Kyrgyzstan # 4 – Lake Song Köl – August 2014

April 8, 2018

Leaving Kochkor, we filled our water tank at a street faucet. In these countries you need to fill every time you can. Once again, it was bucket time. We had purchased a large funnel to fit the fill tube on the camper back in Khorog, Tajikistan at their weekly open market.

At today's modern world, "highways" like this don't happen very often.

At today’s modern world, “highways” like this don’t happen very often.

Turning off the pavement, we aired down to 35psi to smooth the ride and prevent flats. As the road began to climb there were herds of yaks grazing peacefully. Never a fence in sight. No yaks wandering across the road. Maybe they have more sense than normal cows and horses. The rocky washboard twisted west and we could see the shimmering water of Lake Song-Köl in the distance. We turned into a multiple set of ruts, obviously a well-used track. The view was breathtaking, and it wasn’t the altitude, now 3,016 meters, (9,895 feet). Surrounded by mountains and rolling hills, it was the postcard picture of the Kyrgyz nomadic way of life, sprinkled with scattered yurts and herds of cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. We could explore the lake shore in the morning. For the moment, it was so peaceful, we simply pulled off the two-track for a hundred yards and set up camp. Time to cook dinner. I pulled out our Weber Go-Anywhere barbeque and laid on some juicy lamb chops we had scored back in Kochkor. People often ask, “Well, what do cook on the road?” The answer, “Everything!”

Lake Song-Köl

At first glance we thought this was a statue, but it was actually a lone horseback rider checking his cell phone.

At first glance we thought this was a statue, but it was actually a lone horseback rider checking his cell phone.

The cozy-looking yurts were our neighbors’ summer homes where these nomadic people take advantage of the high-altitude grass for their herds of cattle, horses and flocks of sheep. Smoke from their cooking stoves gave the yurts a warm feeling as evening temperatures dropped. We momentarily wished we had a little stove in our camper, (yurt), but then, where would we store all the dried yak dung for the fire. We quickly abandoned the idea and turned on our Espar diesel-powered Airtronic heater. By early Fall the yurts would be folded up and taken to lower elevations. The area is covered in snow for 200 days a year, the lake is frozen over, and the road we drove up is most likely closed.

Except for the occasional distant baa-ing of a lonely lamb, the silence was magical. There were a few yurts used as home stays at the far end of the lake but no tourists in sight except for one British couple camped by the shore. We later joined them for an evening of travel talk and beer.

This small herd of horses preferred the narrow peninsula that jutted out into the lake. Maybe there were fewer flies out there.

Lake Song-Köl is the kind of wilderness gem that you drive thousands of miles on questionable roads just so you can sit in the glow of a setting sun and marvel at the immense beauty. After three days, China was calling and the last road sign we saw said, “Torugart, 396 kilometers”. We headed back out, but there was a T-junction where the ruts merged with the two-track. On a hunch, we turned right and followed it toward the horizon. This had to be the alternate way back to the blacktop, right? When you come to a fork in the road,—-take it.

At the edge of a deep valley, the road dropped precipitously through a dozen or more spectacular switchbacks to another junction and improved gravel. Road construction was ongoing. Vendors had set up along the sides of the “highway” selling mountain honey and balls of dried yoghurt, a popular snack calle

d Qurut (Kurut).

Whiffs of smoke drifting out of the yurt on the right, told us someone was already preparing dinner.

Whiffs of smoke drifting out of the yurt on the right, told us someone was already preparing dinner.

Our final stop before leaving Kyrgyzstan would be Tash Rabat, one of the most impressive caravanserais along the entire Silk Road. Half buried in a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley, 3,530 meters, (11,581 feet), above sea level, some say it is Kyrgyzstan’s most treasured monument.

A little update on the “Magic Girl of the Pamirs”, the young girl who waded out into the creek, took the brush from my hands, and proceeded to help wash our truck. (Along The Pamir Hwy – Tajikistan #8). For simplicity and to protect her privacy, her name is “Masha”. We were able to contact the director of The American Corner in the town of Khorog three hours from Masha’s village.

The innocent eyes of wonder we saw in this eleven year old girl said: "I don't know who you are but I want to talk to you."

The innocent eyes of wonder we saw in this eleven year old girl said: “I don’t know who you are but I want to talk to you.”

The American Corner is a free learning center sponsored by the American Embassy designed to promote mutual understanding between the United States and Tajikistan. They provide up-to-date information about U.S. history, society, education, culture, and teach English to visitors.

The director, Sheroz Naimov, volunteered to help us. Hitching a ride with a friend to Masha’s village, he spoke to her and her father and explained that we wanted to sponsor her in the prestigious Aga Khan Lycée private school in Khorog, Sheroz told us Masha had tears in her eyes. Her father called Sheroz the next day to ask in wonder, “Is this really going to happen?” Yes, Sheroz told him, but now the first problem would be to find a safe place for her to live in Khorog. Secondly, could she pass the entrance test with her very poor math and Russian? Dreams do come true. Stay tuned.

 

 

2 Responses to “Kyrgyzstan # 4 – Lake Song Köl – August 2014”

  1. I am tremendously enjoying your stories and photos from remote regions of the world! it’s all just amazingly beautiful, the people, the scenery, everything!

  2. Dear Terri: Thanks so much for following our adventures. Being able to share them with people like you who may not be able to take the time to do what we do makes all the more enjoyable for us. Keep on reading!

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