Tuesday, October 24, 2006

On the great game steps !

Здравствулте !

Yes … we know … Once again we are late … Sorry.
We left you a month ago in Kashgar in western China after an unforgettable trip from India to China through the amazing Pakistan.... direction Kyrgyzstan.

We crossed the funny Kirgyz border of Irkeshtam to reach Osh on the Uzbek border.
I welcomed the return of the sausages, Kebabs and shashliks and Danielle welcomed the arrival of fresh fruits and vegetables ... as well as enjoying the refreshing Baltika beer (numbered from 0 to 9 according the the alcohol degree).

Therefore, It was with a content belly that we made our way towards the city of Toktogul.
This small town is often skipped by the tourists which make it even more attractive. There is not much to do apart from its nice and huge lac and its small bazaar. It was exactly what we wanted; chill out in a quiet town and take it easy.

It is during our around the lac walk that we hitch hiked a donkey led by Igor and slovka who, after exhausting the donkey by carrying two additional persons, invited us for lunch in their home where we spent a couple of hours watching family pictures, drinking vodka and tea and eating bread and jam.

A couple of days later, we decided to make our way towards the nearly famous “Songkol” lac.
after a quick 3 hours bargaining, we took a shared taxi to Shamkir, which brought us half way to our destination of the day: Chayek.
After waiting a few minutes, a brand new BMW “X5 “ stopped and proposed to give us a ride. Delighted; we joined the crew composed by an Asian looking kyrgyz driver, an older Russian looking man and a blond hair, blue eye teenage girl on the back.
After a few minutes the driver was trying to buy Danielle (for an insulting price) and warned us about by a simple gesture of cutting his throat with the finger that we had to be careful in the area ... nice;
After an interesting and philosophical discussion about the number of girlfriends they both had in the same time and of course the best way to manage such situation we farewelled our new best friends in the middle of a small valley to go back on the road again !

A few hours and a couple of truck after we reached the aluminium mines of “i forgot the name” situated around 20 km south of the lac. Being too late to start this trek, we decided to camp in the area in order to get a good rest and be ready for the next day...... good rest .... sure !!!
Songkol lac, at more than 3,000 meters above sea level is one of the world's highest lakes; in addition we were at the very end of the season where cold and very cold are the only worlds to describe the temperature. So after a freezing night we had the chance to wake up under the snow ... and to make the situation a little bit more easy; our gaz stove decided this perfect timing to run out. Luckily for Danielle ‘s morning coffee; we remembered the wise advises of our dear friend Mathieu (see the Pakistan blog) : “no gaz... no problem ... use dry cow shit !!!”.... Merci Moot, the coffee was great :)

After a quick visit to Songkol where we learned that wolves where the masters of the area and that, according to one local, have been very nice to spare our lives; we headed towards the Issyk kul lake and its snowy peaks of the Tien Shan Mountains. The lake Issyk Kul literally meaning “hot lake” is said to be the world's second-largest alpine lake or second highest navigable lake in the world after lake Titicaca in South America, the lake never freezes even in winter.
After a few days spent with Rash and Gulmira in the small village of Barskoon, hoping to saddle the famous kyrgyz horses and proudly penetrate the Tien-Shan range; we unfortunately realised that our wallet was not big enough to afford the treat. Therefore, we sadly left Barskoon towards the tourist capital of Kyrgyzstan: Karakol to try a cheaper option there.

It is in Karakol that Danielle sadly learned that Ben, her younger brother, was no longer part of this life. It is with true pain that she made her way to Australia to be with her family on those difficult times. Please have a look at the following link where you will learn that thanks to his family, Ben will continue to make a difference on this word.

After Danielle’s departure, I waited for my flight to London in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek where I enjoyed the joy of the heavy police corruption, taxi fights in the early mornings, Kyrgyz style hamam with self flogging using tree leaves, and a couple of snowy trekks in the surrounding mountains of Ala Arsha.

Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country with a proud nomadic tradition. We found dry deserts, wide valleys, as well as bright coloured mountains which are so different from the different countries we crossed previously.
We have been surprised to see both Asian and Russian looking people fully interacting with each other and proudly calling themselves Kyrgyz. After 15 years of independence since the fall of the USSR; it seems that the country have many issues to deal with ... one of them being the alcoholism: vodka early shots, vodka noon booster, and vodka evening stress reductor; the all seasoned with strong beers are a daily routine for younger and older.

After a few days in London enjoying the company of our dear Anthony and his lovely second half in London, i made my way to the north of France to kiss my loved ones and catch up with a few friends.

Here we are ... next stop: Morocco.

Cheers to all,

One life,
Nicolas and Danielle