Three Weeks in Central Asia (Part 3): Kyrgyzstan – A dynamic landscape

Red sandstone formations in the Jeti-Oguz region

My trip in Kyrgyzstan (kihr-giz-stan) was just full of highlights, as you saw in Part 2. This time, I’ll focus on my last two days as we head down the Tian Shan Mountains closer to the Kazakh border.

Wildlife

As we said bye to Song-Kol and headed back down the mountains we made a brief stop at a family’s farm to see and learn about Golden Eagles. These majestic creatures have been trained by nomads for generations to hunt food for them. We got to see one in action as a rabbit was let loose and the eagle dived for it; meticulous, precise and accurate. It got its target. Amazing to watch, but possibly a little confronting for some people.

We also had the opportunity to hold an eagle, and at around 4 kg in weight, in an outstretched hand for the photo opp, it was a nice little workout. To be honest, I now find lifting dumbbells a little bit boring.

Dancing…?

Ask anyone who knows me, I don’t dance. Sing? Yes. Sing well? No. But dancing – definitely not – at least not before a little glass of vino or 6. So you could imagine my shock when it became apparent I had to dance. The reason? To make a carpet….

We visited a local felt company in Kochkor, a large countryside village. Felt is a traditional product of Kyrgyzstan but each region has its own distinct techniques and artistry that differentiate them. For the nomadic tribes living in this region during the time of the Silk Road, it was one of the main products they traded. Felt is also used to cover the yurts to keep the inside warm.

In order to make the carpet; the workers beat the sheep’s wool (they imported some wool from Australia! Represent!), place it onto the floor, make a design with it and then soak it in water. They then roll it up and in order to squeeze the water out, and, for the women to keep fit (they joked), they dance on it! They danced to some folk songs, including this ridiculously catchy tune.

Issyk-Kul

Dancing aside we made our way to Issyl-Kul. Just by looking at this gorgeous sunset you would think you were on some tropical beach in the Maldives or South Pacific. In actuality we are 1,607m above sea level at Kyrgyzstan’s largest lake, and the second largest mountain lake in the world. This lake is a more pleasant temperature, in fact, Issyk-Kul means warm lake in the Kyrgyz language. You can find all sorts of accommodation along the northern shore, from hotels, resorts and beach camps. Or you could try another yurt stay, run by local families, like we did.

Fairy Tale (Skazka) Canyon

A series of stunningly red canyons, this geological formation is close to Issky-Kul and a must if you love tricky hikes and climbs and questioning whether these paths are up to the safety standards ‘back home.’ Just all part of the fun.
Everywhere you look is so photogenic that I had a difficult time narrowing down which photos to include. A very difficult time.

Jeti Oguz

Heading further east towards the Kazakh border we approached the city of Karakol, and another twenty minutes drive from there is the area of Jeti Oguz. The stunning red sandstone rock formations made me question whether I was still in the same country as the green mountain scenery I had just seen in the last two days.

The formations are explained through local folklore and of course it is all to do with love. According to the legend, the Broken Heart Rock was formed by a woman being left heartbroken after her two potential suitors died fighting for her affection.
The other formation of interest is the Seven Bulls whose name originates from the fact it kind of resembles seven bulls.

You’ll find the Broken Heart rock just as you drive in to the area from Karakol. If you follow the road past the Broken Heart rock you will come across a walking path that leads up to a hill. From the top of this path is where you will get the best view of the Seven Bulls. If you’re travelling solo, day trips can be organised to here from Karakol; the administrative centre of the Issyk-Kul region. You can also stay in the village named Jeti Oguz, right at the foot of the Seven Bulls.

Reina Kench

Our final night in Kyrgyzstan had us staying at Reina Kench; part farmhouse, part ranch and part guesthouse that is open for individual bookings. The rooms were comfy and each room had a balcony. Mine overlooked the farm and towards the mountains; a perfect place for a beer, reflection and to unwind.

Now, apparently I came to Kyrgyzstan to cook because I was again back at it making another Kyrgyz delicacy; borsok. It is a fried dough that is slightly sweet and served with jam. Safe to say I did a way better job at making borsok than I did the dumplings in Song-Kul.

And with that just the small northern region of Kyrgyzstan was done, with four days coming to a close. A huge thanks to our guide, and now friend, Aiperi for showing us this wonderful country. This was only just the surface of this beautiful country so I will definitely be back!

What’s next? The Central Asian journey continues with a casual walk back into Kazakhstan. Don’t forget to check that out!

Have you been to Kyrgyzstan? Or have I made you want to travel there? Let me know your thoughts below.
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