Beyond Lake Issyk Köl

N41’49E75’23 (Kyrgyzstan), 19.06.2013

Today we made it, we left Bishkek finally! At 08:50 we arrived at the mechanic workshop with the team from Land Rover Almaty, and soon afterwards the Evoque was getting its final check. The front brakes got fixed, the rest we were told was OK and good to go. So we packed, took a picture with team Almaty and team Bishkek, fuelled up and left town. The first hour we drove on a bigger road and could speed up. Then the ascent into the mountains began and the road got worse. At lunchtime we finally saw it, lake Issyk Köl, one of the 10 biggest lakes and the second highest mountain lake in the world! What a sight, the deep blue lake with its turquoise borders in front of an endless mountain range covered in snow. The lake stretches 170 km long, of which we drove only around 50 on the northern shore, since we didn’t have too much time. As beautiful as the lake itself was, as disappointing were the villages we passed. Probably inspired by the many pics from the Mediterranean summer we find on Facebook these days we expected beaches, summertime atmosphere in the towns. We even found the courage to look for a town LP describes as the Cancun of Central Asia. But nada, soviet tristesse galore, empty villages, few bungalows in bad shape, some former hotels falling into pieces. We left the road to explore a peninsula that from afar seemed lovely, with a little bay. But also here the beaches were barely accessible, dirty and apparently used more by cows then people. And the water close to the shore was all brown from the mud. No bath today.

We bought some smoked fish on the roadside and turned around. Shortly after loosing the lake out of sight we found some firewood and then drove up the mountains in direction of Torugart and the Chinese border. The last 60km before the border are military territory and before that altitude is around 3400m. We were feeling the breathing problems again, and at 17:00 decided to leave the main road and head for another lake in the mountains, Sang Köl. We wanted to camp at max 3000m to acclimatise  The road was unpaved, and after 20km became tough and steep. Temperature kept dropping, we reached snow covered areas. At a mountain river we filled our water tank. Then at some point we reached a pass and the silver lake opened up in front of us, at a distance, surrounded by mountains covered in snow. Up here shepherds camp in their yurts as their herds of sheep, cows, goats and horses graze freely all around. We were not 100% sure if we had found the right side of the lake and were trying to orient us in the landscape, map and compass at hand, when we suddenly ran into a huge truck un a meadow besides the road, surrounded by tents and – the English travellers from Osyssey Overland we had met in Turkmenistan at the gas crater and the border! We stopped and were greeted by a lot of cheers, some fermented milk, cheese and a cold beer. How nice to see these guys again, and even more up here, a very unlikely place to meet travellers in general. While we were chatting the sun started to disappear behind some dark clouds. Time to move on and pitch our tent for the night. The guys told us it had snowed the night before and some of them had swapped the tents for yurtstays to sleep warmer. Very encouraging!

A few minutes later we drove up a hill, off the road and found our place to camp. As we got the tent, kitchen and firewood out of the car we heard thunder from the other side of the valley. The weather was quite difficult to read, sun on one end, rain on the mountains of the opposite side of the valley and lake. We prepared the tent quickly, the fire was lit in no time, but the thunder kept rolling closer. We had planned to cook, but now we changed plans. We put two cans of fabada asturiana on the fire, warmed up a quick soup, and got out the remains of a bottle of Côtes du Rhone from our hotel in Bishkek. The wind got stronger, first raindrops started to fall. We closed the car and tried to keep the fire going. A lightning struck with a huge “bang!” very close to us. We ate the first fabada as the raindrops converted to grail. Then all hell broke loose. We fled into the tent with the second can, some bread all our things. And ate the hot meal while a bombardment from the sky battered our tent. We had gotten quite wet outside, but the last bit of wine and some foie gras we had brought from our reserves of the Madrid household saved our dinner. We had a brief look outside of the tent, a surreal scenario and amazing light. The sun was still shining one side of the valley, over the lake, while the opposite side was pitch dark, with a rainbow partly covered by heavy clouds. The mountains in front of us were now all clear and snow white, the moon rising above them, while the ones behind us were covered in the storm. The fire was smoking heavily, all around the tent it was white and frozen from the grail. Enough for the day.

Trip data for the day

– Km driven: 525

– Hrs on the road: approx 7,5h

– Diesel l/100km: 10,3












Author: electroboris

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