Mar 18

North of Lake (Destination: Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan)

Sat, Oct 19, 2013

Today is the official half way point of my Overland tour. It seems hard to believe the heat of Nepal was just 4.5-6 weeks ago as we are fully into autumn now. Despite the cold weather, I am thoroughly enjoying Kyrgyzstan. It was 34 degrees in the room as I woke up this morning but freezing outside. After breakfast, it took about 2 hours to come down the hill from Altyn Arashan to the Karakol town. We stopped for a short break at a bridge on the way down where I picked some ripe wild strawberries and took pictures of some delicate wildflowers.

In Karakol, we had to transfer all our stuff from the Russian monster trucks to our Overland truck. Then we had almost 2 hours free to get lunch and do some shopping in town for the next few days. I tried several of the local foods and the market/bazaar for lunch including a hot pocket filled with onions and something that I’d describe as a cold salsa soup with 2 types of noodles.

For dessert, I went to a little local bakery for a small slice of pecan pie. I feel pretty bloated from the huge meals lately but my pants are still a little looser than when I left home in September. At the supermarket, I bought a bottle of highly rated “Babushka” vodka for a little over $2. It came in a purple bottle with butterflies carved in the bottle so it must be good. I might be lugging this bottle all the way back to Seattle.

We drove for a couple hours thru some darling little towns with Russian style homes with wooden door and window frames.

The views of Lake Issyk Kul, the snowcapped mountains, and yellow and red leaves of the trees are great. We made our way to our bush camp which was in the trees and a short walk from the beach. Since there were a couple hours of daylight, I put on my shorts and flip flops and Barb and I went for a walk on the beach.

There were some night reflecting ponds and the sunset was amazing.

As I walked back to camp, I watched the huge orange full moon rise over the mountains.

It was getting chilly now that the sun was down and returning to camp meant wading thru a couple creeks that were ankle deep. It was good to get back and put on pants and socks and sit by the fire.

Dinner was “Pasta with red sauce and veggie surprise” which someone joked the surprise is there’s no meat.

Steps: 16,667

Sun, Oct 20

It was shockingly cold in the morning with frost on the ground so I stayed in bed until 8:45. We had a relaxed breakfast of pancakes and stewed apples and then about an hour free to laze around the camp. Upon departure, we could walk up the road to pick up wood while the truck made its way thru some low trees. I saw and photo’d another one of the strange red squirrels with crazy ears and then Barb and I saw a man on a donkey cart. When we asked if we could take his photo, he actually hopped off the cart and let us have our photo taken – so different from Tibet/China where they would just ask for money.

We drove to Cholpon-Ata, which the lonely planet describes as the “Cancun of Central Asia” but the town was dead since their season ends in September. The beaches were empty and the roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and power boats were silent. We stopped at a local market which would normally be buzzing but there was a festival today so only a few shops were open. Some people bought some locally made liquor, honey, and smoked fish.

We had lunch at the end of a deserted airport runway and then visited the petroglyphs outside of town. These ancient rock carvings were 1000-2500 years old. Most of them depicted animal and hunting scenes.

We drove a little bit further and found another lovely bush camp site along the northern shore of Lake Issyk Kul. After setting up, I went for a short walk and found a nice sunny spot to sit on the beach. Dinner was chicken grilled on the fire with salad, potatoes, and beets. It seems like the longer this trip goes on, the larger the meals

We had another incredible sunset and sunrise here.

Steps: 13,643

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