Packing Day 21: Ask and ye shall receive
I wake and check the time. 05h00 on the dot. I unzip the tent flap and WOW, a golden glow spreads across the Eastern shore. I grab my sleeping bag and scuttle out of the tent to sit on the beach and enjoy the spectacle. Steve sleeps on. Kati pokes her head out of her tent, “morning”, then retreats to watch from the safety of the bug -free zone.
What a memorable scene unfolds! A large flock of swallows swoops up and down, up and down in great waves, their wings beating a rhythmic pulse in the air – must be feeding on the white flies. Black geese glide by in social groups. Their honking sounds just like hysterical laughter. The water is perfectly glassy, barely lapping the edges of the lake and slowly, slowly the golden glow expands and the mountains behind us are bathed in a soft, pink light. The yellow yoke peeps up over the horizon and all of a sudden, the orb of the sun bursts into view in all its glory. I am reminded of the Live song: “I don’t need no-one to tell me about Heaven, I look at my daughter and I believe. I don’t need no proof when it comes to God and Truth, I can see the sunset and I perceive “
I am ecstatic and, in an effort to become one with this spectacle of nature, I strip off and wade into the lake. There’s nothing like the feel of cool water against your bare skin! I swim out for ages until thoughts of strange lurgies lurking in the water break the spell and I head back.
Kati and Steve are still asleep, so I cook up some coffee, which I enjoy with the last drops of condensed milk, then I sit with my back to the sun and meditate on the warm sand. The flies, curiously, respect my privacy and keep their distance.
When the other 2 finally surface, we pack up and bid goodbye to what has surely been one of our most memorable campsites thus far. We continue alongside the water until a left-hand turn takes us up to a parking lot. There are quite a few cars and a number of local Kyrgyz of all shapes and sizes wandering around in swimwear. We go further and look down on a small body of water below. This is Salt Lake and it’s densely salty, like The Dead Sea. Children and adults alike float are frolicking in the water and generally seem to be having a ball. There are changing booths and some men are digging pit latrines – definitely a holiday destination. We are not keen to join the throng, though. We’ve become used to and prefer our solitude. I suggest this might be a good time for Kati to unload Duckey, but she is too attached. She wants to hang onto him a while longer. I tease that I’ve never thought of her as the mothering type, but seeing her fussing and crooning is making me think maybe she’d make a good Mom after all. It’s not too late. Any willing sperm donors out there? (you’d likely have to jump through a thousand hoops though, to meet her exacting standards for a stud).
“We need to find breakfast”, she says, changing the subject. The prospects seem bleak, but in the very next instant, we ride over a hump and straight slap, bang into Yurt City – numerous accommodations, shops & restaurants, garishly adorned with advertising and all set up in the middle of nowhere. Just bizarre!
We barely have time to register the scene, before we are accosted by a restauranteur, beckoning us to come and have some fish, “no good, no pay”, he promises. “Sounds fair”. We are ushered into a covered dining area and served delicious fried trout with potatoes and salad – talk about “ask and ye shall receive!” This more than makes up for all the dodgy cans of “tuna” we have buried these past few weeks.
Over breakfast we need to make some decisions. We have moved faster than initially envisaged and thus have 4 days in hand before we need to be back in Bishkek. Do we head back into the mountains and do another loop, then catch a cab to the capital or do we take the time to ride the 300-odd km back to Bishkek? The latter will mean slogging it out on some busy roads and the riding will not be as appealing as we’ve become accustomed to. On the other hand, the mountain loop might be disappointing after the astonishing peaks we’ve tackled to date.
I’m keen to ride, as I enjoy having a destination and I am not averse to wind or rain or traffic, if it’s in the cause of reaching the goal, but it’s a democracy and I’m pretty sure I’ll be out-voted.
Astonishingly, I’m not and so we find ourselves single-filing along a relatively busy, ragged tar road with a big dirt shoulder. Steve uses his helmet mirror and calls when we need to get off. After about 20km Steve pulls over into a covered bus stop. “Why you stopping in there?” Kati is on his case, “I need a rest out of the sun “, “Then let’s go down to the lake…” we look to the right and there’s a path leading through a wooded park to the lake- we didn’t even see it. Trust Kati to find THE spot! We veer off and are soon bumping over the grass towards the water. I waste no time getting in. It’s shallow for a long way out, so I lie on my back and kick to say afloat above the pebbly sand. What heaven! Kati and Steve sit on the shore and eat apricots purchased from some kids at the roadside.
We can see a biggish town on the far bank. Kati Googles accommodation. The only available hotel is R1000 a room. We can go for that or try to find a camp spot and spend one more night on the lake. Kati zooms in on the map. She can see a small path leading off the road about 10km on. It goes down to the water. This will be our only chance. We decide to try it. En route we encounter a large spring, spewing water straight into the air. It looks super clean. We fill up every receptacle we have and shortly thereafter, we turn off onto a roller coaster, hard packed dual track, which we follow for about 4km down to the water.
There are 5 kite surfers just packing up. First time we’ve seen any kind of water sport. I guess it’s just way too expensive for your average Kyrgyz. Even more amazing, they speak some English! We chat to them and turns out the main guy and his wife live in the camper van on the opposite shore during the summer, when they teach kite surfing and SUP boarding – it’s a growing sport, he says (there are about 15 of them now in the core group). In the winter they close up shop and travel the world. Sounds like the perfect Life and is more and more what we are leaning towards…
I can’t face pasta again and cooking in the sand is no fun, so we eat bread, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber and a carrot for dinner. “IF ONLY WE’D BROUGHT SOME WINE FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE!!”
Dessert is more bread with squares of chocolate stuffed inside. We imagine it’s Nutella.
The sunset is spectacular and as it grows dark, the lights from the town twinkle across the lake. We can’t believe we’re camped wild, completely alone, right near a big town and it’s ok, no-one objects, no-one will bother us. Could never do this at home!
As the wind drops, the flies come out to play. They seem to particularly love Kati, who is getting more and more aggro by the minute, “These f@kken moeggies!! Stupid, stupid! Don’t they know they’re going to DIE if they sit on me?” We escape to the sanctuary of the tent and the buzzing grows so loud; it sounds like a swarm of bees. I use it as a lullaby and drift off, already anticipating tomorrow’s sunrise…