Issyk Kul is the second highest and biggest salty lake in the world and means “warm lake”, which water wasn’t that warm. It’s a huge capacity of water surrounded by high mountains with a lot of rivers flowing into the lake, including many hot springs, and snow melt. but none of them flowing out. In the soviet era, it was a popular place for vacation with a lot of spa resorts, hot springs and mud pots, in present mostly tourists from Russia coming here.
We stayed with Akyl and his friends for few days. Midnight, we arrived at a village in the northern Issyk Kul. It was so cold that I had to put on my coat and socks. This is my first time of staying at a local Kyrgyz house. Although previously staying in Tatiana’s apartment, it was more like a youth hostel. This is a traditional house in the countryside, I felt very different. There was a room dedicated to bedding. All mattresses, sheets, pillows were neatly stacked. Before we went to sleep, they helped us made the bed layer by layer. It reminded me a story I read in my childhood “The Princess and the pea". But, to me, I only needed a place to sleep. A sweet breakfast came to me in the morning, fried dough, bread, eggs, cookies, chocolate, apricot jam, candies, and tea. They all looked tasty in the glass bowls. After meals, we went to brush teeth in the backyard, I saw a cow had been eating grasses there, a closer look at the grass, they had a lot of wild cannabis, I hope it would be fine to the cow.
On the way to Akyl’s grandma’s house, I saw many houses were under construction. Akyl said people go herding in the spring and summer. During this time they have their houses repaired so that they will spend winter time in the house. There were not many villagers on the road, few goats eating grasses and 3 kids playing something, I was too curious to ask what they are playing? they said it’s goat’s bones! That surprised me.
We had more tea, apricot jam, and butter in grandma’s home.
The hot spring’s close to the lakeside. We paid very little to relax here. There were 2~3 mixed pool outdoor, I took the hot spring first then jumped into the cold one, it was such a joy at the moment. Just walked through the meadow about 100 meters we arrived lakeside. Akyl pointed at the mountains at the other side and said,"See there’s still some snow cover on the mountain. In my childhood, we know it’s time to swim in the lake when they start melting." then, I walked into the water, it’s too cold to swim!
Hitchhiking in Kyrgyzstan is fun and many people tell us some amazing stories. Like the poet, Li Po was a Kyrgyz. It’s a tradition for two men eat a whole goat. They are proud of eating-goat-lover tradition. We skipped the east of Issyk Kul to the south. On a car, we mentioned that “I wish we could come to Kyrgyzstan earlier to see mack bloom." A guy replied, “You should visit here in September to see wild marijuana bloom everywhere." I couldn’t help to laugh. It was windy in the afternoon. Too bad to camp at the beach, so we went to an empty building to cook and smoke some “herbs" from that guy.
There are villages spread around the Issyk Kul, also you can arrange sightseeing in many places, hot spring, waterfall, national forest or camping site by the lake. We decided to travel along the road by lakeside, there’s a lake at southwest which called Tuz Kol, it’s a dead salt lake, just like the one at Israel. Tuz Kol located 500 meters away from Issyk Kul, but they are not connected. Finally, we reached the sign of salty lake. Nothing around here only 3 buildings. We looked up the map and checked the road, we must walk 13 kilometers to get to there. In the meantime, we didn’t see any cars coming, not even mentioning a car lead to the mountain. Then we walked to a convenience store, the boss suggested we pay for a taxi, but it’s not an ideal plan for us. It had been two days already no shower, we went to another house for sauna, no signs no village, but there’s a sauna!