Issyk-Ata Winter Camping

Close up of the mountain

In keeping up my ruse that I don’t actually work here and only travel and play, here’s some photos from my short backpacking trip to Issyk-Ata with my buddy Andrew.

Winter Trip to Naryn

Map of Kyrgyzstan

It’s been a bit since our last blog post but we’re still alive and mostly healthy (it’s a bit hard to eat how we’d like to here in winter.)  Continuing our mission to see the entire country, we planned a trip to Naryn, the highest and coldest of all oblasts in Kyrgyzstan.  I asked my counterpart, Nurlan who is from Naryn, when the best time to go would be and he immediately suggest January.  Knowing he wouldn’t steer us wrong we picked a weekend, hopped in a taxi and headed to Naryn city.

Naryn city turned out to be surprisingly close.  The road isn’t great but our driver seemed to not mind pushing his ancient car to its limit, constantly bottoming out when we hit bumps.  Forty-five minutes into the ride and into the first pass, the road is covered in snow (not that it slowed our driver down.)  Once in Naryn City we met up with another PCV, David, set down our bags and took a little tour of Naryn.  We really liked the city and it was nice to walk around and not have all the vendors attempting to talk to us in Russian.  They don’t really get many tourists in Naryn so they don’t have the instinct to switch to Russian when they see white people.  We stopped by the bazaar, ice skating rink(s), saw a hockey game and the normal Lenin statues.

Friendly animals
We quickly noticed how friendly the cows are in At-Bashi, this one wanted to say hi to Taylor

The next day we found a taxi to At-Bashi to visit some other volunteers.  By coincidence we ended up in a taxi with an English teacher who was a little bit confused as to why we chose January for our first visit to Naryn and kept telling us we must come back in summer.  We were enjoying it though, we don’t get any snow where we live so it’s fun to be in the snow for a bit.  After arriving we had some tea with our friend Tamera and her host-mom before taking a tour of At-Bashi.  We walked through the village to the Sunday animal bazaar which was pretty entertaining.  There are hundreds of bazaars in Kyrgyzstan but they all feel a bit different somehow.  At-Bashi is the highest and coldest village that volunteers live I believe and the cold air felt great.  Even the animals seemed well-adapted for the weather, they had the furriest cows I’ve ever seen.

Our last day in At-Bashi we went to the volunteers’ worksites before getting lunch at the new pizza parlor right next to the giant horse-head statue where you can find free wifi sitting in the park (there are so many odd things here.)  We had lunch with another PCV, Jonathan, and talked about some ideas for hiking/climbing trips nearby (he lives in the best place to hike in KG, IMO.) Appetite satiated, we found another taxi, which is always fun here, and headed back to Naryn City.  That evening we met a former PCV who convinced me I need to spend a few weeks in India (sorry mom, I guess I’m pushing my return home back even more!)

Naryn is awesome!  Of course it’s not the best oblast, that would be Issyk-Kul but we loved our trip there and will be back soon!

Issyk-Ata (winter came to Kyrgyzstan)

After our trip to Almaty we met up with the Australian couple (they write at Yomadic) that’s been living here for a few weeks for a trip to Issyk-Ata.  Issyk-Ata is ‘famous’ for the mineral geothermal hotsprings and of course they contain all types of magical healing powers.  Hailing from Soviet times, Kyrgyzstan has many sanatoriums and this is one of the more popular ones.  Normally this is a summer destination but it’s beautiful in winter and we had a really good day.  Photos:

P.S. This trip happened a few weeks ago.  A lot has been going on since then so I just now had time to post this.  In the meantime, full on winter has arrived meaning skiing, icy roads and those crazy winds in Balykchy they warned us about.  More to come!

The details on getting to Issyk-Ata:

Getting to Issyk-Ata is easy as a public marshrutka leaves the East Bus Station in Bishkek on a regular schedule.  Currently, buses leave at 8:30, 10:00, 11:30, 13:30, 17:00 or 18:00.  The ride takes approximately 90 minutes and will cost about 70 som.  There is a schedule posted when you arrive to Issyk-Ata of when rides back to Bishkek will depart.  At the bus station there is not a sign in English, so you can’t read Cyrillic, ask where the Issyk-Ata marshrutka is.