Upon cresting a Tian Shan Mountain pass at 3200 meters above Song Kul Lake we were treated with spectacular views of a valley far below and towering mountains in the distance. The scenery reminded me of parts of Southern California – especially around Bakersfield or around Death Valley. We hiked for several hours, ultimately reaching a small village in the valley. Looking back at the tall mountains it was impressive to see the great distance we had covered on foot in a relatively short amount of time.
Small streams ran open through the village – the homes were built of mud brick – some covered with tin roofs. During the heat of the day and intensity of the sun this time of year very few people were outside.
Mini bus rides are usually crowded affairs with the driver trying to cram in as many people as possible to earn the maximum income. We have been on many of these in our travels. However today on two rides we were treated to two drunks. The first one smelled like he was fermenting – he was a calm drunk, quiet and mostly sleeping.
The second ride was a different story. An old drunk guy sat in the front with an elderly lady. He kept punching her – her phone would ring, she would answer and then he would punch her and quickly steal the phone and refuse to give it back. He kept falling forward onto the dash. At one point the driver became so angry with the drunk’s behavior he pulled the vehicle over ran around to the passenger side, opened the door and told the guy to get out. Apparently the drunk was very persuasive with his grunting as after the driver yelled a bit we continued on our way.
Another gentleman who was trying to make conversation with me earlier winked at me and then stood up and began smoking trying to conceal his habit with the air flowing through the tilt up opening in the roof. This did not work as intended – the driver soon caught whiff of the nasty stuff as did the passengers. The driver immediately pulled over, ran back into the passenger part of the vehicle, grabbed this guy by the shirt and dragged him out onto the road where he was immediately stranded as we pulled away in a cloud of dust.
Arriving in Cholpan Alta on the shores of the huge Issyk-Kul Lake and seriously needing some Internet access after the past week with barely a signal in the Tian Shan Mountains – I ended up pantomiming the symbol for sleep and was directed to a hotel which seemed to be frequented entirely by Russian tourists. With a menu all in Russian, I reached for the phone and brought up photos of soups and salads and ice cream!
With the rigors of non stop travel at times, one needs to take a day or two to rest up and plan out the next part of the trip. It is off to either Karakol for some more trekking or a land border crossing into Kazakhstan.