Sunday, 31 July 2011

Some ponies and leaving Djety Oguz

Dawn at the camp ground 

One of the stallions

The bridges we left by (the guardian of the mountain asked that we all got out when Asima went over the bridges.

Sign for Djety Oguz


Good humour restored (or: pony ride in Djety Oguz makes me happy)

I was quite glad to be in the second shift of riders. It has been quite some time since I rode last. I hoped the horses would be good and tired. 

The others returned from their ride and we got the run down on which were sleepy and which were peppy. The mother and daughter going with us had ridden a little and wanted the sleepy ones. I was going to be put on a sprightly little chestnut mare who had been voted best by the first group of riders. Imagine my delight when a new chap rode up on a chestnut stallion and our guide pointed to me and said 'Are you a good rider?' (I couldn't answer. My first instinct is to say 'No', because I know good riders)

I swung up into the saddle and was trembling with nerves. I'd never ridden a stallion before, let alone one you had to be a good rider for.

It turned out I needn't have worried. My boy was lazier even than my horse I had at school with me. We were warned to keep the two stallions apart. The other was a deep bay with a very handsome face. He did try and take a few chunks out of us, but my boy wasn't slightly interested in being a stallion. He was lazy and good natured and just a little bit clumsy. We understood each other perfectly. He also let me be the alpha mare.

We rode up the valley along the snow-melt swollen river towards the glacier. I have never felt more cross about forgetting to take my camera somewhere. Imagine towering blue skies and green hills reaching up, sprinkled with the darker green of the spruces. The sun was hot on our skin, but not burning. There were birds wheeling and herds of sheep and healthy fat mares and foals. Daisies grew in wild little flashes of purple and orange and gold. The river tumbled down beside us, foaming and grey-green.

I rode about half way with no stirrups because they were short enough to make my knees ache. I sauntered back into camp like that, well behind the others because my boy wasn't interested in picking up his pace just to keep up with them and I enjoyed riding alone for a little.

One of the girls who had stayed behind in camp commented that I looked very comfortable on a horse, which made me enormously happy. And I was quite useful on the ride when the bridle fell off one of the mares and I was the one who could get it back on.

I have now tried mare's milk.

After the sweaty horse riding, I went for a swim/wash in the snow melt with Tash. Freezing, but awesome and far more efficient than trying to wash out of a water bottle in the desert. We walked through the spruces and each step brought smells of earth and pine needles and moss and mushrooms. 

We got bak just before a massive storm hit and the cook group made an amazing stew and a cheesy, garlicky, herby mashed potato.

All in all, the perfect day.

Djety Oguz

The next photo stop was for the 'seven falls'. Spectacular, but I failed to get a decent shot of it. I have to stop taking pictures of Asima.

I took a shot of the ponies up in the hills because there was a beautiful golden one. You see a lot of horses that are either blatantly metallic, or have that sheen to them. 

We crossed a number of little wooden bridges. After the first two, I had to close my eyes.

Ponies. If you love horses, Kyrgyzstan is the place to come. I have already indulged in a little fantasy where I come back here with my friend Jayne and we run pony treks through the mountains.

Yurt and children on a pony.

Checking the dirt.


Leaving the bush camp at Chong Kemin and driving to Djety Oguz

A final shot of dawn at the Chong Kemin campsite.

Some Kyrgyz clouds, they do them well here.

As we travelled along the north shore of Lake Issey-Kul, we passed many people selling golden apricots in buckets on the side of the road. It is my deep wish to buy a bucket of apricots and eat them, ripe and sweet, until I feel quite sick.

Brent petrol

We had two stops for photos, the first at 'broken heart' where some guys saw us coming and offered us birds of prey to have our picture taken with in exchange for money. They use these guys for hunting up here.


I was trying to take a picture of Andy holding the large bird, but slipped and got the broken heart instead.

Chong Kemin, Kyrgyzstan

We were supposed to stay at Chong Kemin for two nights, but we had the extra night in Bishkek after being broken down all day. It really was all day. The boys didn't get in until about 9 or 10 at night. They were filthy, and I got some great shots of them, bright blue eyes staring out of dusty, tired faces, but it doesn't seem fair to post them on the internet.

I am secretly glad that we didn't have a full day at Chong Kemin, because it was bloody hot and had limited shade.

The photos here are:

A picture of a bit of local vegetation, growing on the side of the road in Bishkek. 

Checking the dirt

A pony and a bird.

Then we have the ponies arriving. 

The one I rode (hopefully mum won't notice that he is not wearing a bit. I was totally safe, it just took a bit of arm power to get him to slow up).

Some children and some scenery.

The first morning in Djety Oguz

I am sitting on the root of a blue spruce, looking out across the clearing where our green Dragoman tents look like they've sprung up out of the turf. Loads of people have left to make the full day walk up to the glacier (for some reason I keep wanting to put a capital letter on glacier). I am waiting here for the second shift of pony riding. Eight people want to ride today, but we could only get four horses. One stallion and three heavily pregnant mares. I suspect today's ride will be quite sedate. It is probably just as well. I am still bruised from the short burst of speed and the unfortunately positioned metal studs on the last ride.The saddles today look very well padded.

It has been quite a week. There are a few larger than life characters on the truck. I am fighting the urge to slag people off. In fact, I've had to do what I used to do when writing school reports. Write out what I want to say and then start afresh writing what I am allowed to say.

It is hot in the sun, but there is a gentle cool breeze here under my spruce. We had omelettes for breakfast and, later, there will be a pony ride.

I am going to go now and pour mate for the driver who is fixing the truck. I have been trained in the art of mate pouring for just such an emergency and I don't mind doing it, because I get every second one. I am slowly becoming addicted to it. I love the way the metal straw burns against my lip. I love the slightly bitter liquid that promises caffeine. I love the ritual of pouring and passing.

breakdown and bakalava


We camped near Bishkek at Ala-Archa so that we could come back to get our Uzbeki and Kazak visas. The camp sites on this leg have never been less than amazing, and they just keep getting better.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Back in Bishkek

Today has been a breakdown day.

We camped in the mountains near Bishkek last night so that we could return this morning to organise our Uzbeki visas at the embassy which is closed most of the time.

That took about an hour longer than the hour expected. Then Tash asked Juan if he'd looked under the truck. There had been an ominous BANG while we were drivng and Tash had noticed Asima making a different noise after.

Juan returned looking grim and went straight, to Al. The back leaf spring was broken, less than a week after the front one went.

Initially they hoped it would take four hours to fix. That has been extended to eight.

I am not fussed by a slow day in Bishkek. Partly because I have recovered most of my 'lookonthebrightsideofeverything'-ness that was largely lost during teaching. Partly because I don't read the itinerary, so I have no idea what I'm 'missng'. Partly because of something I find a little odd.

To explain. A few nights ago, a friend commented that she was surprised at how well I was coping, given I don't like change. A little bit that was China, which feels pretty familiar now. Mostly, it's the truck. Asima feels like home. Especially now that  have spent so many nights sleeping in her. Where she goes, there go I. I'm not bothered that we are not going anywhere, because we are not going anywhere together.

She, and the two Johns who started with me in Bangkok, and the drivers, Al and Juan, are my constants. I don't need anything else to feel comfortable and happy.

God help me once we reach Istanbul and I'm on my own again.

For now, I am going to sit in Fatboys, drink cider and wait.

Ara ache, yesterday

I feel just abut perfectly happy. We are camped in the mountains. Alice and I have just been for a swim in a glacier fed spring. My whole body is tingling. I am relatively healthy. They have real bread here. I don't have to make any decisions about anything until at least Thursday. I am lying in the grass watching Al clean the kettle amd Alice clean a pot and Juan fix the truck. I am completely indolent. And thre is some Dove chocolate in my bag.

Last night I rallied enough to go to Fatboys. I had a go at eating mushroom pizza and managed nearly three slices, which gave me enough pep to play in the pool with the others.

On the walk home we got 'pulled over' by the police. We were about fifty metres from the hotel. They wanted to see our passports, which were all in the hotel. They showed us their pistols and started patting the boys down. I kept one of the boys between me and the three policemen. I didn't know whether I was more worried about the way I'd react if they touched me as intimately as they groped the boys or about the amount of currency I had zipped in the inside pocket of my bag.

The boys kept smiling and talking about Massey (sp?) and we kept edging down the road until we got away.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Bishkek, or a day of recovery.

Today feels like it has been full of big achievements, but it boils down to eating breakfast, going for a swim in the pool and taking a shower. In a few moments I will go to the bank.

One of the girls who is leaving the trip today is an amazing photographer and is keeping a blog of her travels. She has an amazing shot of Kyrgyzstan up, but hasn't posted the pictures from China, yet. I am excited for when they go up. As well as her photos being stunning, it will be nice to see the trip from another point of view.

Kochkor to Bishkek (don't read the last bit if you don't want to read about that stuff that often happens to travellers when they are travelling [and sorry mum, I know you don't like it when I mention this sort of stuff]).

Not long after dawn outside the homestay in Kochkor. The local roosters actually thought that dawn was at 5.30 am. They were probably right. I knew they thought this because I slept in the truck again last night.

 Breakfast. Oh my god it was marvellous. As much tea as you could drink and bread and cheese and pancakes and raspberry jam and preserved apricots. I ate until I felt a little bit unwell, which was funny, because later in the day I felt seriously unwell.

 The chairs in the dining room had log cabin cushions.

 And here we have the felt 'museum' in Kochkor. Everything was for sale (except for the buttons). Notice the wedding dress.

 Some tough decisions being made.

 I took some photos and got the hell out of dodge. We will be going back there next Sunday, I will get a little felt doll Christmas ornament then. That is all. I can't carry the rest. I will not look at the antique saddle and bridle set for $1500.

 The town where we stopped to get supplies for lunch. Everything felt so strangely western. I am learning the alphabet and starting to pattern match names to places where you can get food.

 I started feeling a bit peculiar at this stage. I took a picture of the bear because I felt sure he was looking at me. Everyone disapproves of him not having a name. Al suggested Bertie, but Bruce is winning from sheer repetition by one of the Johns.

 There are many random statues. Some of the most random (like half a person pulling a cart) we have already passed and I wasn't quick enough to get a photo.

 I can't remember if this shot was before or after we stopped for lunch. I started feeling seriously odd and made the other people on cook group do all the preparation for lunch while I lay on the truck.

The last few hours into Bishkek are a blurry, sweaty, uncomfortable haze of sphincter control and nausea. We arrived at the hotel and that was it. It was all The Day My Bum Went Psycho. The Johns and Al looked after me though, so there were no embarrassing public incidents.

When I went through my first aid kit, trying to work out which antibiotics I should take, I found a helpful note from my fabulous travel doctor. "Giardia generally causes excess wind which is offensive, burping often with the taste of bad egg". There had been no offensive wind, but I had been burping bad eggs since just before we drove off the road to set up for lunch. So I have downed a course of Tinidazole and now have my fingers crossed that I will be well enough to swim in the hotel pool tomorrow. Or that I'll ever feel like eating again.

From the first Kyrgyz bush camp to the Kochkor homestay

 Sunrise at the bush camp.


 Roof seats in use.


 I know I shouldn't even take photos of these, let alone post them.

 I don't think you can see her, but there is a woman milking that cow near the house.


 Gypsy caravan.

 Valley with blue spruce.

 Ponies and small child running (blurrily out the bus window).

Another gypsy caravan. I wish that I had taken a shot of the one where a little boy was sitting on the top step and his little sister was sitting on the step below. She was in a bright pink tracksuit and he was putting her hair up in pig tails. Unfortunately, I started feeling car sick (a first for me) and had to spend some time concentrating on keeping the contents of my stomach from making any rash exits. Given what has happened today, maybe it was a foreshadowing of what was to come.



Ponies (anyone sensing a pattern?)

 Proof I was here with the mountains.

 The mountains.