Day 40 – 29/6/16
Naryn to Issy Kul

We had checked in overnight at Khan Tengri Hotel. The currency used here was Som and had got some exchange withdrawn from the bank. We were not very sure about the hotel as it was one of the only 2 places available for us to stay at Naryn. But the hotel was very good in comparison to our expectations. We had a lovely breakfast, after a long time atleast they knew what an omelette was. We were tired of explaining that to the Chinese.

Naryn is located in the scenic area at the foothills where Naryn River, the longest river in Kyrgyzstan, runs. The natural landscape of Naryn combined mountains, forests and grasslands. We understand that it is the regional administrative center in central Kyrgyzstan, with a population of around 40,000. It is situated on both banks of the Naryn River, which cuts a picturesque gorge through the town.

Naryn is the main transport link from Kyrgyzstan to China. It hosts one of three campuses of the University of Central Asia (UCA), founded in 2000 by the governments of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, and His Highness, Aga Khan. We also met a few delegates at the hotel who had come to Kyrgyzstan with respect to this University, besides a big group travelling by road through Kyrgyzstan.

We left for Issyk Kul and stopped on various scenic spots for photography.

We met this local lady on the way with her grand daughter selling fermented mare’s milk and also dried version of the same, supposed to be done national drink and sweet. We went to her Yurt and saw the simplicity in which they lived with bare minimum things required for survival. She also demonstrated how the milk was fermented in a barrel. We tasted both the dried version and the fermented milk. It tasted like our butter milk back at home. She was very happy to have herself photographed with us. Either of us understood very little of what we spoke, but still had so much of interaction. Louis handed over a souvenir to the little girl while Michael gave them some Apricots. It was so wonderful interaction.

We were again on our way looking for a place to eat. After a long drive and Michael being stopped twice for speeding, we reached some small town and tried looking for a restaurant with the help of the locals. We were happy to find a few people who atleast could speak a few words of English.

After a nice lunch managed by pointing at food others ate, Google translation, etc we commenced our journey to Issyk-Kul. Here started the bad roads as the entire road was under reconstruction, managed to drive about 20 kms in an hour. Reached Karven Four Seasons, place we thought we had reserved, only to be told we were at a wrong place and that we would have had to drive another 50 kms to reach the Karven Issyk-Kul. Checked with the hotel reception if there were any other hotel around and they guided us to another resort in their neighborhood, Raduga Resort. What an amazing place it was, loved it. We could walk to the lake through the resort property. The resort was full of roses, apples, peaches, etc.

Day 41 – 30/6/16
Issy Kul

A day of relaxation at Issy-Kul to enjoy the beauty of this place.

Issyk-Kul lake is an endorheic lake in the northern Tian Shan mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan, the tenth largest lake in the world by volume and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. Issyk-Kul means “warm lake” in the Kyrgyz language although it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it never freezes.

Issyk-Kul Lake is 182 kilometres long, up to 60 kilometres wide, and its area is 6,236 square kilometres. It is second largest mountain lake in the world behind Lake Titicaca in South America at an altitude of 5,272 ft, and reaches 668 metres in depth. About 118 rivers and streams flow into this lake; fed by springs, including many hot springs, and snow melt. The bottom of the lake contains the mineral monohydrocalcite: one of the few known lacustrine deposits.

Day 42 – 1/7/16
Issy Kul to Bishkek

After a good breakfast left for Bishkek, the capital and largest city of the Kyrgyz Republic. According to post-Soviet research, the name is thought to derive from a Kyrgyz word for a churn used to make fermented mare’s milk (kumis), the Kyrgyz national drink, although not all sources agree on this.

We reached Bishkek around 3.30 pm and checked in at Garden Hotel, after stopping on the highway for some quick lunch. Will relax a bit before we head out to explore the city.

Bishkek is situated at an altitude of about 2,600 ft, just off the northern fringe of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, an extension of the Tian Shan mountain range. These mountains rise to a height of 4,855 meters and provide a spectacular backdrop to the city. It is connected to the Turkestan-Siberia Railway by a spur line.

Day 43 – 2/7/16

Today was a day of complete relaxation, just went around town, had a hair cut, slept in the afternoon, got some currency exchanged for Kazakhstan, etc. Had dinner at Hollywood Pub and retired for the day.

Day 44 – 3/7/16

Today after breakfast we drove about 40 kms south from Bishkek to visit the Ala Archa National Park, an alpine national park in the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan to see the gorge of the Ala-Archa River and the mountains surrounding it. Met a lot of weekend picnickers, hikers, as well as mountain climbers.

They charged a fee of 450 Som per car for entering the park. There were three trails, one about 10 kms from Ala-Archa valley to an old, abandoned, ski area and numerous other 4000m peaks. The other one towards the Ak-Sai waterfall was about 3.75 kms and the third trail was about 1.3 kms along the Ala Archa river. We decided to take the 3.75 kms and started climbing the steep trail. Michael and me decided to return back after about 1.25 kms. Louis, Susanne & Ulrikka decided to continue, but after about having an hour they too returned back. Wish instead we had walked along the river. Anyway that was it. After a few nice pictures, we decided to go to the northern side to visit the Burana Tower.

The Burana Tower is a large minaret in the Chuy Valley about 80 km east of Bishkek, near the town of Tokmok. The tower, along with grave markers, some earthworks and the remnants of a castle and three mausoleums, is all that remains of the ancient city of Balkash gun, established by the Karakhanids at the end of the 9th century. An external staircase and steep, winding stairway inside the tower enabled us to climb to the top. But after climbing a few steps decided not to go any further. There were no lights, the staircase was narrow and found to be claustrophobic.

We understand that the tower was originally 45 mtrs high. However, over the centuries a number of earthquakes caused significant damage to the structure. The last major earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the top half of the tower, reducing it to its current height of 25 mtrs. The tower has now been renovated else it would have collapsed.

The entire site, including the mausoleums, castle foundations and grave markers, now functioned as a museum with a small building on the side containing historical information as well as artifacts found at the site and in the surrounding region.

On our way a few times Google Map guided us through non-motorable roads and we had to turn back.

Day 45 – 4/7/16

Visit to Indian Embassy in Kyrgyzstan

Today was the day we had reserved to meet His Excellency, Shri Khobragade, an excellent personality. We spent about an hour with him and we had a very valuable interaction with him. We promised to spend more time with him on our return journey sometime in November.