On To Kochkor

Kochkor Travel Blog

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Tamara and Lake Issyk-Kul

I didn't get on the road until around 11am, having spent a leisurely morning chatting with Tamara and Askar and enjoying a filling breakfast of buckwheat, bread and delicious blackcurrant and pear jams. Tamara walked me to the bus stop using a short cut through the sanatorium and gave me a bag of her yummy apples for the road. Thirty minutes after waiting, I hopped aboard a minibus heading to Balykchy, where I would need to transfer to another vehicle for the village of Kochkor. A boy in the front seat turned around and started speaking to me in broken English, introducing himself as "Peter," and telling me he was going to America next summer. I later met a girl named Mira whose English was much better, but she was studying in Bishkek for now.

The road to Kochkor
The bus stopped in the small town of Bokonbayevo and we got out to stretch and chat. Our conversation continued for the next two hours on the bus to Balykchy. We followed the lake most of the way until the road curved out of sight of the deep blue waters and into a small canyon-like valley.

 

When we arrived in Balykchy, which means “fisherman,” a group of about six chunky women bombarded the van, a string of splayed, smoked fish in each hand. It was difficult to escape but I did, even without getting sticky fish scales on me. Peter and Mira helped me find a taxi to Kochkor for 100 som and after about 30 minutes, I was on my way while the others went on to Bishkek.

The small lake before Kochkor
The ride was relatively short, passing through a valley of pretty rock outcroppings and small hillocks. The backdrop was a tall mountain range that looked fake like a movie set. The road wound around a drying-up lake and it wasn’t too long before the dusty streets of Kochkor came into view. There were no towns at all between Balykchy and Kochkor.

 

The first guesthouse I walked to was located down a sketchy-looking alley across from another place just called “hotel” in Russian (and not looking any more appealing). The guesthouse was really just a house, and the owners seemed baffled that a tourist would want to come in the winter and apologized that the room was cold. I looked around and although it wasn’t exactly toasty, it was shelter and about what I’d been used to, so I took it.

 

By this time it was already 4:30 and the sun was starting to go down, so I set off to do some exploring before it was too late.

A silver Lenin, Kochkor
On the way to the mosque on the southern edge of town, I met a man named Osmon. He was about 51 and appeared to have been drinking a little, but tried to talk to me and continually offered me a place to stay. Trying to explain that I already had a place where my luggage was did no good. At first he was annoying but after awhile he became tolerable and I made another promise to send a picture when I got home. The sun was very pretty, silhouetted by low clouds and starting to set over the mountains. But otherwise I have to say I was not impressed by Kochkor. I took a side street next to the abandoned bus station and found one of the largest roadside landfills I’d ever seen. Though trash is always a problem in Central Asia, in no other town had I seen so much of it in public places.

 

Soon a group of rather pesky boys started following me, asking for money, a pen or a drink of water.

Sun setting in Kochkor
There weren’t many streets in the town and it was impossible to lose them until I got back to the main road. Almost everything was closed for the night, and the bazaar was a filthy ghost town by the time I passed it again. The museum in town was closed so the only things left to do were to have dinner and try to find an Internet club.

 

I walked about a block and a half to Café Vizit for dinner, which consisted of ganfan soup and a mediocre salad with eggs, cucumbers, chicken and mayonnaise. I also drank a whole pot of tea. A group of Kyrgyz were dancing in the middle of restaurant when I arrived, and one of them was nice enough to come to my table and help interpret the menu. She was the nicest person I met in the town. I had planned on maybe checking out the nightlife at a place strangely called Men Disco but not after the negative vibe I got from the place. After seeing the that the Internet club closed at 7pm, I just went back to my cold room, read and went to bed early while the family’s guests in the next room continued their dinner party into the night.

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Tamara and Lake Issyk-Kul
Tamara and Lake Issyk-Kul
The road to Kochkor
The road to Kochkor
The small lake before Kochkor
The small lake before Kochkor
A silver Lenin, Kochkor
A silver Lenin, Kochkor
Sun setting in Kochkor
Sun setting in Kochkor
Mountains on south side of Kochkor
Mountains on south side of Kochkor
Kochkor
photo by: Biedjee