to another one to wait another 30 minutes before finally leaving around 9:15 when all 12 seats were full. After a pitstop in Pokrovka with the most revolting public bathrooms in Central Asia if not the entire Eastern Hemisphere, we began to see more of the southern lakeshore of Issyk-Kul, the second largest alpine lake in the world after Lake Titicaca. At a long bend in the road caused by a small bay on the lake, we stopped and driver said "Tamga," which was the destination I had chosen. Other than the bay, a few buildings under construction, the bus shelter and a road winding up a hill, I didn't see anything worth stopping for. However, it had come recommended and I assumed the village was further inland (I expected it to be on the lake), so I begrudgingly got out and pulled my backpack out from underneath the back seat where it had been shoved under to fit.

A tree grows in Tamga

 

When the dust from the marshrutka's trailing tires had faded, the only other person in sight was an elderly man at the bus stop. I asked him if this was indeed Tamga, and if so where exactly was it and how far. When he said two kilometers, I was a little miffed that I'd have to walk that far away from the lake. After all, the point of stopping was to enjoy the lacustrine scenery despite the cold weather. I asked if he knew Tamara, who was supposed to have a guesthouse for tourists, and he said he did. After a few moments of bewildering silence, he said "padyom," which means "let's walk" in Russian, and so we started the journey up the hill to town.

A view from town
It really wasn't long before a sputtering motorcycle came by and the man stopped it and told me to get on. I turned around to see that the motorcycle had attached to it a ramshackle wooden plank wide enough to fit 3-4 people. At first I wasn't sure I would be able to fit with my backpack, or that it would be sturdy enough to support two people and a backpack the size of a third. But I eased down onto the plank with my pack still fastened, crossed my legs so they wouldn't dangle off the edge, and away we went flying up the road on a modified scooter. If only someone could have taken our picture!

 

The man had the boy who was driving the scooter stop on a dusty side street when we got into town, and we walked a long block to the main street of town and pointed to a car to indicate it was Tamara's.

Mountains in the distance (close-up)
A two-storey building next to another building under construction was next to the car, and the only possible entrance was between the two buildings and across ground littered with power tools, lumber and construction debris. Around the corner I found a door and knocked. A surprised woman came to the door, her hands covered in dough, and said "oh, come in come in" in English. This was Tamara.

 

She ran in the kitchen to wash her hands as I untied my shoes and entered the house, which consisted of all two storeys I'd seen from the road. She led me upstairs and apologetically asked me to wait in one room while she made up my bed in another because it was warmer there. The house had three rooms and possibly another one up a third floor landing.

Lake Issyk-Kul at last!
There was even a flush toilet on the same level! While it was rather chilly, she made the room very comfortable. While she mopped the floor with a wet t-shirt wrapped around the end of a wooden broomstick, she talked quickly and much about tourists, her life and her family. One of her sons had gone to New York at age 20 and worked odd jobs for a year, saved his money and now lives in Bishkek. A daughter is now living and working in Germany, fluent in several languages. She sadly told me that another daughter who was bright and beautiful, had died a few years ago most likely from a brain hemorrhage. She explained that having tourists come to stay has helped her and her husband transition from such a difficult time in their lives. The construction next door was an addition they were building to put in a small shop so they can keep busy in the winter when few tourists pass through.

 

Tamara walked me across the street to a cafe inside a regionally famous health resort (sanatorium) where Yuri Gagarin had first rested when he came back from space.

Me, mountains, field
The cafe appeared to be closed, but a woman emerged from the back and served me a bowl of soup and some coffee. It wasn't bad, but I wanted to try Tamara's food and I wasn't really sure they'd be open in the evening, so I went back to tell her I'd be having dinner with her. I met her husband, Askar, who didn't speak much English but was equally friendly if not a little reserved. Tamara gave me a couple apples and I headed off to explore the village of Tamga.

 

I began walking south towards the mountains at first, hoping to see if anything existed on the other side of the apartment building on a catercorner street from Tamara's. I passed the pathetic bazaar, where one woman sat with a handful of clothes and vegetables, and down the next street.

Issyk-Kul lakeshore and pretty sky
A large tree grew in the middle of the road next to where a woman and a boy were gathering water from a stream that flooded the entrance to another side street. The road cracked and crumbled along a small cliffside where there were good views of the snowcaps above. I turned down another street heading east and then back north at the next intersection. It was a dusty, pleasant sort of town that grew on me. It was definitely the village experience and different from Karakol. Tamga is reportedly mostly Russian but I saw many Kyrgyz people. The houses were mostly Russian-style gingerbread and several had apple orchards, stacks of hay and cattle or horses. I wandered back to Tamga's main street, called Issyk Kul Street, then to the intersection with the other paved road that led back to the highway.

 

I passed a World War II memorial and turned right along a dirt road that led to the end of town at a pasture.

The lake from one of the ridges above the highway
From there the views of the mountains were much better, and the fields were full of grazing horses and sheep. The lake still loomed far in the distance but was visible. At this point I was ready for an apple, and with one bite I knew I had found the best tasting apples in the world. Crisp, crunchy and perfectly sweetened, Askar and Tamara knew what they were doing in their garden.

 

I took another road heading directly north and walked along the edge of town to a hill overlooking the highway. From there the views were simply the best, with the waters of the blue lake and the Kungey Alatau mountains silhouetted in the distance to the north and the grandeur of the Terskey Alatau looming above the town.

The best apples in the world are from Tamga
Luckily the weather was sunny and not very cold.

 

From the ridge I walked along until I found a path leading down to the road and then to the lakeshore. I walked along the beach, glad I had my thick-soled boots because of the large stones forming the shore. I ceremoniously washed my hands in the saline water, gathered some stones and walked back up another ridge. At the top I discovered the remains of an abandoned sanatorium on the lake, or at least that's what it looked like. A small road appeared and I saw a promontory in the distance that begged for one last view of the lake. This point is where I could see the intersection and bus stop where I'd arrived as well as views of an actual sandy beach next to a marsh.

Watch where you step!

 

I found the road to town and a sidewalk of sorts with parallel rows of white-painted stones on either side, looking somewhat like a dishevelled runway or the aisle on an airplane when the floor lights are turned on. I'd become used to watching where I walked since my tripping incident in Buston, but in Tamga I was unable to walk a straight line for all the horse droppings I had to walk around or step over. Back in town, I decided to further explore the military sanatorium. It was fairly deserted, but occasionally I saw a group of young people (men, women, Russian, Kyrgyz) running by in their jogging suits. Some kids played basketball in a tennis court on the grounds, and I also saw a small playground where some smiling children played on a seesaw.

Kids playing in the sanatorium's tiny playground
There were also several pine trees that had been recently cut down, I assume to use for firewood. Near the cafe where I'd had lunch was a small series of shops, only one of which was open. Two boys were playing with a ball as I entered one of the shops just to have a look around. One of the boys was supposed to be working, so he stopped playing and came in but we just chatted in broken Uzbek and Kyrgyz.

 

Back at Tamara's I rested from the 3 1/2 hour walk I'd just completed around Tamga. Soon Tamara invited me to come to the kitchen where it was warm, so I brought a book to read but I didn't touch it for all the talking we did. While Tamara made mantu (Kyrgyz dumplings; these had mutton, pumpkin & onions), we talked about traveling, American life, her family, politics, the world economy, dental floss, Turkmenistan's former president and various other unusual subjects. We talked all through dinner and up until about 10pm when we realized it was late. It was like an evening with a close family member and obviously more personal than the typical guesthouse or hotel. I wish I could have stayed longer.

adastra23 says:
Lacustrine is an excellent riparian word!
Posted on: Nov 25, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
A lovely day at the sanatorium
A lovely day at the sanatorium
A tree grows in Tamga
A tree grows in Tamga
A view from town
A view from town
Mountains in the distance (close-u…
Mountains in the distance (close-…
Lake Issyk-Kul at last!
Lake Issyk-Kul at last!
Me, mountains, field
Me, mountains, field
Issyk-Kul lakeshore and pretty sky
Issyk-Kul lakeshore and pretty sky
The lake from one of the ridges ab…
The lake from one of the ridges a…
The best apples in the world are f…
The best apples in the world are …
Watch where you step!
Watch where you step!
Kids playing in the sanatoriums t…
Kids playing in the sanatorium's …
Tamga
photo by: hyo