The Chunkurchak Gorge is located only 45 km from the capital Bishkek and is a great destination for a day trip, whether in summer for hiking and walking or in winter for skiing.
The road became dusty, we recognized the approaching car by the dust whirl. But we only met two, maybe three cars at all.
Along the road, dog rose bushes crouched, and thistles that grew to a respectable height there turned their curious, prickly small heads behind us. Far on the horizon, the majestic, bluish, silent mountains of the Tian Shan rose to the sky.
We were surprised by the vastness of the landscape. The road was winding as if someone had deliberately made it so that one could enjoy a different angle of view of the surrounding natural scenery behind each bend.
The very first plants that attracted us carried a number of smaller white flowers on high stems. At first we noticed only isolated plants, but then they created larger and larger islands, until the slopes opened to us completely covered with these flowers. Their white color shone in the afternoon sun, as if someone had placed thousands of altar candles here. After all, even in Slovak this plant – Eremurus – has a fitting name: steppe torch. Kyrgyz people also call it a fox’s tail.
Soon, we saw the first yurt, looking like a broad sugar loaf from the distance. Its inhabitants sat in the shade of the only tree in the area and a dog ran around the yurt. For the most part, the country was deserted, the presence of civilization was revealed only by electric pylons and wires, which, although they bring the necessary electricity here, perfectly obstruct your view when you try to capture the pure beauty of the local nature in your lens.
The blooming “torches” were replaced by meadows with yellow flowers. Horse herds grazed on them. The foals pressed against the belly of their mothers, they always kept close to them, from time to time they tossed their manes. The horses’ backs glistened while the animals enjoyed the summer pasture.
At another meadow, I was fascinated by the way the horses moved gracefully, avoiding the tall thistles that remained intact while the animals grazed the green grass around them.
At some places, horses grazed together with cows. There were also simple, old cowsheds or just primitive shelters made of various pieces of metal sheets. And when an inscription made of some large white stones emerged on the hillside, which our Kyrgyz guide translated as “I love my village,” it was clear that we were approaching a human dwelling. However, a village is not like a village. There were only yurts and caravans. And horses. The life-giving artery was a river that rippled through the valley like a silver ribbon.
The caravans had curtains on the windows, but also bars. The parked Lada and other cars had their trunks open, a girl with a big linen hat ran out of one of the caravans and smoke was rising to the air at some yurts. Dinner was about to begin. A nice idyll… Technical progress arrived here in the form of plastic chairs and tables with huge umbrellas…
Our car crawled lazily further up the hill. The fact that this area is a popular winter resort was evidenced by several ski lifts, on which the seats swung even in summer. One lift stretched across the landscape like an endless necklace with strange pendants.
What took our breath on the hill looked like a settlement of huts created by crossing yurts, igloos and who knows what else (Ethnic Complex Supara). We didn’t expect anything like that here. Unlike the yurts and caravans in the valley, there was almost no living soul here.
We preferred to walk along the forest path and admire the dead-nettles, buttercups and other well- or lesser-known flowers, thickets of wild dog rose, blooming not only with pink but also with white and yellow flowers. The birch grove rustled in silence and a butterfly landed on my leg. His left wing was torn, it might have stopped by mistake on one of those tall thistles.
The valley opened in front of us, like when you spread your arms. The orange-brown color alternated with different shades of green. The sun was already beginning to bend to the other edge of the sky and it was necessary to slowly set out for the return to the city.
We stopped in the valley at the yurts. Only then we noticed that there were also wooden huts and sheds ready for weekend picnics. Some looked like forgotten shelters of stagecoaches from the Wild West.
However, the main inhabitants of the camp were shepherds who spend the whole summer here with their herds and families. We were attracted by a yurt with a typical Kyrgyz pattern. However, it was a yurt of the modern type – with wooden doors that could even be locked! Inside, there were thick felt blankets. People only use the yurt for sleep. The whole life takes place outside and in the caravan.
A man and the girl with the hat showed up, but the conversation was strenuous. It was not possible in English at all, in Russian just a little. A little boy trotted by on a horse and came closer. He was too young to read and write, but old enough to control a horse, even though the animal was much bigger than he was. For Kyrgyz people, a horse is everything – a farm animal, source of livelihood, means of transport and also a good friend.
The horse had white “socks” on its hind legs and a white spot on its forehead, which stretched to its left nostril. The boy could have been at most four years old, his legs still not reaching the stirrups, when he jumped off the big horse, he plunked down straight onto his butt. He watched us in disbelief, and his little eyes narrowed even more. After a while, he stopped enjoying it, let his father lift him up back in the saddle, then he pushed the horse with a short whip and galloped into his children’s world in the lap of Kyrgyz nature.
We continued on our way. We passed several cemeteries in the desolate landscape. Except for some crumbling traditional tombstones built of clay bricks, on some graves, there were structures that looked like an unfinished yurt, although I would rather say – huge bird cages. Almost 90% of the country’s population are Sunni Muslims. I do not know how it is in Islam with the soul, but I remembered the ancient Egyptians who believed that a soul was made of several parts. The “ba”, which makes a person unique, was depicted as a bird with a human head. It flies out of the grave after death. The cages in Kyrgyz cemeteries would be very suitable for such a flying soul, don’t you think?
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid a Katka, Travelpotpourri