I slept so much better last night than I did the night before. The extra blankets, and being prepared for the temperatures, helped me have a proper nights sleep. I woke up a few times as traditional Kyrgyz beds are uncomfortable but other than that I slept right through and didn’t shiver at all! It snowed overnight so we were presented with some lovely views when we got up this morning. None of the snow fell as close to the lake as we are but the mountains are covered again.
Breakfast today was the most surreal that I have had while travelling – buckwheat and hot milk. I guess in this part of the world they eat what is available, and eat whatever will give them energy to combat the temperatures, but I could have done with something nicer. Take jam with you when you travel in Kyrgyzstan – you’ll need it for times like this. I didn’t have any with me but they served some with breakfast for us anyway.
The ride back down to the main road was incredibly bumpy. Vicki is a faster driver than Andy but I don’t think this is the reason I think it’s more to do with the terrain being frozen solid and icy due to fresh snow fall. We saw just how much snow had fallen when we started navigating the mountain pass – the whole area was covered in snow and the pass was almost blocked again. Luckily we were able to get through ok but as soon as we got to the part with the steep slopes on either side our truck got a puncture and we were forced to stop. Dragoman train their crews well and they were able to change the tyre in what was a really bad location, on a bad road, with no room to move and with fresh snow falling. Credit to the crew, but they also had a bit of help from some locals who were trying to get past us. They helped lift down the new tyre and put the flat one in its place before somehow managing to drive past us without falling down into the valley. While the tyre was being changed we passed the time by stretching our legs and seeing how far we could roll stones down the hill, which doesn’t sound very fun but when you’re stuck on a mountain pass in the snow anything will keep you entertained.
Our destination today was the town of Kochkor which wasn’t too far away and is a real outpost town with people coming from all over to get supplies, catch a taxi to Bishkek and other locations, or just travelling through getting to where they need to. From a tourism point of view there isn’t much to do but you’ll get used to that in this part of the world – you don’t come here to visit attractions and be sold tourist tat but to immerse yourself in the culture and see the amazing scenery. We stopped at a local restaurant called Retro which came recommended by the guides. The food was nice but the service was very slow, and the wi-fi advertised was so slow it was almost non-existent. Service was so slow that we were 20 minutes late arriving at our next stop for the day – a felt carpet collective run by the women of the area. The visit didn’t personally interest me but it interested some of the group – we spent about 2 hours here in total being shown how a felt carpet is made, singing songs, touring the facility and shopping. I had a chance to stock up on a few gifts for people, which was useful, but I wish the stop had been shorter. If you happen to be in the area then I would recommend stopping here for the souvenir / gift selection alone as apparently it’s the best outside of Bishkek.
Tonight we are staying at a home stay / guest house which has lovely beds and flush toilets but the power is currently out so we are without laundry, running water or wi-fi. Our guides have told us that a tree fell down earlier in the day and took out the power to the entire street but hopefully it will be back up soon so I can have a shower, charge my phone and use the wi-fi for a bit.
I’m in luck! As I’m writing the notes for this blog, via head torch, the power has come back on. First port of call is a shower. I briefly managed to use it earlier before the power went out, leaving me with a head covered in shampoo and no running water, so this is definitely needed. Then I’ll see how good the wi-fi is and catch up with people if possible.