Day 108 (1): How a good day can turn bad and a bad day can turn good
Song Kol Travel Blog› entry 149 of 260 › view all entries
The next morning the weather had cleared and the whole valley looked absolutely gorgeous. I had slept terrifically, despite being a little cold (I had come prepared for the cold, but not for the damp, and everything in the yurt had been damp due to the weather).
We set out with five people: Sophia and I started walking, while Stalbeck, Sophia's guide and his girlfriend set out on horseback. I wanted to walk at least to the top of the pass, in preparation for my Himalayas trip in a few month's time. Even though this 3400m pass pales in comparison with what awaits me in Northern India, at least it would be some practice.
Practice I needed badly, as it turned out. Even at this altitude I was already struggling with the oxygen intake. Imagine how it would be at 5000 metres!
I made slow, but steady progress.
The horsemen were considerably impatient. Sophia explained to me it had been like this for the past week. She had booked a trekking, but Kyrgyz people don't really walk. The horses had been meant as packing animals only, but her guide (and his girlfriend) spent most of the time horseriding, rather than walking and Sophia would just have to keep up with their pace.
As I finally made it to the top I said my goodbyes to Sophia and her guides. They would be going to lake Song Köl, like me, but would be staying at a different camp, so they were taking a different route to the lake.
I was sorry to see them leave.
We agreed to keep in touch, since we would both be in Karakol, in the east of Kyrgyzstan, in a couple days time. She had already pre-booked a trekking there, but I might be able to join her.
I mounted my horse again and Stalbeck and I made our way down to the lake, which lay glimmering down in the valley. The views were once again wonderful.
Unfortunately I can't say the same about the ride. Yesterday all had been fine, but after a night sleeping in a cold, damp yurt, my muscles had tensed up considerably and every step the horse did hurt me.
We made a quick stop at a yurt on the way, where I got some kymys forced down my throat (you can't really refuse such a kind offer from a local, and explaining that you absolutely loathe their national drink won't be doing you much good either).
After this break I told Stalbeck I wanted to walk again and he was visibly agitated by my decision. Sod him, I had booked a combined horse and walk trek and my butt hurt, so I was going to be walking for a few hours now.
I don't know if this had anything to do with what happened next, but at 12 noon sharp he stopped the horses and told me this was as far as he would go. Err, wot?? I didn't understand, wasn't he supposed to drop me off at a yurt at the lake shore where I would be spending the night?
He explained to me that he was only getting paid for 2.
But wait a minute, how was I going to get to my yurt? He told me that I had to walk for about 15km along the lake shore and ask around at yurts which one was mine. He had to be kidding. Unfortunately he wasn't. But what about my luggage, I tried. I wasn't packed for trekking, how was I going to carry my luggage to the yurt. “That is your problem,” he grinned, “maybe you can find a car to give you a lift”. I looked around, surprisingly the jailoo wasn't as deserted as I'd expected. Plenty of cars were braving the dirt treks and drove in between the yurts.
But what about those 2.5 days? I had paid for 3. Of which one day was indeed needed for him to ride back. Why did he only get paid for two and a half? He told me I should have booked with Shepherd's Life, another travel agency in Kochkor that he usually works for. So this was something between him and Jailoo travel then. Why was I being penalised for that? And besides, even if it was 2.5 days. We had done half a day yesterday and half a day today, so where did that other half day go? He told me he only had one horse and had to hire my horse for a full day yesterday.
None of it made sense, but whatever I did, he would not budge. In the end he just got on his horse and rode off, leaving me there in the middle of nowhere.
I picked up my two bags and started walking in the general direction of where he had pointed. I had no intention trying to find my yurt stay now, I was going to try and find a car back to Kochkor and pay a little visit to Jailoo travel about this all.
I walked for about an hour to get to the first yurt at the lake shore. In this hour I had to ford a river twice (knee-deep in the freezing water) and by the time I reached the yurt it had started to hail. Obviously this didn't improve my mood the slightest bit. Fortunately it was all to change for the better again.
I arrived at the yurt and was happy to see there was a car parked.
It was close to 1 PM, I suppose I could stand waiting a few hours. The family promptly invited me for lunch inside their yurt, where a huge pot was brewing on the stove, containing various body parts of a sheep. The pieces of meat were distributed amongst the family (10 people in total) with the best pieces going to the elderly and the foreigner. I must say, it is somewhat off-putting watching someone nibbling on a cheekbone, but I have to admit that the meat was really delicious. This was definitely the best meal I've had in Kyrgyzstan.
I spent the rest of the afternoon taking a nap out in the sun (the rains had subsided) while the family was busy shearing their sheep. Or, well, shearing.. is it still called shearing when you use scissors?
Just as promised, shortly after 16:30 we left for Kochkor. The car was an Audi 100, of which there are thousands driving around in Kyrgyzstan. No idea how these cars got here, but these four-wheel drive sedans are excellent cars for the tough roads in this country.
In total there were six of us: the owner of the car, the father of the family, his three sons and me. It was slightly cramped in the back of the car, but we managed.
The car wasn't managing as well and the engine overheated several times on the way. This meant we had some extended breaks on the way up to the pass.
After almost three hours driving we reached Kochkor. They dropped me off in front of the Jailoo Travel office. We said goodbye with hugs and everything. It had been such a special afternoon, that I almost forgot what had happened in the morning. Seeing the Jailoo logo on the front of the building brought it all back though. I walked inside, ready to wage war...