If you are travelling without your own car/driver, if you want to go from Karakol to the west of Kyrgyzstan, you have to take the diversions via Bishkek. So I did. The weather was overcast and getting darker, but I arrived at the accommodation well dry.
In Bishkek, I met Olga for a chat and a meal and went to a big mosque. Kyrgyzstan is Islamic, but so far I haven’t heard any muezzin calls anywhere. The women are dressed in different ways, some in shorts and tops, others in veiling robes and headscarves, usually leaving the face uncovered. In the blog from the previous trip, I already wrote about how (Islamic) religiosity is changing here. In comparison with a year ago, however, I cannot really say that I have noticed any further changes. With various women in the street scene, you don’t even know if they aren’t tourists from other Islamic countries, for example. The ones in the mosque seemed that way to me.
And on Monday, I finally made my way to the west. The biggest city is Osh, but it was too far for me to drive all the way there, so I made a stop in Toktogul. I went there in a shared taxi – you wait until it is full. Sometimes you sit very cramped – fortunately not in this one. I sat in the back row with just a boy. First you drive through plains to the foot of high mountains, then you wind along the flight through them and then you climb up in serpentines to the Too Ashuu Pass at 3,580 m and from there you drive down to the plateau of the Suusamyr Valley. I sat a bit awkwardly for photos and only took some in Suusamyr. First the boy got off, then we stopped for lunch where, among other things, a child with shoes on his hands was frolicking and shouting “meow”, then we stopped because the rear tyre was punctured.
I was thrilled by the high valley! Wide open spaces, mountains, yurts, animals, fresh temperatures – great! Only this straight road, where cars whizzed through, was irritating. That’s how I imagine Mongolia, and before that it sometimes looked like Ladakh. But comparing is stupid and so I just enjoyed the diversity of Kyrgyzstan’s mountains. Here are the pictures from the trip:
On the one hand, I would have liked to stay there, but on the other hand, the big road was somehow strange. And so I continued on to Toktogul, where the driver brought me directly to my accommodation. Very nice!
Toktogul is at an altitude of 1,000 m and therefore quite warm. Over 15,000 people live here and at first glance it looks like a typical unattractive Kyrgyz small town or large village: Checkerboard streets with partly asphalt, partly dust coating, I haven’t seen any Soviet blocks yet, rather small houses often behind walls. There are some accommodations, but it is far from being a tourist hotspot and probably won’t become one.
However, there is the Toktogul Dam, the largest in Kyrgyzstan. It was put into operation in 1975 and serves to generate electricity and protect against floods. I quote from german Wikipedia (the english doesn’t tell that much) “The construction of the dam enabled the then Soviet Union to supply 800,000 ha of existing irrigated land in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and to develop an additional 480,000 ha of land. Water is drawn through the Great Namangan Canal with a capacity of 60 m³/s and the Left Naryn Canal with 20 m³/s. When the reservoir was flooded in 1976, 24 or 26 villages in the Ketmentub Valley (Ketmen-Tyubinsk Valley) were submerged and resettled along the main road that was moved to the eastern bank. An agricultural area of 21,200 ha, including 12,500 ha of irrigated land, was also lost. Kyrgyzstan received agricultural products, gas and consumer goods in compensation for these losses. Archaeologists found several burial mounds from the 8th and 9th centuries before the flooding.”
We are very close to Uzbekistan here and they have a lot to do with the dam. From Toktogul, however, you don’t get a glimpse of it at all. The lake is 65 km long and actually looks like a normal lake from here. You can walk the 5-6 km to the shore (which I did) or drive the dust road (which the others did) and then jump into the water there. That was great! I had my swimming costume with me, but I didn’t think about the fact that I’m in Muslim territory here and women can hardly swim anyway, but only squat in the water near the shore in full clothing. So I left my swimming costume in my bag and jumped into the water in full clothes for the first time in my life. A new experience, but I didn’t really like it. Afterwards I wrung out a lot, but despite the dry hot weather, the clothes didn’t dry quite as well. I didn’t have a change of clothes with me – I didn’t expect that. And so I dried on and then made my way back and was lucky that a car with 4 cheerful young people stopped, I slipped my towel under my trousers and was glad not to have to walk the route again.
I haven’t seen much more here so far, because I’m also pretty busy on the laptop with work and other things. Actually, I wanted to move on right after the 2 nights, but I got an invitation that I found hard to resist…..
And you can read about it in the next blog post!