Day 110: A 'traditional' day
Karakol Travel Blog› entry 153 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Tim & Wim, Jan & Lenie (Belgium), Ralph (Netherlands), Tina, Tine, Ana & Stine (Denmark), Mark (UK), Alexandra & Andreas (Germany), Ricky (Australia), Alex & Kirk (Canada)
Tim and Wim moved to the Yak Tours hostel, but I decided to stay at the Neofit guest-house instead. The guys could sleep in the car for next to nothing, but if I had to take a dorm bed in the hostel, I'd pay almost the same as at Neofit. Neofit might not be a nice place, but at least it is a lot cleaner than Yak Tours.
The people we had met yesterday had told us of an event that would take place. Every year at Independence Day (August 31st) Karakol hosts a sporting event with traditional horse games.
While find it appalling that a traditional, national event can be moved at the whim of a group of tourists, I was also happy to be able to witness the event.
With Rosie, Tim and Wim's car, full of people we set out to the field where this was supposed to take place. As it turned out it was not going to be held at the place listed in the Lonely Planet (possibly because of the date change) and we soon found out not a single local was aware of the event either. Jan, the Belgian guy we had met, had received some instructions from CBT, but they turned out to be useless, so we asked some people in the streets, but no one was aware of any horse games today.
In the end a couple of old geezers figured they could earn some money here and they joined us in the car. We drove to CBT and had the staff explain them where we had to go. They led us to a small field on a hill, way out of town. We were the first ones to arrive. There were some locals with horses, but for the rest there was not a lot happening.
About an hour later some more tourists had arrived. Some by taxi, some walking, some with an air-conditioned mini bus. Some locals had showed up too, but as far as audience was concerned the tourists outnumbered the locals two to one.
We were welcomed by a representative of the local CBT who told us he was happy with the outcome (about 50 paying tourists, I reckoned) and he told that such a turn-out meant they would be able to hold the event on its regular day, August 31st, as well.
The main reason why we had come here was to see the famous national sport Kok Boru, which is a kind of rugby played on horseback, with a headless goat as ball. We had heard the event would start at 11:00, and we hoped they would get on with it because we wanted to go on a trekking tomorrow and still had to do some shopping.
Alas, it soon became clear this was not going to be a swift event. The announcer told us the Kok Boru game would be held in the afternoon, but first they would demonstrate the building of a yurt. Yay, a yurt demonstration. Don't get me wrong, it is interesting to see a yurt being built, but I had seen it in Tajikistan already (and in Mongolia as well). And erecting a yurt takes about three to five hours.
The CBT guy had the brilliant idea that all people present would help with the building of the yurt, but this only resulted in a rather tilted structure, which collapsed the moment people let go of the sticks that hold up the roof.
The next demonstration was a musical demonstration. Two men and a lady demonstrated some local instruments, which were all called 'kumus' or something like that. One particular kumus, a three-stringed guitar-like instrument sounded quite good, and it was played with true Jimi Hendrix style acrobatics: behind the head, with teeth, upside down, etc.
Then it was time for the equestrian sports. No, not kok boru yet, but first Kyz-Kumay, kiss-the-girl. This is an ancient ceremony where a man chases a woman on horseback, trying to catch her and kiss her. The girl here was not a local girl, but instead a German volunteer working at CBT.
Two more demonstrations were given: udarysh, horseback wrestling, where two man wrestle to try and throw the other off their horse, and tiyin enmei, where contestants try to pick up coins off the ground while galloping at high speed. Especially the latter resulted in some spectacular falling off horses.
Then it was time for what we had come to see: Kok boru. A fresh goat was decapitated and its hoofs cut off, and two groups of eight horsemen then embarked in a brawl trying to score by throwing the goat into a hole in the ground, which marked the goal.
Although it all took a lot longer than planned, it had been a lovely day out in the sun. We even got fed (plov, what else?) and Tim and I had made a quick trip back to town to buy some cold beers, which was the perfect accompaniment for the food and the games.
At night we went out for dinner again with the whole group again. I think we were about 15 in total. We went to a different place this time, a relatively small, nameless chaikhanah (which we dubbed Blue Café for its blue exterior). There was one lovely Kyrgyz girl who spoke some English and she did a great job serving a large group of rowdy backpackers.
Inevitably we ended up at the Yak Tours hostel again for more drinks into the dead of night.