So far, that philosophy of travel has worked well for me. As you've seen a bit of through this blog, I've had lots of new exciting, awkward, difficult and strange experiences since I left home. But, I realized last week that it's time for a break. Stephen, a CouchSurfing host of mine, explained it like this, "Yeah, I like to travel for the same reasons, but then travel became my life. I like to go hiking and stuff in my normal life, so I want that to be part of my life out here, too." Well played, Stephen. His words combined with a bit of travel fatigue (and fear of the 3-month-low experienced by many former Bonderman Fellows) and the beautiful mountains of Kyrgyzstan led me to embark on a short adventure into the wild this past week.
Nature has a way of centering us. No matter where we are in the world, rocks and trees and water and snow and wind will always be the same. We may find new species here and there, but cold still feels cold, sun still burns, and squirrels will still eat all of the good stuff out of your trail mix if you let them. In my time as an outdoor educator I saw it over and over: people brought to peace or revelations through interactions with nature. The wilderness is indifferent to who we are, where we're from or what language we speak, we're just another animal. We, on the other hand, are able to make the wilderness into our friend, muse or confidant (think of anyone -- or yourself -- who has baby-talked to a dog, squirrel, tiger cub, or plant). It may never reply, but we don't need it to. In the end it's a means for us to be introspective, or to just relax. Both of which I was craving after a couple of weeks in the city. Plus, I still have at least another 6 months to socialize and be awkward.
|Like any good Kyrgyz adventure, it began with a burly soviet vehicle breaking down.|
Day 1: I'm out of shape. I blame the altitude.
|Smiling at the outset|
|Cool carvings left in some stumps by past visitors|
|Unfortunately "leave no trace" has yet to become entrenched in Kyrgyzstan|
|Despite attempts to promote it (rough translation: "please don't leave your trash, thanks")|
Day 2: double-take, and a new friend
|My morning view|
|Snow in the valley|
|Most of the plants were similar to what you'd find back home. Some were spikier.|
|Celebrating the beginning of winter|
About 5hrs, 1000m, and two unnecessary river crossings later, we reached the lake and stopped for tea. Oleg was, at this point, cursing his GPS and its lack of accuracy in canyons, and I was just happy to have relatively dry feet and something warm to drink.
|Tea time at the lake|
|Traversing around the lake|
|The view from the pass|
|Windy faces at dusk|
|Breakfast: boiling water, thawing boots and warming bread, all in one go.|
|Those weren't there before...|
Karakol: regroup and try againAfter having spent two days dreaming of the hot springs of Altyn-Arashan to sooth my aching feet and legs, I was determined to get there one way or another. Soon after returning to Karakol, I met a group of Israelis and an American who were about to take a mini-bus up the valley to the springs and offered to squeeze me in:
|Who needs legroom?|
|Hot spring by the river. Valentin built this one by hand.|
|it was actually quite nice once I got inside the bush|
Until next time!