Day 109 (1): Genie said: you could have three wishes, if you don't wait too long

Cholpon Ata Travel Blog

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Cemetary near Cholpon Ata

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Tim & Wim (Belgium)

I'd had enough. The issues with Jailoo travel, coupled with less than spectacular experiences in this country so far, made me decide to cut my stay short and head for Kazakhstan instead. I didn't like it here. The experiences in this country made me feel miserable. My taxi out of Kochkor was another one: taxi drivers know all too well there are no buses running so tourists are forced to stick to shared taxis for transportation. So they charge foreigners about five times the going rate to get anywhere. Fuck it, it had been a mistake coming here, I should have stuck with plan B and travelled through China to Kazakhstan instead.

Cemetary near Cholpon Ata

I decided to travel to Karakol today, not to complete my collection of villages called Karakol, but because it was described as the highlight of Kyrgyzstan, with plenty of trekking possibilities in the area. I still wanted to do a trekking, so I figured I'd go to Karakol, try to book myself on a trekking, perhaps together with Sophia, who would be arriving in Karakol in a few days, and if it didn't work out I could be in Kazakhstan within a day.

I'd been reading other travel blogs about Kyrgyzstan on Travbuddy and one in particular had struck me. Über-Travbuddy Deats wrote about similar experiences... only in Tajikistan. That was so weird, I had loved Tajikistan. When reading his blogs I noticed that he was complaining about the exact same things as I complained about in Kyrgyzstan: over-priced home stays, unfriendly people, rip-offs and poor value deals.
Temporary fix for the broken radiator fan (the solution didn't really work though)
How could my experience in Tajikistan have been so different? Then I realised that all the highlights of Tajikistan had had something to do with travelling with Tim and Wim. Because we had been travelling with our own transport we did not have to put up with overpriced transportation or poor value home stays. We had met loads of lovely people because we stopped at places which aren't necessarily on the standard tourist trail. I realised that travelling with your own transport in this region makes a world of difference. Damn I missed those guys!

I kid you not, the above thoughts were crossing my mind as I sat in the shared taxi and at exactly that point I spotted a very familiar car on the horizon. No, it couldn't be. They were supposed to be on their way to Almaty by now. I looked again to make sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me.
Tim and Wim - they haven't changed a bit since I last saw them!
They weren't. That was definitely the Volkswagen van Tim and Wim were travelling with.
“Step on it!” I told the driver. “Please overtake that van in the distance!”

My driver did not understand why a tourist would want to overtake another car, but like any driver in this region he was more than happy to drive even faster than he already did. As we drove past, honking loudly, I hung outside the window and waved. Just like me, moments earlier, Tim and Wim could not believe their eyes. We stopped and my fellow passengers must have thought I was utterly mad. What was this tall bald guy doing hugging two weird looking long-haired, bearded lads?

Tim and Wim were on their way to Balykchy, where they had to shop for some car parts, after which they wanted to drive on to Karakol.
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
My shared taxi was also heading for Balykchy, where I would have to change to a bus or taxi to Karakol. I popped the obvious question: “Could I perhaps join you guys?”

I need not have asked. Of course I was more than welcome to join, so I transferred my luggage to the Volkswagen van and joined Tim and Wim on the front seat. It was like coming home again.

At Balykchy, on the western shore of the grand lake Issyk-Köl, we stopped for an hour and a half to replace a broken radiator fan and we were on our way again.
Our next stop was the town of Cholpon-Ata, where we had lunch. Cholpon-Ata is sometimes dubbed the Benidorm of Kyrgyzstan. This is the place where wealthy Russians and Kazakhs spend their summer holidays.

On the road to Cholpon-Ata we had seen several cars with Russian license plates, packed with whole families, luggage and inflatable animals, ready to go on the summer holiday of their lives.
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
This really is for the Russians what the Spanish and French coasts are for the Dutch. Only a slightly longer drive.

But what makes Cholpon-Ata so great? You tell me. It is basically a one-street town (a street which lies a bloody long way from the beach too) and a couple of beaches. There isn't a whole lot of development either. I'm sure there are a few resorts here and there, but we didn't see any. I can understand why these days Russians flocks en masse to Turkey and Egypt instead.

Apparently the president of Kyrgyzstan has a summer home here as well, right at the beach, which inevitably brings extra security and makes a stroll along the beach impossible.

We had a nice lunch in a Korean restaurant. We were actually looking for something else, but when we saw this place the choice was easy. After weeks of plov and dumplings this was a very welcome change.

After lunch we headed off again, hoping to make Karakol before dark.

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Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Temporary fix for the broken radia…
Temporary fix for the broken radi…
Tim and Wim - they havent changed…
Tim and Wim - they haven't change…
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cemetary near Cholpon Ata
Cholpon Ata beach
Cholpon Ata beach
Cholpon Ata beach
Cholpon Ata beach
Cholpon Ata: what a change of scen…
Cholpon Ata: what a change of sce…
The beach road in Cholpon Ata
The beach road in Cholpon Ata
Cholpon Ata beach
Cholpon Ata beach
Lake Issyk-Köl
Lake Issyk-Köl
Lake Issyk Köl
Lake Issyk Köl
Cholpon Ata
photo by: Biedjee