After 36 hours of planes and airports I landed in the warm air and darkness of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan at 5am. Hopping into a taxi where I was treated to music from the band Abba, silence from the driver after attempting to communicate as we shared no common language and snow capped peaks of the Tian Shan Mountains in the distance. I made a beeline for downtown Bishkek and a series of apartments where my couch surfer host was just waking up. We were soon off to trek Ala Archa National in the 7am hour – with absolutely no rest for the weary!
This park is located in the Tian Shan Mountains – a series of peaks that extend something like 2000km from Uzbekistan though China. The highest mountains are in the 7000 meter range (not many mountain ranges on the planet can boast that height); the tallest peaks in this park only rise up to nearly 5000 meters. But we weren’t climbing those, rather we were following the raging glacial melt of the Ala Arch River all day.
We had to cross this river at one point – fortunately it was lower in the valley where the river divides up into a number of small streams. The water is extremely cold and our feet were painfully numb even with just 20 seconds exposure. Later we safely crossed the river on several old wooden bridges with a number of open spots in the bridge (reminded me of my time crossing rivers in Nepal).
The very rare snow leopard lives in the park but we did not see this endangered creature. Rather we enjoyed the picturesque views, lots of wild flowers and the mountain scenery.
Here are a few photos from our all day trek: