Monday, June 9, 2008

Hiking with the kids.

Lara and I had a lovely hiking trip with a couple of local youth this weekend. It was arranged by a local tourism company, and for about $30.00 we got food for the weekend and transportation to and from the trailhead.

We met at the tourism office in downtown Bishkek around 3PM on Friday, and then hopped into a Minibus with 5 Kyrg youth and Medina, of the tourism company's employees. Two hours of ghastly driving in the hot bus, and we were in the mountains putting on our backpacks. We split up the group gear and food, and started our hike.

The hike started near a partially constructed building which is apparently going to be a trekking lodge. Our goal was to mark a trail and the kids had some spraypaint along which they used to make marks on rocks. The weren't the first to do so, and a times there were several arrows pointing in different directions depending on who had marked the trail before and which way they had gone. Not that it mattered, since we were in a steep valley and only a true masochist would consider leaving the valley bottom.

The food was not bad, although a little heavy, both in terms of weight as it had lots of cans and jars, and also because there were lots of greasy sausages. Still, it had all been arranged and cooked for us, and we ate it gladly. Everyone was really nice, and about half the group spoke at least a little English so we didn't have to do too much smiling and nodding.

On the second day we hiked up a steep hill to a lovely lake, where we set up camp just minutes before a 4 hour rainstorm. The weather cleared in time for dinner but we were all bundled up against the cold. The views further down the valley were spectacular and I was sorry not to be able to go further. Lara and I would probably have doubled the distance easily, although we'd have gotten caught in the rain.

Like most of the mountains in Kyrgyszstan, the meadows here are the home to Nomads who bring up cattle from the winter pastures in the lowlands. We saw a couple of their tents, and on the hike out two men on horseback caught up to Lara and I. We managed to tell them we were Canadians, and they rode off and came back with some fresh Rhubarb they had picked. It was sweet enough that my mouth waters now thinking about it.

They also brought out a bottle of liquid that they offered to us. Oh, oh. We had heard about this. Fermented Mare's milk. The milk of a cow. Fermented. Like beer. It looked even more revolting than it sounded, and the last thing we wanted was an upset stomach. Lara grabbed the bottle and took a swig, and I was stuck. I took the bottle too and took a sip. Hmmm. Not bad. If I didn't know better, I'd even say it was tasty. I took a bigger sip, but resisted having too much despite the urging of the nice gentleman.

As we got back to the bus, the youth picked up a bunch of garbage that had been dumped in the area by thoughtless campers. This was great to see, as there is a lot of trash in some areas and we were glad to see a change in attitude. Unfortunately when we got to the bus, the driver didn't want to take our two big bags of trash. We would have left all of it, but I snuck a bag in the back when he wasn't looking. You win some, you lose some.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like you two are having some great fun! I was wondering where you were a couple of weeks ago when the Earthquake strruck central China. Good to hear that you were somewhere else.
Sebastian and I are off to Peru on Friday, but we look forward to reading of your adventures when we get back.

Anonymous said...

Looks amazing, love your photo of the puple hued mountain. I'll paint it for your safe return. Your adventure inspires me to plan an incredible journey like yours. Your connection to the people and nature makes your post so serene. Keep those post coming so we can travel vicariously though your visions.