Kyrgyzstan exceeded my high expectations, and I really enjoyed our time there. We stayed in Bishkek, the capital, for two nights at the beginning and end of our visit, and spent the rest of our time out in the countryside with our guide/translator Azis. He’s from the village of Kochkor and gave us countless insights into Kyrgyz culture.
We spent a whirlwind day in Bishkek buying boots and warmer clothes, then drove to Kochkor, where we stayed at Azis’s family’s homestay. There, we got to help make a traditional felt rug with his parents.
Horse trekking (Song-Kol Lake)
We took a two-day horse trek from a place near Kochkor over a couple mountain passes to Song-Kol Lake. We stayed with a nomad family in the middle, and after getting to the lake we stayed an additional day and night relaxing at a yurt camp. Being on a horse for five hours a day, two days in a row, was a little hard on our backsides. We enjoyed it anyway, and had fun getting our horses to a gallop by the end. The landscape was astoundingly beautiful – the best of the trip, in my opinion.
Issyk-Kul Lake and the hunting eagle
Grant and Ruby got sick the last night in Song-Kol, we think from the altitude (10K ft). The day we drove to Issyk-Kul was a recovery day for them. The next morning we drove to a nearby valley where a Kyrgyz eagle hunter demonstrated the hunting skills of two of his eagles. The knowledge of how to catch, train, and care for these golden eagles is passed down from generation to generation. Each eagle is kept until it is 20 years old, then it’s released to live out the remaining ~40 years of its life in the wild.
Kate’s book recommendation: I like to read books set in the places I visit for additional context, history, and color. For Kyrgyzstan, I read Thieves of Honour by Kent Mathieson. The writing was pretty bad, so I can’t recommend it, but it did provide a little local color. It was hard to find English-language books set in Kyrgyzstan, especially for my Kindle!