I've been working on and am now editing the next 'Short Journeys' - this one is a double feature on Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and I came to writing about the absolutely stunningly beautiful Altyn Arashan in North-Western Kyrgyzstan. Sure, maybe you're going to find that a hard one to find on a map, it's really just a little valley amongst some mountains with a few shacks and yurts, a river and hot springs and not much else. Heck, there's no electricity. However, it's a pretty special place. And the afternoon and evening I spent there was memorable.
|The legendary Valentine|
The man who owns and runs 'Yak Tours' is a Russian gentleman (and yes I think he is) called Valentine. He organised a jeep up to Altyn Arashan and I would hike back to the nearest town Karakol the next day. The jeep ride itself was an adventure as we had to stop to refill the radiator and then a hill was too slippery for the jeep so I and a the other two passengers had to push it up the hill.
|Helping out with some wood chopping.|
I stayed in the 'Yak Tours' shack. A two story ramshackle house that had seen better days and was the largest structure up in the valley. A car battery provided very minimal lighting and the toilet was... outside. Wherever you could find a spot. The shower was... the river. But heck, it was grand!
Then some friends of Valentine's arrived. A whole group in a sort of army truck thing and they took over the place. I joined in as best I could with my two words of Russian and none of Kyrgyz. The food was shashliks. Lots of them. Very popular in the region along with plov, a rice dish. And vodka. Lots and lots of vodka. And toasts as well, the toasting didn't stop. Even I made a toast, none of which I can remember. There were a few kids there, one 11 year old boy was the only one bar Valentine who spoke English.
Later in the evening one guy brought out proper army-grade night vision goggles! That was something too. Eventually the night came to a close. It was a remarkable 12 hours or so. I'm still not sure how I got there, I do remember the hike back to Karakol the next day wasn't so easy though, it was around 20km but I accepted a lift with 2-3km to go...
Have you ever had a similar experience? This is the sort of thing that happens in ex-USSR countries sometimes. Great hospitality - I was the only foreigner at the shack. They took me happily under their wings. The ebook is coming soon before the end of February. Stay tuned!
|The morning after inside the shack.|