I got up on Sunday morning after my fabulous night’s sleep in the yurt and took a little walk before breakfast. There were donkeys braying, cows mooing, and even some turkeys wandering past the yurts. AK and Farhat were nowhere to be found so I ended up having breakfast with the Germans and talking to them until about 10:30 when AK and Farhat appeared for breakfast. They had slept in. I said goodbye to the Germans who were moving on, took another walk and then took a nap in the yurt.
About 12:30 AK woke me up and told me lunch was served. I can safely say you will never go hungry in this country. I feel like I am constantly eating. In fact, they give you so much food I can barely eat half of it. I have actually had to explain that I like the food, but it is just too much because they think that when I don’t clean my plate I have not enjoyed the meal. Fortunately, AK has been there to translate. And in addition to the massive meals, there is the ever present tea cup that is always being refilled.
During lunch, two Italians arrived, Ricardo and Tommaso, who were quite the characters. After introductions, I learned that they were touring Kyrgyzstan as part of their trip to the Nomad games. (Am I the only one who knew nothing about these games?). Anyway, they said that they wanted to go horse back riding in the afternoon, and I had been planning to go as well (since AK talked me into it) so we decided to go as a group with a guide.
As we were sitting chatting over lunch, AK poured us all a glass of “milk”. This was NOT your standard glass of milk. It was fermented horse milk. Now having had the fermented horse cheese the day before, I was quite certain this was not going to be at all tasty … in fact, I was quite certain it was going to SUUUUUCK. However, at AK’s insistence we all gave it a try and I can safely say my original instincts were correct. I do not recommend anyone go out and buy this stuff. YUCK.
And just because I did not want to be the only one to suffer over the fermented horse milk cheese, I suggested to AK that he have the Italian boys give it a try. As expected, their reaction to the cheese was similar to mine.
Anyway, Just before 3:00 they brought our horses around and helped us up into the saddle. I was a little bit tentative since I do not ride horses (although I have ridden a camel and an elephant before). My horse turned out to be the smallest and of course a tad on the slow side. Once we were given instructions on how to direct the horses to move and stop we set out across the massive grassy plain with our guide.
Unfortunately, I quickly learned that my horse’s name should be Rusty. Now if you are a Seinfeld fan, you will immediately understand my reference. If you are not, I am referring to the episode where Kramer becomes one of the horse and carriage drivers you often see taking people through Central Park. Kramer decides to help out George and take George’s future in-laws for a ride through the park. Before Kramer picks up the in-laws, he feeds the horse, Rusty, a large can of beans. Rusty proceeds to provide the in-laws and Kramer with a VERY stinky ride. And if you want proof, check out the YouTube clip: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lroZLN1gQnw
Anyway, any time my Rusty started up any kind of incline (which was pretty much the entire first hour of the ride), the horse would let out a series of not so nice sounds with a resulting stench. It was BRUTAL! I kept joking with everyone that they should be glad I was taking up the rear, so to speak, so they wouldn’t be subjected to the stinkiness of the horse.
Stinkiness aside, the ride was actually really fabulous. As we road towards the mountains across the massive open plain, we heard the sounds of horses neighing and galloping. We turned to our left and on the horizon we could see two horses galloping at full speed and neighing at the top of their lungs. It was was a spectacular sight. Unfortunately, my camera skills failed me and I did not capture a picture. But it was certainly something to see and hear.
Periodically, I would turn slightly in my saddle to try and catch a glimpse of Son Kul Lake behind us and to judge the distance we were from the yurts. It wasn’t long before the yurts became a dot and then eventually disappeared over the crest of a little grassy hill.
As we continued to ride across the plain and up towards the base of the mountain, we would every now and then hit a culvert and for some reason, my horse liked to put a little giddy-up in his trot. When this happened we ended up going much faster than I preferred, but once we hit the uphill again, the stinky guy would slow his pace and let out a few more toots. RUSTY!
We trotted past a herd of cattle and it was pretty cool to watch our guide clear them out of the way so we did not end up in a confrontation with one of the bulls in the herd. We did, however, get pretty close to a few of the cows and calfs and it was awesome to look at a herd of cows from the top of a horse.
When we were about an hour into the ride, we turned the horses around and began the ride back towards the yurts. Instead of following the same path, we meandered further away from the yurts and then picked up horse tracks that paralleled the road to the yurts. At this point, the views to Son Kul Lake were fantastic and the weather was surprisingly warm, although as we continued on and the sun began to set the wind picked up (as it had the day before) and it became rather chilly.
As we neared the yurts, the horses had other ideas and began to make a bee line for the lake. Uh boys where are you going? We could not hold the thirsty horses back and before we knew it, the horses were climbing down the little green moguls and into the water where all four horse proceeded to drink and drink and drink. At one point, my horse did a little dip and splash in the water and I thought for certain I was going in. Fortunately, that did not happen, and ten minutes later we were dismounting at the yurts. It had really been a thrilling ride.
We went in for some tea and met a couple from London, who were originally from Mumbai. Lovely people who were also spending the night. After the tea, I ended up taking a rest for about an hour and then got up to see the sun set over the lake and the yurts. When I got up, I found that all of a sudden there were two vans full of people who would be spending the night as well. Now as most people know, I hate mass tourism, so the site of a tour group literally made me want to run in the opposite direction.
I ended up simply grabbing my jacket, hat and gloves and walked to the other side of the yurts to begin taking pictures as the sun set. The Italian boys joined me in the absolutely frigid air. The wind was blowing pretty hard off the lake an at 10,000 feet it is gonna be cold. At time, I could barely keep my camera still to take pictures of the absolutely gorgeous sunset. Fortunately, I managed to capture a few pics.
After the sun set, I found out our dinner was delayed to 8:00 p.m. while the tour group ate at 7. I ended up going back to my yurt and found out that the tour guide for the tour group would be sharing my yurt as well as the tour guide for the English couple. Now I quickly decided I really liked the tour guide for the English couple, but the tour guide for the tour group immediately rubbed me the wrong way. She had the audacity to tell me that she could not believe there were others staying at the yurts because when she brings groups to Son Kul Lake, her group is usually the only people there. I wanted to tell her to go find some other yurts.
Anyway, the saving grace was that we did not have to eat dinner with her. And it turned out that my dinner with the two Italians, and the British couple as well as our guides and drivers was an absolute blast. We shared stories about our travels, made the British couple try the fermented horse milk cheese and then out came the vodka. After a couple shots, AK insisted that Riccardo sing a song. Riccardo insisted he would only sing a song if the Brits drank the fermented horse milk.
Two drinks down of fermented horse milk and Riccardo was singing. Unfortunately, this led to AK requiring everyone to sing at least a portion of a song. My choice … Oh Canada! It was the only song I knew that I would screw up the words.
Anyway, by 9:30, we were joined by a few of the folks from the tour group: a German, a Danish gal, and two other Brits. There was some good natured exchanges about the World Cup, more shots of vodka (along with beer the tour group was drinking) and then a request that we hang it up by 10:00 so that the staff could eat their dinner.
I was in bed with lights out by 10:30, but unfortunately the tour group took the party right outside the yurts. By now the wind had died down and it was actually quite nice outside with spectacular views of the stars. However, the rest of us were trying to sleep. It wasn’t until well after 12:30 when they finally shut up and went to bed. I later found out that AK put the kibosh on the party after asking them repeatedly to tone it down as we were all trying to sleep. And the tour guide … she was asleep and doing nothing about her rowdy group. As you can imagine, I had a few choice words for her in the morning. If I knew the name of her tour company, I would be sending an email to her manager. Talk about a lack of professionalism.
Tour group aside, the stay at Son Kul Lake had been wonderful. We were now off to Chopan Alta and an afternoon at the Nomad Games.