Another fun weekend adventure! This time we were headed to Jeti-Oguz (means ‘7 bulls’) for a little trip organized by our friend AJ and his organization, Eco-Trek. They had asked us to help them with a couple things including documenting the accommodations and a couple hikes with photos and GPS tracks. We were helping them put together some packages to give to their clients to offer a better product. In exchange, they put us up in their yurt camp and arranged for the transport out there.
We head out from Balykchy and stopped by Cholpon Ata to watch some of the World Nomad Games. It was pretty fun and really an impressive event for Kyrgyzstan, a couple dozen countries were there participating including the US with 5 PCVs forming a Kokuz Torgol team (a strategy game similar to mancala.) We weren’t there long and some other PCVs wrote about it more, you can read Shaun or Anna’s blogs to here more about the event. Also, here is a short video showing the opening ceremonies.
After the horse games we went to Karakol and stayed with AJ. The next morning we walked with him to his office and his director drove us up to his yurt camp in Jeti-Oguz. We didn’t really have an idea of what to expect as things here tend to be a little (a lot really) less consistent than we’re used to at home but this just lends to the adventure. The drive became very beautiful as we headed up towards the mountains, passing the small village of Jeti-Oguz before the road cut through a scenic, narrow river gorge. As the road opened up into a large valley we saw many other yurt camps, this is a very popular destination for both local and foreign tourists. Arriving at the yurt camp, we were given a brief tour of our very nice yurt (with the best looking bed I’ve seen in a yurt yet and power!) as well as the toilet (not an outhouse) and shower… yep, this would do. We unpacked our bags and took a look at my map to figure out where to head. The GPS showed a waterfall nearby so we followed the road that direction. After a bit of confusion we found the correct cow path that represented the trail we were supposed to follow. Heading up the fill the cow path turned into a real trail and we began passing Russian tourists and Kyrgyz people picking juniper (the branches do all kinds of magic but you can’t have a juniper tree on your property as it will sap the life from your family.
Our timing worked out well and we had the waterfall to ourselves. It wasn’t spectacular but pretty nice and the best we’ve seen in the country yet. We took some photos and headed back, documenting the route for future Eco-Trek clients to more easily find it. I was hoping to take some star shots that night but the clouds had been coming in all afternoon so it looked like that may not happen. Arriving back at the yurt camp we met some French tourists who were also staying at the yurt camp and had a pretty great dinner. Luckily after dinner the clouds had blown past us and the nearly full moon illuminated everything so well headlights weren’t needed. I grabbed my camera and happily shot photos for an hour. I love Kyrgyz night skies.
The next morning we ate and headed down the valley. Our target was a lake perhaps 5 miles that we were shown on a map by tuk.kg although the map lacked enough detail to be positive about where it was. The trail was initially a road but there were no cars and it was a very easy and pleasant walk through the beautiful valley, past summer residents and yurt camps. The Jeti-Oguz river winds back and forth through the valley creating great background noise and always changing views. After a few miles we reached a bend in the valley, to the left a steep trail leads to mountain passes and eventually Altyn Arashan which we previously visited. We headed to the right past a yurt in the most ideal spot imaginable, to continue down the main valley.
The pleasant scenery turned striking as soon as we passed the yurt. The 15.5k’ Mt Dzhigit stands directly at the end of the valley and the remaining 4 miles was spent walking with the mountains growing ever larger. We passed the spot I thought the lake should have been and then quite a bit farther, the lake from the map was no longer there. Trails led up from both sides of the valley and one to the right looked perfect to add a couple more miles. We tried to cross the river numerous times but couldn’t find a place less than 18 inches deep. We stopped near the end of the valley and lunch along the river before heading back to our camp. We ended up hiking 14.5 miles for the day and took a well-earned nap when we got back. In the evening we talked for a bit with a couple of Belgium tourists who were planning on a long hike that would take seven days, definitely something I want to do next year.
The next morning we needed to walk all the way down to the sanatorium (basically a Russian version of a spa) in the little village. After breakfast, we began the easy walk down the road, taking more photos for Eco-Trek along the way. Halfway down we passed a sign for a cave and took a look. It was an exploratory mine or something like that and wasn’t much to look at, there was a bizarre figure at the end though… Just before reaching the village our host father called and was in the area. He offered to give us a ride home (otherwise it would have taken 2 taxis and a 4 hour marshrutka ride) and obviously we said yes. He was a couple hours away so we explored the area and the sanatorium (which was super Soviet and didn’t seem relaxing at all.) Soon Nurlan arrived and in just over 2 hours (would have taken us 6-7 on our own) we were back. Probably the ‘smoothest’ weekend we had, for once just about everything seemed to work out here.