04-Sep-2014 -- I wanted to visit this confluence point in June last year, but there was still too much snow to make it feasible. Now back in Kyrgystan for some more trekking in the jailoos, the summer pastures high above the timberline, I wanted to give it a try, but realised that it could be difficult. I visited the office of Community Based Tourism (CBT) in Bishkek, the government map office and decided to go for it. The CBT contacted their office in Kyzyl- Oi and helped me doing the relevant bookings with home stays and local transport and a guide as my Russian is not all that good. I got four maps, they all met in their respective corners at the confluence point. A chap at the hotel where I stayed in Bishkek offered to take me southwards to Kysyl- Oi for free if I only paid for the petrol (which would be around 2.000 Som) . Next morning as we were about to start the 200 km trip it turned out that it would cost 5.000 Som, he had been joking the day before! People were waiting for me at Kyzyl-Oi, there was no time to find alternatives.
The drive took about four hours and involved a climb of about 1.000 m through rather barren but impressive gorges and mountain passes. The local CBT office with attached home stay is run by Mr. Artyk Kulubaev who explained the set up of their services with tours in the mountains, trekking by foot or by horse and the number of home stays they could offer in the village and the surrounding areas.
After a good dinner, a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast Mr. Baish turned up with a 4x4 vehicle and off we went. On the way we stopped to gather dried sheep dung from his farm at the outskirts of Kyzyl-Oi, fuel for the cooking at his family’s yurt (traditional round felt tent). The ten kilometres, a bumpy ride of more than an hour and we reached the family’s summer camp where Baish’ parents , his two – three brothers(?) and his six year old son stayed. Their 150 sheep, 50 horses and around 20 cows were grazing in the surrounding hills, but were gathered close to the camp under the watchful eyes of the family dogs every night. We had a quick lunch in a tent with an oilcloth on the ground and delicious bread, salads and tea and kumuz (fermented horse milk) in abundance.
My Russian seemed sufficient to explain what I wanted to do. We had gone up about 1.000 m by car to 2.800 m and had about 850 m to go. As the crow flies, it was about three kilometres from the yurt to the confluence point. We set out by horse. Not being an experienced rider, Baish towed me. After one kilometre it became too steep for the horses. Above us circled three big eagles, a falcon and two small raptors hanging like helicopters above the ground. Baish told me they had a wolf problem in the area. Snow leopards were also supposed to be around, but he had never seen any.
We continued by foot along a stream in a terrain featured by rocks, gravel, grass and the odd flower. It was a steep ascent. The going was slow due to thin air, 75 year old legs and a cold wind which at times contained snow and sleet. I had a stick to support me, but for the last 200 m I was so exhausted that I had to stop every 30 m. I was about to give up thinking that if I only reached the 100 m limit I would settle for that. My head was unclear and my eyes were fixed only on the GPS and the ground two meters ahead. By the time I reached the 100 m point, the sleet stopped. The sun broke out, so I stumbled along to the confluence point. My wet fingers were so cold that it was difficult to handle the camera, but as soon as the photo of the GPS registration was taken I just sat down, totally exhausted. Baish took the remaining required photos before he sat down and we shared a couple of chocolate bars which he had to break open. I had almost no strength in my fingers. But sitting there in the sun at an altitude of 3.650 m was a very happy old trekker and confluence hunter!
The descent was almost as hard as the climb up due to the gravel and loose ground. And not to forget the” jelly knees”. Down by the horses we came across a lost sheep which had to be encouraged to join the others closer to the yurt. Baish gave me some quick instructions on how to ride a horse and chased after the sheep. Gradually the horse cooperated , but riding downhill was a bit like being kicked in you behind. However, I was a proud rider finally reaching the yurt.
Dinner was boiled lamb in pieces on a big tray in the middle of the oil cloth and we were all eating with our fingers big pieces of fat meat, tomato and cucumber salad, bread and drinking kumuz. A pleasant meal.
After a deep sleep in the yurt where the others for a while watched a DVD (they had a solar panel for this and for light), I had a solid breakfast of bread, salad, kumuz and tea. A wolf had been spotted early that morning, and two of the men got on their horses for wolf hunting.
There was no mobile phone coverage for my Norwegian sim card in Kyzyl-Oi, and no coverage at all by the yurt. But at the confluence point there was enough coverage to allow an SMS to my wife...