After a cold night in a yurt at Lake Song Kol, I was welcomed by perfect weather when I got up. After a small breakfast and my last two pictures with my Sony camera (which completely refused to work afterwards). From then on, my smartphone took over the photography job. At around 10 I left the yurt camp and followed the lake for around 30 km through vast grassland before climbing the last big pass for 400 m. After the pass, a rough 35 km downhill followed until I finally reached a paved road again, on which I cycled to Kochkor. There are plenty of guesthouses here, so finding one was easy.
A night in a yurt
I have already camped outside many times on this trip in my own tent, but sleeping in a yurt was a novelty and interesting experience for me. Thanks to the double layers of blankets, I also stayed warm even though temperatures were dropping close to zero. The only thing that was cold was my face, which left me with a running nose during the night.
However, I have to note here that the yurt I was staying in last night was a “touristic” yurt, meaning that even though the “tent” was original, there were actual beds inside. This is not how the nomads sleep, they normally sleep on the ground.
I have had several meals now at nomads’ tents, and they all had in common that the quantities were by far not enough to satisfy my appetite. Alright, I am cycling all day and need more energy than the average person, but even if not, two eggs and a bit of bread for breakfast is still not a lot. The problem with that is that I am missing energy for cycling during the day, so today during the day I had to eat around 4 Mars (chocolate bars), cook noodles for lunch, and still always was a bit hungry.
Variety of food
What all those meals at the tents had in common as well is, that it was basically always the same food. Bread (mostly a bit aged, at one time freshly made though), butter, jam, eggs, soup, fermented horse milk, and tea. Being spoilt from living in Switzerland, it is hard for me to imagine how nomads could eat this every single day while being up in the mountains from June to September.
Cycling along the lake
Lake Song Kol is very beautiful with its deep blue waters and the endless green grassland around it. There are thousands of animals grazing all around the lake. While I am used to sheep and cows in Switzerland, I still have to get used to see huge herds of horses walking around freely up here. I guess I have seen more horses here in Kyrgyzstan than in my whole life before.
Even though everything around the lake is very beautiful, it is also very repetitive. Initially I planned to cycle around the whole lake which would have been around 100 km, but I decided to only do a third of it and then leave via the last remaining pass towards the north of Kyrgyzstan. Besides, the road around the lake was not that pleasant for cycling anyway as it consisted partially of “corrugated iron tracks”. These tracks are a nightmare to ride on, especially on bicycle without a suspension.
Descending to Kochkor
After climbing the last pass for 400 m from the lake, I was looking forward to descending from 3400 m to below 2000 m as it was supposed to be an easy ride. Usually going downhill from passes on unpaved roads needs some attention, but it is also fun to ride between stones, through small creeks, and not having to accelerate yourself. Unfortunately, when the descent got a little flatter in the lower 20 km of unpaved roads, the road turned into one horrible ride. There was this corrugated iron track again, but this time sometimes across the whole road, so there was no space to escape it. 20 km on such roads is really tiring, and the vibrations caused by it are very tiring and bad for the electronic equipment (i.e. for the photo camera which broke on such roads as well).
I was happy when I finally reached the main road that took me to Kochkor. I was already quite tired by then after 80 km of rough roads, but the perspective of being in a town and having a decent dinner in a restaurant kept me going. Even though I had strong head wind, the fact that it was descending continuously and the road was finally paved again made the 40 km ride to Kochkor very pleasant.
But despite all the hassle with the road, the descent still was very beautiful. Starting in alpine climate with snowy mountains and green grass, going down through dry regions which at some point turned into desert, and yet again down to a fertile valley showed a lot of faces of this beautiful country in just one afternoon.
Max elevation: 3436 m
Min elevation: 1893 m
Total climbing: 1181 m
Total descent: -2318 m
Total time: 09:49:43