Glassy lakes, imposing mountains and spectacular glacier-studded canyons. You could be forgiven for thinking we are describing Switzerland, but as Intrepid leader Boris “Bob” Golodets explains, this is Kyrgyzstan…
“There is an impression that after the collapse of the Soviet Union former Asian republics have returned to their half wild conditions. Kyrgyzstan is a bright example, despite being politically unstable, on the brink of civil war, and struggling with poverty, corruption and production setbacks. The upside is that people are too busy struggling with each other to damage nature.
Kul means lake in Kyrgyz. Issyk Kul was a top level resort in Soviet times. Mild climate, fresh highland air, crystal clear water. It was a place for cosmonauts to have a rest and recover after the flights. Communist party bosses came here with there families. Now there are a lot of private cottages and hotels on the north part of the lake. But south side is still almost primordial appearance. The pearl of the region is Jeti-Oguz. It means ‘Seven Bulls’ – because rocks look like bulls here.
Jeti-Oguz is a raion (district) of Issyk Kul Province in north-eastern Kyrgyzstan. Some say its one the most beautiful places in the world. Intrepid travellers have said that it looks like Kyrgyz Switzerland. But better – thanks to there being few tourists and the lack of luxury hotels and invasive infrastructure. Only hills around, sun, fur trees on the slopes, cattle grazing in the valleys and highland fields.
Led by our proficient driver and local guide Sasha, our micro autobus travels through the narrow gorge alongside the fast mountain river. Further on, far from the last traces of civilization, we see picturesque rocks and meadows. We cross several narrow wooden bridges over the rushing stream. When the road becomes almost indiscernible we leave our bus and keep walking. Jumping from stone to the stone we cross the creek. We make a halt as we see the proud sign on the piece of paste board “Hotel”. We try Kumys – local drink, fermented mare milk. We take a picture with smudgy local teenagers offering ride to the waterfall on there frisky horse. We don’t have a lot of time, so politely decline. We head back to the bus, walking along the man-made path through svelte lines of birches and breathing with the full lungs fresh mountain chill.
Our pupils are wide and there are smiles on our faces long after we leave the valley. All the way along the lake shore to our next stop.
It is very rare situation that an Intrepid traveller gets to return to the same place: the world is so big and interesting, so many new places to see. But I am sure, after time has passed and in years to come, Jeti-Oguz will still hold great allure!”
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* photo by Boris Golodets