When I am on the road, my source of well-being is often related to who I meet. In Toktogul, Orhan, a 54-year-old Turk who had set off from Antalya on his motorbike, was in the guesthouse. He was complaining a bit because the roads were quite exhausting and his body was troubled. So I had some company. More company came from Mathieu, a young Frenchman who had developed a passion for post-Soviet countries and was studying in that direction. He had spent some time in Estonia and was now in Kyrgyzstan, where he wanted to improve his Russian, among other things. To do this, he looked for non-touristy places to stay and was now squatting for 3 weeks in Toktogul, where he taught English and helped out with translations in the guesthouse. So it was not “real teaching” but simply an exchange for him to learn more and get to know people.
He took me to one of his classes where we chatted a bit about Germany, produced a little dance clip and played “I’m going to Bishkek and I’m packing in my suitcase ….”. There were about 6 girls and 2 boys of about 14 and I was amazed at how very unfocused and uninterested they were. Three girls stood out because they were very lively, inquisitive and eager, the others preferred to chat, use their mobile phones or go outside. It was not a school but a supplementary offer like tutoring so that they could get better grades. Theoretically, their plans were ambitious (study and possibly go abroad), but the goal was so far away that the motivation to learn was not there. Mathieu said his other groups were a little easier, but I didn’t see them anymore.
For lunch I found a pleasantly tempered restaurant with an English-speaking boss who said that I was already quite “strong” to travel so hard at my age and that I had also eaten “shwarma”, which no one else would do here for lunch, it was much too “hard”. I didn’t understand this comment, I didn’t get an explanation when I asked and started to worry a bit. But nothing happened. In the late afternoon it was still too hot (37°C was given as the day’s maximum temperature), but I still walked around the place and found it boring. Mathieu, on the other hand, liked it. Maybe it depends on how you are involved in terms of content? Here are a few visual impressions:
In the evening, the married daughter of the house came by. She spoke very good English, used to run the local tourist information, but then had children (3) and stopped and since then it has been deserted. We chatted and then she jumped up to do more things. Mathieu told me that he finds it incredible how insanely busy people are, especially women. They obviously can’t sit still very well and are very eager. There was also a young employee in the guesthouse – she was constantly cleaning and doing things! So it was very clean, but seemed a bit overdone to me with the rather small number of guests who hardly made any mess.
With this heat, I find it really exhausting. Next, I had chosen a place where I wanted to go a bit higher up. A marshrutka from Bishkek was to go there directly and this daughter of the house had reserved a seat for me. This then put me in contact with the non-English speaking driver, who was called repeatedly, he was in connection holes etc. to find out his arrival time. He made slower progress than expected – 12:00 was hoped for. I already knew it would be later, but was already on my way to the main road, where he wanted to pick me up at a pharmacy. Another phone call revealed: 16:00. I went to a pub and started to kill my time. I was too warm for any activity, my mind was also listless. They wanted to offer me something to eat, but I wasn’t hungry – except that the carrot salad on the menu aroused my desire. But there was none. Later, a super nice English-speaking young employee came – and she later surprised me with a carrot salad! Made especially for me! Besides, Mathieu had already had finished from teaching and was kind enough to drop by. And then the Marshrutka arrived well before 16:00 and I boarded it in a somewhat cheerful mood.
And stuck to the windscreen as we drove – what a great landscape we drove through! A bit like Ladakh – but then again not. The driver was very fast, the heat blew in my face like a hot hairdryer from the open roof hatch, we rocked through the landscape and I was in a good mood. First we drove halfway around the Toktogul reservoir and then headed south.
Once we stopped at one of those rest stops. There are a lot of table-camp ensembles with cushions on which people lie around exhausted. It was very hot there, and the driver asked me where I was from. Ah, Germania: Hitler! A Heil salute! I looked confused. A hint of themoustache. I continued to look confused. An imaginary rifle shot. So what do you say when the other person speaks zero English? And interestingly enough, it happened to me twice more the day after! I.e. 2 other men shouted “Hitler” at “Germania” and imitated gunfire.
At the junction, some people got off and others got on. One woman spoke to me a little: she is a Kyrgyz, a scientist for natural medicines or ingredients for that for heart problems. She emigrated to the USA with her husband for or after her studies, but comes to visit often. She can also work from her home office and that’s exactly what she planned to do here for the next few weeks. Unfortunately, she got off a good distance before my destination.
My destination was Arkit, a street village with a lot of accommodation at the entrance to the Sary Chelek National Park. Western tourists are very much outnumbered here, however; it is mostly for Kyrgyz travellers. There are no restaurants, the accommodation prepares the food and it tastes quite good here. Meat-heavy, as always, but it works. Melon is always the best.
But what’s great is that it’s super pleasant temperatures in the evenings! And fresh village air! I had company from a Belgian couple and so everything was good.
The next day, Sary Chelek was on the agenda. The Kyrgyz stewardess from the Tbilisi-Sharjja flight had actually recommended it to me! There are several lakes in the mountains with Sary Chelek as the largest. From the entrance gate (it costs 1 euro to enter), it’s 17 km up to 2,000 m. Taxis are quite expensive – and so the Belgians and I each hitchhiked. First, full family cars drove past me. Then one stopped and took me for 1-2 km – the family had nut trees and bee boxes or something there. The next car had only 2 children on board and took me until 30 minutes walk before the lake, then they turned off. At the lake I met the Belgians again – they had had a big car with a singing women’s birthday party in it. There were quite a few people at the lake and some inside, although my internet information said everywhere that it was forbidden. Otherwise they were picnicking and enjoying themselves. We spoke briefly with some of them and they were all from Osh. I took a few pictures.
The lady in the green shirt is 34 and has no children. Very rare. Then there were hiking trails to the other lakes. I set off, but even at 2,000 m it was actually too hot for me and I didn’t really get very far. But I did have a few nice views.
Down I took another route and came across this house:
And then surprise! Here were the man and the children from the 2nd car! The girl spoke a little bit of English. I was invited for tea. The man is a kind of park ranger and looks around. And he is the brother of my guesthouse man. His mother is or was an English teacher. But I guess she didn’t teach her son. There were also lots of bee boxes. The girl took a photo:
I said goodbye and down I got a lift from a minibus full of singing, dancing, happy boys who looked 16 but were all around 20 and truck drivers. I was told. It was disco on the bus and I was happy.
At the guesthouse, however, I was exhausted and had a bit of a circulation and headache, and even the evening chill couldn’t really alleviate it, so I decided to stay for a quiet day before I went to the heat hole of Osh. How did I do there? I will only find out later myself.