I had such a good nights sleep last night. I was warned that Andy was a snorer but the yurt was so luxurious and comfortable, even though I had to sleep on a traditional bed on the floor, that I slept right the way through for the first time all trip and only woke up when Andy left the yurt in order to get the truck ready for the drive ahead. I needed that!
The ride down from the camp showed us some more of the beautiful scenery of Jeti-Oguz. I would personally recommend two nights here if you are travelling on your own, so that you can have a full day walking around the mountains and along the river. Or you could just sit back and relax. If you do visit then keep your fingers crossed that they have replaced the dangerous looking bridge on the way up by the time you get there. I loved the area so much but crossing the bridge made me nervous!
After surviving the dangerous bridge we made a brief stop at the viewpoint overlooking some well-known rocks called Seven Bulls Rocks. The name derives from the rock formation’s resemblance to seven bulls and a legend about a Khan’s unfaithful wife, according to Wikipedia, but I can’t remember the exact legend that Begaim told us. If you’re in the area, or visiting Jeti-Oguz, then definitely head to the top of the hill to take a look at the views. You can also get a view of a town that was built around a hot spring, and the resort that was built as a retreat for Soviet Army Officers. When we were there a boy tried to get us to have photos taken with his Falcon, and was very persistent, so keep an eye out and be prepared to say no if you’re in the area.
From the rocks it was a short drive to Karakol so we arrived too early to be able to check in to our hotel and I took this opportunity to head to a place called “Karakol Coffee” which had high-speed Wi-Fi in order to check about return flights. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I have decided to try to come back a couple of days early as I have some personal things I need to take care of, and today was the day when I could work out whether it was possible.
I was in luck and there are some cheap flights leaving Bishkek with Aeroflot which are at convenient times and have seats available but I decided not to book straight away. First I wanted to ask Begaim how easy it would be to get back to Bishkek and she confirmed what was in my guide book, that Karakol is a transport hub for the area and that if I wanted to go back to Bishkek early then this would be a good place to leave the trip. There are a few different options depending on when I want to leave, what price I want to pay, and how quickly I need to get there which she explained to me. I decided to give all of the options some thought and then book from the hotel, which also has free Wi-Fi. There was time for a bit of shopping before the hotel would be ready for us so I stocked up on supplies for my journey to Bishkek and also on souvenirs for myself and others (including a felt minion).
The Hotel Amir is really nice. It has comfortable beds, isn’t too far from the town centre, is clean, has a restaurant which you are able to eat in and most important for me today has high speed wireless intenet which I planned to use to book my new flight home. Unfortunately it stopped working just as I was about to click “book” on Expedia so I had to go back to Karakol Coffee to use theirs. This was a little inconvenient, and when I got there the price had gone up by £20, but I was going to go back into town anyway. The main thing is that everything is now booked and I will be leaving tomorrow morning. This is a day earlier than I had originally intended but it was the day that worked out best due to being in Karakol and also due to the prices of flights. By coincidence Begaim was in Karakol Coffee when I made the booking so she was able to talk me through the whole process for getting to Bishkek, where to get off the bus and also calm any concerns that I had. She’s a really great guide and I will miss her once I leave the group.
Tonight I will be dining with the Germans and Austrians as they were in Karakol Coffee when I made my booking and we all expressed a wish to go out for Shashlik. The place we chose, in the centre of Karakol, was really nice. I didn’t get the name of it but it’s right opposite their park and next to their shopping arcade. It was a little on the expensive side for this part of the world but was worth every penny and it was nice to have a proper sit down meal to ease myself back into normality.
We parted ways after dinner as I needed to get some money out of the ATM before heading back to the hotel to ensure that I had enough for my journey to Bishkek tomorrow. Karakol is a little scary after dark,as there isn’t much in the way of street lighting and beggars hang around near banks, but I didn’t stay in town on my own for very long and I’m now back safely at the hotel.
I have to admit that I’m extremely nervous about my journey tomorrow. I will be voluntarily pulling out of a trip in a country where I can’t speak the language, don’t understand the alphabet, and where I have to travel half way across the country on my own but it’s something I have to do. Although I do have a little bit of excitement too as I will really be getting under the skin of Kyrgyzstan and after all that’s what travelling is all about. The Dragoman crew knew I was thinking about leaving early, as I asked what the procedure would be, but Begaim is the only person in the group who knows I have actually decided to leave in the morning. I’m just glad that I have seen everything that I came here to see – all that I will be missing is a night at a hot spring resort and a night of wild camping which aren’t important to me. I will also be spending more time in Bishkek than if I had kept my original flights and stayed with the group until the end which is a bonus.
Due to spending a few hours booking flights and hotels, thanks to the Wi-Fi at Karakol Coffee, I didn’t get much of a chance to look around Karakol but it seems from what I’ve seen that there isn’t much to do in the town itself. There are some nice churches, a statue of Lenin, and some nice places to eat or drink (seriously – check out Karakol Coffee if you come here), but other than that from a travel point of view it’s mainly a base for visiting the surrounding areas. If you plan to explore this part of Kyrgyzstan on your own then definitely come here for a couple of days first to stock up on supplies, stay in a nice hotel and visit the agencies that offer tours or transportation.