The Best Little Guesthouse in Tamga
Tamga Travel Blog› entry 47 of 83 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I passed a World War II memorial and turned right along a dirt road that led to the end of town at a pasture.
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.
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.
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.
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.