August 12: Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan
6:45 I got to bed early enough but had one of the worst sleeps of the entire trip. Rodney and I slept against the north wall of the yurt, at ground level, with a bone chilling draft on our backs. And it wasn’t just the frigid temperatures; there were horses munching grass just inches from my head at one point, wolves howling in the distance, local dogs going nuts at the sound of the wolves, assorted sounds from a donkey who thinks he’s a rooster and a rooster who thinks he’s a donkey, several horny goats and a mystery sound that could have been anything from the wind to the ghost of the sheep that was slaughtered two nights earlier. I also had a dream about working on the gate crew at Assiniboia Downs. Buster Jeffries, the starter, was yelling at me for being totally incompetent. That struck me as odd when I awoke – not because I’d have any clue how to do the job, but because Buster never yelled at anyone in the four years I spent at “AsD” in the 1980s.
7:00 Breakfast is served in the main yurt. To spice things up, I add some local raisins and a spoon-full of jam to the porridge. We’re livin’ now, Noreen.
10:00 We stop at the town of Kochkor and visit a local family who will demonstrate how to erect a yurt. Once the structure is up we are invited inside to enjoy a traditional mid-morning snack of hot tea, dried raisins and apricots, local peanuts, fresh baked bread, goat cheese, homemade butter, and several types of very thick jam. How these people don’t weigh 400 pounds is beyond me.
13:30 My cook group is in charge of tomorrow’s breakfast so we do some shopping in Kochkor. Elmira, our guide for Kyrgyzstan, buys six bottles of fresh milk and flags down a taxi that is headed to Bishkek. She negotiates a price of 100 com (about $2.14 CDN) and the driver agrees to deliver the milk to her parents.
19:00 We find a spot to camp overlooking the Kökömeren River, in the shadow of a huge sandstone bluff. Rodney whips up Spaghetti Bolognese and warm garlic bread for 25 while Alice prepares something called Banoffee pie as a special treat for John’s birthday. The Brits appear to love their Banoffee (banana and toffee) pie.
21:00 The tent is much warmer than last night’s yurt, largely due to the fact that we’re at a lower elevation. Everyone will enjoy a good night’s sleep tonight.