Karakol – Lake Issykol
26th July 2014 29’C 228km
Karakol – Lake Issykol
The morning was spent wandering around Karakol, waiting for a cafe to open for breakfast. I visited the old timber church, but as I was wearing shorts, I didn’t feel comfortable to enter, as it seemed all the locals were well dressed.
I did two laps around town, trying to find a petrol station that sold 95 octane, as they all were sold out, I finally found a service station with fuel on the other side of town. Spotting a tourist info centre, I pulled in there also, and spoke at length with a young guy who had excellent English language skills. I got good advice on where to go, and bought a more detailed map of the Kyrgyz Republic. By the time I’d done all that and hit the road, it was after 10am.
I’d heard from the guy at the tourist information, that there was a garlic festival, about 25km away, and I made my way in that direction, getting lost twice, but finally finding the location after crossing a small river.
A collection of yurts, set out on the green grass with the smell of food cooking nearby. I was greeted warmly by a few old men, before I was directed into a yurt. Inside, the walls beautifully adorned with colourful tapestries, and the table laid out with food. I was led to a place in the corner and sat down as tea was poured and yet more food placed on the table. I happened to be seated next to a nice couple from the UK/Spain, and we took photos and shared stories from the road, while feasting on the fabulous food, laghman noodles & fried bread. The host ensuring our bowls were never close to empty.
Back outside, various musical performances took place, an old guy sang and played the accordion beautifully.
There were only a couple of stalls with anything to do with garlic, so I guessed garlic was just an excuse for a festival, but I bought some garlic paste, in the hope that it might help alleviate the cold that I’ve developed after many late nights in Almaty. If nothing else, it might scare off any crooked cops from holding protracted negotiations with me in the hope of squeezing out a bribe.
I left the festival and rode up into the mountains near Jeti-Oguz, passing Broken Heart rock and crossing numerous raging rivers as the trail climbed into the pine forest with brilliant views of the peaks. At the top I turned around and continued riding along the edge of Issy Kol lake, 663M deep, a magnificent fresh water lake wedged between two mountain ranges with peaks reaching 4000M. Snow capped peaks on my left, warm sandy beaches on my right. I paused for photos at a canyon lined with eroded red sandstone.
As the day came to an end, I found a basic resort for 500 som ($10) for a cabin by the lake including breakfast and dinner. Although a terrible shared bathroom 50M away. After a quick swim in the cold water, I headed for dinner, which was quite good too, lots of vegetables, that I have been hankering for.
As the sun went down I snapped a few photos before doing the ‘funny walk/run’ to the toilet. Lunch at the garlic festival, while delicious, was probably not suited to my digestive system.