This area of Kyrgyzstan is a little more off the beaten track, but like the rest of the country it has yurt camps, mountains, and alpine lakes. There were three places I wanted to see, Tash Rabat (another yurt camp), lake Chartyr Kol, and lake Kol Suu. The latter of which you need a special permit for, which I’m not exactly sure why, but something about it being a Chinese border region. The permit costs around $15 and the yurt camp at Tash Rabat was able to get it for me a week ahead of time. Although I found out you can now get it in a few hours in the nearest town of Naryn.
In Naryn I was practically mauled by cab drivers pulling both my arms towards their taxis. I told both these guys I was not interested (those were not the words I used) and found a taxi that didn’t try to pull my arms out of their sockets. It was a few hours to get the yurt camp which located in lush green valley at the foot of the mountains. It also has an interesting old stone building nearby, called a caravanisaii, which was basically a hotel for caravans passing through on the silk road many many years ago. It’s surprisingly well preserved.
I ended up running into a British guy who I had met in Karakul and we decided to do the hike to Lake Chartyr Kol the next day. It was a solid four hours of uphill hiking to get up to the pass that overlooks the lake. Like most of these lakes it’s surrounded by raw, rugged looking mountains. A few tiny looking yurts could be spotted off in the distance. It’s amazing how much spectacular scenery can be in one small country, and I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface. The walk back down was a bit more exciting as we got some rain and even a bit of hail before ending up back in camp. It turns out the Japanese couple that I met earlier in the trip were there now too! Because there’s not so many tourists and a pretty well defined tourist trail, it’s very easy to run into the same people at different points along the trip.
The next day I had hired a driver and 4x4 to take me to lake Kol Suu. Apparently the southern road, which is the short way, was flooded (as some Russians found out as they spent 6 hours getting their jeep unstuck) so we had to take the long way around. 7 hours of dirt/gravel track and potholes! We were about two hours away when the car broke down. The gearstick was locked up and the driver knew right away it was something serious. Cars break down all the time in Kyrgyzstan, but everyone seems to be a car expert here, and they can usually come up with some sort of fix to get it up and running again. Not this time though.
We waited for maybe 3 hours just to see another car drive by, and then another hour to find one heading to the same spot as us, who the driver seemed to know. We just left the car on the side of the road, put our stuff in this little 4x4 hatchback and continued onward. We made it to the camp just before dark. It was a permanent residence plus a few yurts. There are always yurts!
That night I ended up waking up at 4:30 am to pee and the moon was shining brightly, and I thought to myself, might as well start hiking now! The lake was 2 hours away, so this way I could get there right around sunrise. And it was a great decision. The mountains were lit up by the moonlight, the weather was cool, but not cold, the trail was easy to follow, and it was some of the most enjoyable walking you could possibly imagine. I made it to the lake at 6:30 and the sun was well up at this point, but it would take a while to actually shine on the lake due to the mountains surrounding it. Kol Suu really is one the prettiest lakes I have ever seen. It’s not everyday you see a lake that has sheer rock walls rising up from the water on all sides. I was now regretting not shelling out the cash to take a boat out on the lake, as I was only seeing just a small portion of it, but still, it was amazing.
I spent the rest of the day hiking around and then we headed back towards civilization. We ended up towing the broken down car with nothing but a nylon rope, over rough sections of road, potholes, you name it. I can’t believe the cord didn’t snap, or that this little white hatchback had the power to tow it to begin with. It was pretty wild.
And that was about all for Kyrgyzstan! I just had to figure out how to get back to Osh and hopefully find some people to rent a 4x4 to do the Pamir highway with in Tajikistan. All in all I had great time in this country! It’s really is a hidden gem in the Stans. It’s cheap, has friendly people, has absolutely gorgeous scenery, some amazing hikes, isn’t too touristy, and being a part of the former USSR adds some weird quirks to it as well. Highly recommended by Nomad Adam!