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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Kyrgyzstan - 18 August, 2002



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Bush camp, Orto-Tokoj Reservoir N4217.783' E07600.308' 1,772 meters .
Bokonbaevo . . . .
Lake Issyk-Kul . . . .
Finish Karakol (Issky-Kul Hotel) N4228.375' E07824.063' 1,829 meters 235 km


1,769 km


Weather: Clear, sunny and hot.  Cool at night.



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Before getting up this morning, we spend half an hour in the tent enjoying the sun rise and the view over the reservoir.  It is a great spot.  We then pack up our tent, have breakfast, load up the truck and are off on our way.  After a short way, we begin our circumnavigation of Issyk-Kul Lake, the second largest alpine lake in the world.  The name means warm lake.  Due to a combination of extreme depth, thermal activity and light salinity, the lake never freezes.


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It is a beautiful lake, surrounded by snow capped mountains on each side of the elongated lake.  We first stop at Bokonbaevo to do some cook group shopping.  We wander through the market and then in search of a toilet.  We head into a courtyard where we find a well used latrine, but it serves its purpose.  On the way out, we notice a baker, who calls us over.  He wants to chat and find out where we are from.  He offers us some of his bread to sample.  It is always best when straight out of the oven.  We communicate in German (not sure where he learned it).  Lars goes and grabs his Polaroid camera and after we give him a picture, he tries to give us another five pieces of bread.  In the end, we escape with just two pieces (we did not want to waste it).


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After about half an hour, we head on our way.  After a short drive we find a nice spot along the lake edge to stop for lunch.  But first, a number of people go for a swim while lunch is being prepared.  Despite the lake's name, it is refreshing.  After lunch, a couple of us go for a walk along the beach.  We want to check out a steel object that we see in the distance on the beach.


We approach it, but we are not quite sure what it is.  What we do know, however, is that this area was used by the old Soviet Navy to test high performance torpedoes far from prying Western eyes.  This torpedo shaped object with a steel rail, sharp point, and hatch at the top may have been used in these tests for measurement purposes.  We had no idea what other civilian use it could have had.


We walked back to the truck along the beach and as we passed, the locals were very curious.  One group called us over and gave us a bunch of fruit.  It was very good.  Once back at the truck, we packed up and headed on our way.  We drove the full length of the lake to the other end, where we stopped for the day at Karakol, the administrative center for the area.


As we arrive at the hotel at 4 PM, we quickly drop off our bags and head into town.  we want to see what we can.  The hotel is a bit of a walk out of town and, worst of all, off the Lonely Planet map, so we need to try to navigate our way into town.  The hotel's directions were a bit confusing and we had some trouble finding our way.  We need to ask directions a number of times long the way.  Most times, we did not get too far as language was a problem.


The funniest time was when we asked a group of five men.  Only after we asked them, did we realise that they were stone drunk.  They started pointing all directions and then took our map, put it on the ground and turned it this way and that way.  In the end, after a food laugh, we headed on our way. In the end, an old lady with her granddaughter pointed us in the right way.


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It is quite a nice town with all the Russian gingerbread cottages and white poplar lined streets.  We see a number of old buildings and then reach the Holy Trinity Church, a wooden church in the typical Russian orthodox style.  They are in the process of doing extensive renovations as they restore the church.  The Bolsheviks closed it in the 1930's destroyed the five onion domes and turned it into a club.  We walked into the grounds and wandered into the church.  A service was going on inside.


We then walked the length of the town as we searched for the Chinese Mosque.  We got a bit lost and in the process got a good look at some of the run down public housing.  Once we reached the mosque, it was fascinating.  Made all out of wood with no nails, it was completed in 1910 by a Chinese architect and 20 Chinese artisans.  We wandered through the grounds that were filled with flowers and fruit trees.


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We then had the long walk back to the hotel, but it is a pleasant walk and we greet many of the locals as we pass.  Once back at the hotel, we quickly wash up and get ready for dinner in the hotel.  Dinner is downstairs and is not bad, but not too filling.  First course is some soup with veggies and meat balls, followed by a plate of stewed cabbages and meat.  It looks like there will be another course, but we are disappointed.


After dinner, we retire to our room to do some reading and get an early nights sleep.


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