Day 107: On horseback
Jumgal Travel Blog› entry 148 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Sophia (France)
Let me start by saying that I am not much of a horse rider. I never had any proper lessons, but I can generally manage to make a horse start and stop and steer. In all my life I have maybe ridden horses for no more than 10 or 15 hours combined - all of which was while travelling. The last time I sat on a horse I couldn't walk for three days afterwards, so why I signed up for a three day horse trek, don't ask me.
Well, ok, the three day trek would only involve two days of horse-riding, totalling no more than 4 hours on horseback per day. And besides, I was planning on walking part of the route as well, so I figured I would be fine.
My guide, a chap named Stalbeck Kaparbekov, seemed nice enough, even if he didn't speak a word of English and was suffering badly from hay fever (the latter of which wouldn't contribute to his niceness, obviously, but it certainly didn't improve his mood either).
A car from Jailoo travel drove me to his home stay in the town of Jumgal, where I enjoyed an extensive lunch first, before we set out on horseback.
My horse was a wonderful beast. It appeared to be well fed, well groomed, well trained. Definitely a big change from my other horse riding experiences where I usually end up on a horse which will only walk if there's another horse in front of it.
The first couple of hours were fantastic, galloping over the jailoos (summer pastures) amidst stunning scenery.
I was really enjoying myself. My horse was very calm and well-trained and it really felt as if I was doing some properly horse riding. Well, until it threw me off, that was. Completely out of the blue the horse decided it had enough and started to try and throw me off.
Stalbeck went after my horse, which had run away, and it took him the best part of 30 minutes to catch it again.
No idea what had happened, but after the incident the horse was as tame as before again. Well, until it tried to throw me off again! This time I managed to control the horse, and I also found out what caused the sudden change in behaviour. It happened each time it started raining and I wanted to put on my rain coat. The sound of the material, coupled with a big black shape unfolding behind its head, had freaked the horse out.
All afternoon there had been menacing clouds in the distance and throughout our ride we had a few droplets of rain. When we were nearing the yurt where we would be spending the night it really burst. We ended up galloping the last few kilometres, but could not prevent arriving completely soaked.
We were welcomed by the family where we would be staying and I was ushered my own yurt. To my surprise there was another tourist in there: Sophia, a French lady on an eight-day guided trekking to Song Köl. I was happy to have some company, since I wasn't particularly looking forward to spending two nights in a yurt on my own, with no one to talk to.
Sophia was equally happy: “finally someone to talk to” she exclaimed. I was the first foreigner she had met in six days.
She had booked her trekking with CBT and I was shocked when she showed me the prices she had paid for her accommodation. I felt 350 Som (about 9 euros) was already expensive for a yurt stay, but she had been charged 600 Som per night for the same yurt stays. Incredible.
Inevitably the conversation turned to the prices CBT charges and Sophia's guide seemed quite irritated that I had booked with their competitor instead. “Those people from Jailoo used to work for CBT” he explained. “And now they have started their own business and stolen our trekking routes.”
I decided not to vent my opinion on the subject matter any further. I was happy I hadn't booked with CBT. Though that happiness would soon fade (these cliffhangers are getting a bit boring, aren't they?)