Kyrgyzstan is famous for its beautiful, untouched landscapes and up until this summer I had never taken advantage of my proximity to these huge mountains and had only enjoyed short hikes around the mountains. So when Fritz and Ginger, my two site mates, invited me to accompany them and three other volunteers on a four day horseback ride through Arslenbob I gladly accepted.
On the first Thursday of August we all drove up to a little mountain town called Arslenbob. I had been there once before the previous winter when it was covered in snow but arrived this summer to find the snow to be replaced by wild flowers. That night we all sat around over dinner with a couple bottles of wine laughing about how sore we were going to be and how delusional we were to think that we could make the trip comfortably. I know I was not the only one who went to bed that night anxious.
The next morning we were picked up at our guides house by 8 horses and 6 guides. It took about thirty minutes to arrange all the bags and supplies onto the horses before we could leave. That day we rode until 7 o’clock that night, only stopping for lunch and a few short stretching breaks. It had been a hard day. There had been terrifying cliffs, steep slopes and rocky trails so you can only imagine the distress we all felt when we realized there had been a miscommunication and the three tents we ordered for the group were not there. As we all stood there looking at each other unsure of what to do, a faint rumble in the not-so far-distance put a little more angst into our stares. After much discussion and insistence, the guides convinced us to take their tents as they had brought tarps and mats to sleep on and insisted that they were used to sleeping under the open sky.
Before dinner had even been made, it started to hail so all the Americans piled into one tent with a bottle of wine and the guides piled into the other. Thankfully for the entire group it turned out to be just a brief rain and we were able to continue on with dinner. It wasn’t 10 minutes after I ate before I crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep.
The next morning we woke up surrounded by skyscraping mountains behind the small valley which we had slept in. Compliments to the brief rain and hail the night before, the air was crystal clear and mountains that were 30 miles away were clear enough to look 5 miles away! Sitting over breakfast, I ate in silence just taking in the absolute beauty of the view. Immediately after breakfast we packed up our stuff and resumed our ride. By lunch we had made it to our final destination, the Holy Lake. The Holy Lake was a small alpine lake which was nestled amongst snow capped mountains. The water was pristine blue and crystal clear, looking at it all I could think of was a glass of icy blue raspberry cool-aid as that was the only memory I could liken to that color.
We set up camp and had lunch on one of the smaller lakes just a mile away from the main lake, and after we had all eaten we rode around the lake just admiring the beauty. On one side of the lake there were groups of people camping and enjoying the lake as we were. They welcomed us to their country and offered us the fattiest sections of their mutton and large bowls of kumis (fermented horse milk) demonstrating great hospitality. Only because of the tremendous kindness they showed us were we able to choke down the meat and chug the kumis.
Unfortunately the next morning Brock woke up sick because of the meal and spent the rest of the day walking behind the horses. That same morning Fritz had us all worried as he woke up so dizzy that he was unable to stand for the first half hour of the morning. As the day progressed they both started feeling better and we decided to continue with the original schedule rather than take a short cut to get the two men home. That day we were all pretty eager to get Fritz to a lower altitude in hopes that his vertigo would ease but it didn’t. It was only after we returned to Jalal Abad and one MRI test later did we find out that Fritz’s dizziness was due to misguided crystals in his ear.
The night before our last day on horseback I slept outside under the stars. It was outstanding. The next day I arrived back into town tired, dirty, sore and absolutely inspired by the trek.
8 years ago