Sleeping in a Yurt in Kyrgyzstan

Sleeping in a Yurt in Kyrgyzstan

From the village of Arslanbob we took a series of shared taxis to the high altitude lake, Song Kul. The landscape of Kyrgyzstan is striking. Very arid, desert-like, yet with snow covered-peaks in the distance. This would be our chance to get up some of those peaks.

Song Kul is used as a summer pasture by shepherds who bring their cows and sheep to the lake for the abundance of rich grass. From June to September it teems with life.

The best part of visiting this unique spot is that many of the herders welcome guests to stay with them in their yurts.

I’ve never slept in a yurt before and was surprised how comfortable it is. Almost as soon as we arrived, a big thunderstorm blew in, pelting us with rain and hail. Inside the yurt it was warm and dry. The herder’s son even came and lit a fire in a little stove for us. This was a mistake. Burning cow dung stinks horribly and I soon left the yurt, happy to stay outside in the cold air.

Another big windstorm arrived in the middle of the night, coating the whole world in white. We awoke to a splendid sunny day, perfect for heading up one of the nearby peaks.

Even after a big storm, the sun is intense. It didn’t take long for the snow to melt off the lower slopes, or perhaps it was the growing wind that blasted it away.

Back down by the lake, we encountered some of the local characters.

It’s always sad to see an animal with an injury or sickness but despite his sore looking eye, these dogs seemed to love life and were full of energy.

Song Kul is one of those rare beautiful places where you can roam free among the hills all day then come back down for a wonderful meal with an inviting family. In their yurt.

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Hiking in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan

Hiking in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan

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.

Our pretty homestay

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.

Edziza Spectrum Range Traverse

Edziza Spectrum Range Traverse

In northern BC there’s a rarely visited park that I hadn’t even heard of until a few months ago. My good friend, Jim, was putting together a trip to visit the asbestos mine (yikes!) where he used to work years ago and Mount Edziza Provincial Park just happens to be a stone’s throw away. To make the trip even more special, Jim invited Calder who also worked in the mine. They hadn’t seen each other since 1971! Continue reading “Edziza Spectrum Range Traverse”

A Journey Complete

A Journey Complete

Long walks are good for the soul. After nine days of walking from Glasgow to Fort William, I feel refreshed and relaxed. There’s something especially enjoyable about exploring a country by foot. Along the West Highland Way, one passes through quaint little villages, mysterious inky black lochs, ancient ruins, and some of the best mountain scenery the country has to offer. Continue reading “A Journey Complete”