Kyrgyzstan - part 2

Click on the image to go to the Kyrgyzstan photo gallery

On the second day, we were just looking for a camping site in another idyllic valley, and passed a yurt (it was actually just a tent, but yurt, of course, sounds more interesting), when a shepherd on his horse came towards us in brisk gallop (shepherds are always sitting on horses, we haven't seen a single shepherd walking). After an enthusiastic, but in spite of our Communication Kit © quite awkward communication, it became clear to us that he invited us into his yurt. He tied his horse, took us with him, grasped a bag of potatoes, and gave me a knife to shell them. So I did, and while Wouter went to get some water, I tried to start a conversation:

1. Horse good
2. Potatoes good
3. Kyrgyzstan good
4. Thank you

He animatedly replied a lot of things, but I couldn't figure out at all what he meant. Because gazing vaguely and telling him in my best Kyrgyz that I didn't understand him only caused him to speak louder, I eventually nodded enthusiastically. Somewhat later, it turned out what he was saying: he had to leave for Karakol (which is located 25 km away), so he couldn't have dinner with us, but we could eat and sleep in his yurt. Touched by such a sign of hospitality, we waved him goodbye, while he jumped on his horse and rushed away (barely managing to stay on his horse). So in the light of an oil lamp we ate potatoes and peacefully fell asleep in the idyllic yurt, with a smile at our faces.

In the middle of the night, however, we were woken up brutally by loud voices. The shepherd came stumbling inside, accompanied by his son, who was extremely drunk. They tumbled onto the bed in which we were lying and pulled out a bottle of vodka. With drowsy heads, leafing through our Communication Kit ©, we started some sort of conversation (although the son, who kept falling over because he was so drunk, didn't speak any Russian). After the vodka round, a kumys round followed. Kumys is fermented, slightly alcoholic mare's milk, the traditional Kyrgyz drink. It smells a bit like buttermilk, but tastes somewhat more peculiar. Here I found out the general but unspoken rule that states that the more kumys you drink (meaning you bravely swallow the contents of your bowl), the more you get poured in your bowl again, so that I found myself being trapped in a kind of perpetuum mobile. After the kumys round, a cigarette round followed - by then, the shepherd had tears in his eyes, and we mutually kept saying that we were friends. And after that, the two of them laid themselves down next to us in the small bed. That was highly un-idyllic, not to say quite awful, because the son was loudly shouting all night, and tried to hug Wouter - probably thinking it was me - so that Wouter and I had to share a tiny 60 cm of space in order to stay out of his arms. Thus, as soon as the sun had started to rise, we quietly left...

To be short: we did sleep in a yurt (that is to say, we spent the night there), and therefore now would definitely be considered "one of the guys" in the backpackers hostel in Karakol. But we were somewhat weary the day after, so at the next occasion, we decided on a more ordinary sleeping accommodation - among the horses.

The trekking ended at the hot springs of Altyn Arashan, where we had a picknick (sheep, vodka, and kumys) with a nice Kyrgyz family. Back in Karakol we visited the cattle market, a crowded scene, which was fascinating to see but also a bit tough for thin-skinned vegetarians like we are.

<part 1

>part 3