Into the Mountains – Part Three
Our hunger satiated by dried fruit, nuts, and cookies, we started the trek down to the lake accompanied by two French people. Not sure what the general consensus is regarding hiking, but I would say going up is much more enjoyable than going down—especially with a 30 kg backpack. Call me masochistic, but would much preferred to have continued going up.
Word on the street in Bishkek had told us that there were yurt (felt tents) camps up at the lake that we could stay at. If you let your imagination run wild for a second, a yurt camp could be pretty cool. I could see sheep herding, horseback riding, and mutton eating contests as the standard day time activities. Or perhaps kymyz brewing would be on the list.
As we made our way closer to the lake it became all too obvious that what we were approaching was not so much a lake, but a haphazard collection of yurts. Each had at least 200 metres between it and the next one. What a change from city life. We could see smoke coming from a couple and some children running about. Apparently the shepherds were further up the mountain with the grazing sheep.
It wasn’t exactly warm, either. We had a cold night ahead of us unless we could convince a family to let us use one of their yurts. It was right around now that I thanked the Soviet Union for mandating its citizens to learn Russian. Sometimes things are much easier explained than mimed.
After intense negotiations over cream, moldy bread, and kymyz, we got settled into our yurt. We ended up with the standard variety. Round, covered with canvas, insulated with felt, equipped with a stove, a barrel for kymyz, and a radio. Not surprisingly, this is almost exactly what you would find in a Mongolian yurt.
We were literally in the middle of nowhere. No electricity, no mobile coverage, no traffic, no bazaars. Nothing. Just peace and quiet. It is at this time when you ask yourself: what exactly does one do up here if you’re not working the land, herding sheep, cooking, or fishing?