Day 111: To trek, or not to trek, that is the question

Karakol Travel Blog

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Karakol cathedral

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Tim & Wim (Belgium), Ralph (Netherlands), Ricky (Australia), Mark (UK), Alexandra & Andreas (Germany)

The idea was that we would start a four-day trekking today. Since we hadn't been able to do any preparations yesterday, we decided to do our shopping in the morning and head out after midday.

Tim and Wim joined some of the others to visit the animal bazaar in the morning. I couldn't be bothered, I'd seen a much bigger one in Kashgar last week, so while they were at the bazaar, I went into town to try and hire a tent.

Well, that was easier said than done. While there are several agencies that rent out tents in Karakol, none of them bothers to be open on Sundays! CBT was closed, the Karakol tourist office was closed, another independent travel agency was closed.

Karakol cathedral
I tried the Neofit guest-house, which also has a travel company attached, but got told to try Yak Tours instead.

At Yak tours I would be able to hire a tent, but only if I would join their transport to the Altyn Arashan hot springs. Yak Tours has a second hostel there and we had intended to finish our trekking there. Now they tried to convince us to do the trekking in opposite direction. According to our guidebooks this was not really recommended, since it would mean we'd have to cross the 3800m Ala-Köl pass by walking the steepest section uphill and the less steep section downhill.
Mark, the English guy, had actually done the trip in both directions (he had done a day-walk to the Ala-Köl lake from Altyn Arashan) and he told us it had been hell.

The staff at Yak Tours on the other hand kept telling us that it wasn't bad at all and in fact this direction would be much easier, they said.
Karakol cathedral
Fortunately Tim and Wim are as stubborn as I am and it was obvious that the Yak Tours staff only wanted us to join their transport to earn more money. Sod it, we're not doing that.

I'd seen an advertisement for another trekking agency and decided to check them out. I was in luck, they had a tent available. I just needed to give $ 100 as security deposit. Oh, ok, didn't have that much money on me, so back to the hostel I went.
Tim and Wim wanted to hire a sleeping mat, so they joined me back to the trekking company. Bad news though, they only had one tent, and it was reserved for tomorrow. Bugger, now what?
I asked the guy if he could call one of his colleagues. Surely everybody must know everybody in this town. He didn't know anyone. We provided him with the number for CBT and he grudgingly made the call.
French fries with mayonaise, one of the many reasons why kept coming back to the Blue Café
The CBT person on duty was out in the mountains, so he couldn't help. I asked if there was no one else we could try, but the guy from the trekking company replied:
“You should have booked a guided tour with us.”
Erm, yeah, that was exactly what I didn't want to do. I'm somewhat fed up with guided tours in this country.
One of their guides was also present and he was able to answer some questions for us. We bought a good trekking map from him and asked him for good camping spots. When Wim asked him what the conditions of the track were, since he had heard some fresh snow had fallen recently the guide got really cross with him. “if you want to know such things you should book a tour with us” and with that he walked off.
Gheez, what is it with people in this country?

We decided to discuss the options over lunch.
Karakol bazaar
I opted that Tim and Wim would head off without me. They had camping and cooking gear with them in the car, they didn't have to wait for me. After all, it had been my own conscious decision NOT to take my tent this trip (which I still don't regret - I would only have been able to use it once on this trip so far). The guys were all too happy to postpone the trek for a day though. The early morning trip to the livestock bazaar, coupled with the alcohol intake of the recent days, had made them lose their lust for walking. Besides, it was already getting late anyway.

We would be better off to leave tomorrow morning and then do a three-day trek instead. While this would mean we wouldn't be able to make it to Ala-Köl and Altyn-Arashan (apparently very scenic places) we could now do a trek to the Jeti-Öghüz valley. I had planned on visiting this valley the day after our trek, so this would mean there was nothing left in the area which I wanted to see and I could actually join Tim and Wim all the way to Almaty. Hmm, this wasn't turning out all too bad in the end.

We didn't do much else that day. We had another lovely dinner at the Blue Café with Ralph, Mark, Alexandra and Andreas. All the others had already left Karakol.

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Karakol cathedral
Karakol cathedral
Karakol cathedral
Karakol cathedral
Karakol cathedral
Karakol cathedral
French fries with mayonaise, one o…
French fries with mayonaise, one …
Karakol bazaar
Karakol bazaar
photo by: Biedjee