Today we drove from Naryn to Tash Rabat going over another set of mountains and driving along a spectacular snow-capped range. The road is the main road from China and is frequented by large Chinese trucks. This is tolerable on the bumpy, potholed asphalt but when the road becomes gravel they kick up huge clouds of dust concealing the road as they pass.
Tash Rabat is 15 km off the main road in a small river valley. From the hills, the area around the river is a puddle of green following the lowest parts of the hills. The weather was beautiful when we arrived at the yurt camp.
When we arrived, we learned there were no horses available. This was unfortunate because that is what people do around here. Instead, we walked to the caravansaray for which the area is named, Tash Rabat, the stone fortress.
The ruins have been reconstructed but it still is an interesting structure of stone. It is built into the hill and the wall in the front is the true height of the building but as you walk towards the back, the wall gets to be only a couple feet high and you can climb up and walk on the roof.
Inside it is a large structure with a hall with many rooms leading off it. In the back is a large domed area where there was a mosque.
Off of that were some general sleeping dorms--long hallways with shelves for sleeping.
One part had a second story with more sleeping spaces. Most of the rest of the caravansaray were small rooms for wealthier patrons. There was a tunnel and a small dungeon.
Since some of the rooms were dark, we came back after lunch with flashlights.
In the valley there seem to be a couple herds of yaks who wander around looking like the hippies of the bovine world. We climbed up a bit of one of the surrounding hills and watched eagles circling and listed to yaks grunting.
Rowshan decided to see how he would look with yak inspired facial hair.
Even without horses, we had a pleasant walk admiring the view of the yurt camp and Tash Rabat below us.
We did have to be careful where we sat because of the presence of a lot of yak dung.
After our walk, we had a bath in the Russian sauna, powered by yak dung.
Then I relaxed in the yurt while Rowshan took photos outside. The yurt we are in has lots of shyrdaks as well as other decorations which will hopefully provide extra insulation.
The family served dinner in a special guest dining room in their house.Day 2
The perfectly clear, star-filled night seemed to transform itself into a murky blur of clouds and rain by morning.
At breakfast we could see strong gusts of wind sending the thistle-down whipping in a perfect horizontal line across our vision. When Cholpan, the tourist camp owner's daughter, a very professional and intelligent 13 year old, came into the dining room to confirm our riding plans, we backed out.
Instead we opted to try to make it to Bishkek. I do want to say a few words about Cholpon. She was the one who greeted us and seemed to organize everything. She asked us about our meal times, what our plans were, if we wanted a Russian bath... When we went to the caravansaray, she found the caretaker and had her open the gate and then gave us a little tour. We were all very impressed. She also managed to speak more English than many of the people we've met. We were all very impressed that she could be so responsible at 13.
We made a stop at Koshoy Korgon where there were ruins of an ancient fortress. The mud walls were rather shapeless blobs that made a square shape on the ground.
There was a nice little museum which had information about the history of the region (in Kyrgyz, Russian, and English) and a display of artifacts found at the site. There was a display about Manas as well as a yurt skeleton and ethnographic pieces. There was also a model of what the fortress may have looked like before it became melted piles of mud. From there we continued on to Naryn, passing people harvesting in their fields and others transporting animals.
Our driver agreed to take us to Bishkek so after a stop in Naryn for him to inform his wife, we continued through the mountains, passing a stunning wall of red stone on our way out of town.
The weather got warmer and clearer as we progressed on our way North. After a lunch stop with rather disappointing food at Cafe Vizit (which we'd eaten at several times before and had good food but this time they couldn't do fried laghman and their beshparmak was made from ramen noodles which would have been very hard to eat with 5 fingers), we continued towards Bishkek passing numerous odd concrete monuments of animals (as well as a giant hat), some beautiful vistas, and lots of mountains.