What a place Song-Kul Lake is. After seeing it for myself I’m not sure that this is the lake in the photo which inspired me to visit Kyrgyzstan but it’s the place I was looking forward to the most. So remote, so beautiful and with the freshest air I have ever breathed (depite the low pressure due to altitute).
The day started with breakfast in the home stay in Chaek, before a chance to stock up in the local shops. The guys were right when they told me about the prices here yesterday – I bought two large bottles of vodka, one large bottle of fanta and one large bottle of water for the equivalent of 4.5 US dollars. You wouldn’t even buy the fanta and water for that price in Europe so take my advice and stop at the little stores in the villages if you visit this part of the world. They may not have the range that supermarkets in the larger towns do but they are cheaper and you will be supporting the local people rather than businessmen in Bishkek.
We are the first overland vehicle to visit Song-Kul lake this season. Apparently there was a high amount of snow over the winter and the first pass has only just opened up enough for us to get through. This means that we had to go the long way around but that there is still plenty of snow for us to see. There isn’t much to tell you about the journey up to the lake as until we began the climb up to the pass it was all on paved highways. We stopped for lunch just before starting the climb, remaining inside the truck due to rain, and then it was time for high altitude!
The start of the climb was ok, and was mainly through farms and valleys, but we were soon travelling along mountain roads with only just enough room for our truck to pass and with steep drops on the side. After surviving the climb we stopped at the pass to take some photos, although at 3500m altitude it was freezing so we didn’t stay long. This is why I’m here though – to get away from it all, relax, see some beautiful mountains and maybe discover some things about myself along the way so a bit of cold won’t stop me. The high altitude is likely to get me before the cold does as 3500m is 11500 feet, which is higher than the altitude at which you can start to develop altitude sickness unless you take precautions!
After arriving at our Yurt camp on the shores of the lake a few of us decided to go for a walk along a bar of land that stretches out into the lake. It looked from first impressions that you could walk all the way around in a big loop, and indeed some people tried, but apparently the land became too marshy and they had to turn back. We later found out that officially that area of land is off limits, we just didn’t understand the sign in Kyrgyz along the shore telling us. I treated the walk as a chance to acclimatise to the altitude and get away from the truck for a bit. On these sorts of trips the truck is your home away from home but you do need to get away occasionally so you don’t go mad – I can only imagine how the leaders feel being stuck on the vehicle for 8 months at a time.
Dinner was served in a separate dining tent and wasn’t served in particularly large portions but it was tasty and filling. We also had a table full of snacks which we could load up on. Some of the group are outside drinking but I have decided to head to bed. It’s not even 9pm but I’m getting really tired for some reason, perhaps the altitude, and it’s also too cold outside. Way too cold outside! I have taken 3 spare blankets from the pile but I have a feeling this is going to be one of the coldest nights I have experienced.