On the Beach in Kyrgyzstan
The sun is burning hot above lake-Issyk Kul, the second largest alpine lake in the world. The sky is bright blue and only a few, candy floss-like clouds float above the lake. The beach’s red tinged sand is hot and burns under our toes! A lonely wagtail is swinging his tail right by the waterline. The water is a bit fresh, like the water in Finnish lakes at the beginning of summer. Issyk Kul is 170km long and over 700m deep at its deepest points, so its water never warms to pool temperatures. At its widest it’s 60km wide and you can’t see where the water meets the land on the opposite side, but the mountains there can just about be seen in the horizon. Their snowcapped peaks are hidden behind a cloud curtain. It’s a fascinating feeling to swim in a lake while looking at snowy mountains! It’s quiet and peaceful. Here we get to enjoy a nap undisturbed by buzzing jet-skis, the pounding bass of beach front bars or the relentless chatter of street salesmen. The only music we hear is the sound of waves splashing on the beach.
A small vessel chugs across the lake from Cholpon Ata to Tamga, a few times a day. The passengers on board wave from the deck in their happy holiday spirits. They are from different parts of Kyrgyzstan, but mainly from the capital, Bishkek. Besides us, no other “american” foreigners are around.
After a few days in the marble sheened capital of Bishkek and tours around the north of the lake we have set up camp in a holiday village in Tamga, on the southern shore of the lake, for a couple of days. The village consists of rented cottages, shared shower- and bath room facilities and a shelter for watching tv in. The cottages are run down, wooden hovels of a few square meters each, without any extra comforts in them. Compared to them our motorhome feels luxurious! Within walking distance there are roadside stalls that sell fruit, drinks and bread. The melons and apricots are especially juicy! I find a cockroach in the bread bag and since we’re not looking to increase our number of passengers I throw out both the bug and the bread…
Our neighbours are a group of happy, middle aged Kyrgyzstani teachers. They ask to borrow our fruit knife and soon after that we receive an invitation to join them for supper. We sit around a garden table and show them pictures of Finland. They seem very enthusiastic and ask lots of questions about our country and our trip so far too. We are embarrassed to realise that they know way more about Finland than we knew about Kyrgyzstan, at least prior to our arrival here. Despite our less than perfect language skills the conversation is flowing, the atmosphere warm and sounds of laughter fill the air.
The dusk is setting in and the warmth of the sun still lingers on our skin as we sit in lantern light under the marquee. We feel privileged in many ways. In Kyrgyzstan we have often been faced with the reality of what it is to be born in a wealthy democracy, with freedom of speech. In our day to day we often talk about our friends back home, who will be returning to work from their summer holidays. Even though we have done over 13000km so far, our journey is only at the beginning! So far our trip has gone fairly smoothly and we’ve been able to communicate with the locals about the basics at least, in English, German and Russian. After the next border crossing the Cyrillic alphabet will change to Chinese characters and we will find ourselves on a soil totally unknown to us. We’re definitely getting a few butterflies right about now!