On my way south, I decided to visit Song-Köl. Not easily accessible, the lake required some planning and renting a car with driver, but this was easily arranged in Kochkor. Just as we left the town in the inevitable Lada, a storm started to rage, first blowing dust and, soon thereafter, enormous amounts of water through the streets. Fortunately, our car proved waterproof, the wipers were working overtime. The black sky around us made me wonder if it was a good idea to continue. Quite soon, though, the rain subsided, and when we reached the first mountain pass I could get out for the view without getting wet. We continued through an almost empty valley, and when we reached the switchbacks of the Kalmak-Ashuu pass, I could see snow higher up. When we stopped at the top, near walls of snow, we were surprised to see Song-Köl lake below, bathing in sunlight. The sight was very peaceful: the tranquil waters of the lake, yurts dotting the shoreline, herds of animals roaming the pastures, and, well, not much else. Driving down, we saw herds of yak, reminding us again that we had reached a high altitude place - Song-Köl is the lowest place here at over 3000m. When we reached an encampment with yurts next to the lake, a warm sunlight made the lake look at its best. I walked along the shore, and wondered how the weather here could be so peaceful while just a while before, it had looked so bad. But immersing myself in the attractive landscape, I realized that coming here had been a good decision after all. Only thing: it was cold!
The next morning, I woke up well before sunrise, and started to walk the curious spit of land that was jutting out into the lake. There was no one else around, everyone seemed asleep, when I walked the path and the narrow beaches on this narrow stretch of land. At some places, I had to wade through a marshy terrain, but on others, I walked a pretty beach against which modest waves were lapping. Sunrise was great, helped by the fact that clouds were floating in, turning orange because of the increasing daylight. This was a paradise for birds: they were everywhere, flying in the sky, walking on the land, I could hear them play, and imagined that this remote place must be heaven for them. Walking here was good, too: an empty landscape, clouds reflected in the lake, snow-capped mountains at the horizon, clouds and sunlight continuously making for changing light. Only thing: it still was cold, and I had to keep my hands in my pockets for some warmth (oh, why did I leave my gloves at home?). After a long walk, I decided it was time for a dip in the lake at a stretch of beach, where I was able to run myself dry afterwards. It was time for breakfast: I walked back under ever changing weather.
Breakfast with a Kyrgyz family in a traditional yurt with traditional food: delicious yoghurt, fresh and warm bread: I made sure to eat enough for the hiking that was still ahead of me. Unfortunately, the driver was quite obnoxious, but I laughed his suggestion to go back to Kochkor away and got ready for a hike towards the mountains. The weather was sunny now, but then again, it was not unthinkable that it would rain soon. I walked the fields surrounding the lake, and set my goal at one of the mountains surrounding the lake. While initially keeping to a dirt track, at one moment I decided to follow a direct path towards the mountain, cutting straight through the lovely fields full of yellow flowers. Occasionally, I came across a Kyrgyz rider, or a lone yurt, more often, I met small herds of horses frolicking in the fields, or just lying on a bed of flowers. The summit of the mountain appeared to be easy to reach, and from there, I saw rain and snow falling quite close to me. I assumed it would come my way, but for as long as it lasted, I decided to take a seat on a rock and just look. Look at the lake below, look at the green-yellow frame around it, look at the yurts that seemed white specks from here, look at the clouds flying over the lake, look at showers of rain falling at a distance, look at the mighty birds of prey that were circling the mountains, on a search for their next snack. Yes, this was Kyrgyzstan, far away from the unrest that had hit the country, and I realized this was a far cry from the warnings of war I had heard before coming here. It was not easy to think of a more peaceful place.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Lake Song-Köl (Kyrgyzstan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Lake Song-Köl. Read more about this site.