After a few days exploring hot and busy Osh, we caught a local bus heading up into the mountains. We’d picked the village of Arslanbob mostly because it was easy to get to and promised some nice scenery.
In many small towns in Kyrgyzstan, there is a network of homestays and guesthouses called Community Based Tourism (CBT). It’s a bit of a tour agent but also a great resource. The local CBT office connected us with a school teacher with a room to spare. It’s always surprising when you meet someone who knows about your home country (at least when you’re from Canada). As soon as I mentioned I’m from Calgary, he exclamed “Calgary Flames! Montreal Canadians! Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Hull!!” Turns out hockey had a huge following in Kyrgyzstan during the USSR vs Canada heyday of the sport. What a fun way to connect across cultures
We did a few day hikes up through the walnut forest and into the hills where sheep and cattle graze. Walnuts are a major crop here but spring was cold and the harvest is late this year. Instead, they’re still working on unearthing all the potatoes. A really nice family saw us walking by and invited us for tea and melon. What a nice surprise! We chatted and joked in the little English and Russian we shared.
Day hikes are great but we really wanted to spend a night up in the mountains. Arslanbob is at 1500m elevation and the peaks are over 4000m, so it’s a big climb just to get started. We hired a 4×4 taxi to take us to the end of the road, where we’d already walked from town the day before.
Once you get up high, the views are great. The walnut forests give way to grassy pastures and then to true alpine scenery.
There are cows and horses everywhere and you can easily follow the paths they’ve carved out across the hillsides over countless years.
We set up camp in a broad flat grassy pasture that’s all but hidden from the town and trails below. You have no idea that such an picturesque area is there until you’re right in it.
We relaxed in the warm afternoon sun and watched as the evening light descended on the valley, so did hundreds of cows. Some wandered up to our tent looking curious, or perhaps confused. They’ve probably never seen a tent before. Charles was afraid they’d try to eat it! Luckily, we didn’t end up as a bovine snack and spent a wonderful night in the rarified alpine air under a million stars.