Hiking to the top

The last couple of days we were pretty much off the grid. That’s a good thing, since we were enjoying the natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan to the max. Heavily sunburned and with aching backs and legs we’re now back in the beautiful Jameliya’s B&B in Karakol to relax one more day before setting off again.

After realizing that our iPhone weather forecast predicting freezing weather and rain for Karakol was probably meant for a village with the similar name somewhere else on this planet, we decided to neglect it and head straight for the mountains near Karakol. This area is according to the guidebooks one of the best regions for trekking and mountaineering in Kyrgyzstan and we can only attest to that. On Friday we first drove to an area called Jeti Oguz. The area is famous for a red rock formation which resembles seven bulls (Mirian is convinced there are eight – see picture and decide for yourself) and has a legend surrounding it about a khan’s unfaithful wife. The rock formation is according to Wikipedia a well-known landmark in Kyrgyzstan.

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Although the rocks are spectacular, the real beauty is a couple of kilometers further up and in between the mountains. Endless pastures of green, surrounded by snow topped mountains. First we had a picnic along the fast flowing river. After that we hiked into the most beautiful valley we’ve ever seen. All alone we were walking past fields of flowers, green pastures, wild horses and meandering small mountain streams. We lay down in the grass for a while watching the clouds high above vanish and slowly revealing the snow capped mountains. What a view.

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The next day we set off for another famous area near Karakol, the Karakol Valley. We’ve read about a beautiful lake, called Lake Ala-Kul, situated at a height of 3500 meters up in between the mountains. We first tried to drive up the mountain as far as possible with our car, but we didn’t got that far. The road became to rocky and bad for us to drive any further. so we parked it in a small field, strapped on our 20 kilos back packs and started walking to a base camp, from where we would start the climb to the lake the next day.

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We laughed a bit about the Lonely Planet, telling us it would take six hours to walk to the camp and another five for the hike to the lake. But it turned out, we underestimated the hikes a bit. The walk to the camp was still okay, but already lasted five hours. Completely exhausted we set up our tent in an empty field, just past the Karakol Base Camp, so we could start our climb to the lake early the next morning.

We had a bad night in the tent, because of the cold and because the tent is actually too small for my length. So we woke up at a little before six in the morning, packed up our things and headed for the base camp, to store our backpacks so we could climb lightly to the top.

At around 7.30 AM we started our ascent and quickly realized we were one of the first that morning. We didn’t meet a single soul in the first hour. We had great difficulties finding the start of the trek, but once we found it, the route to the top was fairly easy to find. I’m not talking about the actual climb, since that was of a totally different level. We naively estimated to need three and half hours to the top, but the steepness of the trek was a bit unexpected, so we needed the whole five hours in total, just as the guidebooks had told us. Luckily there was enough super fresh water around in the river to drink from. We drank litres of this crystal clear water.

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I guess a lot of people we passed and who passed us must have thought we are a bit strange, hiking in jeans, with no food, on running shoes and with no Nordic walking sticks (what’s with that, by the way?!). It made me remember one hike I did years ago together with Alex when one morning we decided to climb the highest mountain in the UK, the Ben Nevis on our brogues shoes and with one banana as food and ended up in the snow on the top. Remember that Alex?

The trek to Ala Kul was extremely beautiful, passing a huge water fall and snow dripping rocks and offering the most stunning views. We had a very rough time walking the steep path – some parts of the trek are actually rock climbing parts – and especially above 3000 meters we felt the lack of oxygen hitting us, but the reward we got when we arrived at the summit, made us forget all our pain immediately. Lake Ala-Kul is a picture perfect lake with an almost unreal colour. It looks like someone accidentally dropped a can of blue paint in the lake. We stayed at the top for little less than an hour, took a million pictures and had a chat with a very nice Korean guy we met a day earlier. He also arrived at the top safely and we took some pictures together. Mr. Pan as he said we could call him, was traveling by himself in Kyrgyzstan and will visit Turkey, Western Europe the US and Brazil later after returning to Seoul somewhere next year. We invited him for a good Korean dinner in Amsterdam at Yokiyo once he arrives there.

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Getting to the top was the hard part, descending the mountain took half the time it took us to climb, but by the time we were at the base camp again, we felt completely exhausted. And then the really hard part began. We still had to walk back with our heavy back packs to our car. That was another three hour walk.

When we finally arrived at our car it was about 7 PM. We had walked for 10,5 hours that day, of which 5 hours of steep climbing. We told each other a hundred times how proud we are to have accomplished this hike. For both of us, it was the hardest hike we’ve ever done. One, we will not soon forget.

After a quick bite at a local restaurant, we returned to our B&B and almost immediately fell asleep at about 9 pm. Today we’re recovering an extra day here in Karakol. Tomorrow we will depart and explore the other parts of this beautiful country, that already has been discovered by a lot of other Dutch travelers. In the B&B we are staying we met two other Dutch guys traveling in Kyrgyzstan and a whole tour group of Sawadee.

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We totally understand the attraction of this country. Very friendly people, stunning natural beauty and hey, you don’t need a visa!

5 Responses to Hiking to the top

  1. Elly

    Wow trots op jullie…ik vond de Huanghan mountain al een klim…mietje…ongelooflijk die foto’s van dat meer die kleur is onwerkelijk! Fijn dat jullie zo aan het genieten zijn – xxx uit steamy Shanghai en houd ons op de hoogte!

  2. Mathijs en Jasper

    Dag ‘Overlanders’,

    mooie reportages, we beleven het allemaal weer opnieuw.
    Wij rijden nu pas naar Song Kül en verder. Goeie travels!

  3. Kevin

    Great pictures.

  4. Emilie Osinga

    Amazing!!! Wat een prachtige foto’s & heerlijke verhalen. Enjoy xxx

  5. Kevin

    Hi Bert and Mirian,

    As the comments tab appears to be ‘off’ on your last two posts, I hope it’s ok to use this one.
    Re cycling across Mongolia and access to accommodation. I left a message on the e mail suggested
    dijk mac.com (assumed an @ between k and m).

    My e mail is kevinkingsbury@rocketmail.com Perhaps you will be able to send a message.

    I understand if you’re unable to assist due to the demands of travel, and wish you both the very best.

    Kevin

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