They say that the mountains of heaven lie in the isolated paradise of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan. Traveling to Kyrgyzstan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Leave the phone, the computer, the email and breathe, look, touch, look at the details of nature, connect with your horse and with yourself.
We enjoy every moment and live in the present! We travel inside and get to know ourselves better, to learn to enjoy life, from every moment and admire nature in all its splendor. We travel through beautiful landscapes, and exotic culture through the Tian-Shan mountains following the paths of the shepherds and the pristine nature.
The horse route begins at a height of 1700 m and reaches the 4000 m glaciers. Here we experience the fresh and refreshing feeling of summer snow and an incomparable top view of the world. The longest and most exciting trek for us was the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. The Barskoon has far outdone it in terms of adventure! We hiked in a completely undeveloped region. The only people we meet are nomads on the summer pastures.
I took a trip to Barskoon. This is a small village a few kilometers away from the south bank of Issyk-kul lake. Barskoon itself has nothing to offer. Behind it, however, is a valley where there are some beautiful waterfalls to see. Since I had already gained experiences with waterfalls in Jety Oguz, we thought that was a good idea.
It is important to know that in comparison to other valleys that extend southwards into the Tien-Shan mountains, the Barskoon Valley has a reasonably fortified road. This is because the route leads to the controversial Kumtor gold mine through this valley.
The Djangart Valley is located in southeastern Kyrgyzstan, on the border with China. We reached the valley with a GAZ-66 off-road vehicle hired from the trekking agency. Our driver drove us from Bishkek towards Tamga on the Issyk Kul lake. The vehicle was very slow and always needed a (repair) service.
The route to the Djangart Valley was unfortunately not passable by vehicle and we had to change gears in the truest sense of the word. With the help of horses for the luggage we walked over the Djangart Pass to our base camp in the Djangart Valley.
I realize again that camping is nothing for me. I wake up at 7:00 am after feeling that I finally fell asleep at 5:00. Everything hurts, my eyes doesn't open and I'm tired. The weather is not so nice today. The sky is overcast and as soon as I climbed out of the tent, it starts to drift. So drizzle. After a hearty breakfast with porridge, the world looks different again. The rain has stopped and I'm looking forward to today!
We already knew what we had to do. So we had an early breakfast, as we wanted to hike the maximum kilometers with the morning chill. After breakfast, we start our visit to the Barskoon Canyon. At the foot of the mountain we enjoy the beautiful river Barskoon.
We left the guesthouse and went through the road that goes to a gold mine that some Canadians are exploring. The road to Barskoon Pass is really a dream. As we went forward we found a bike lying on the road and its owner hidden in the bush. We all took advantage to get the most weight possible. Finally we reached the road, and started to climb a wide valley and a wide track of land, as it is the access to the mine. Rugged rock formations welcome us, reminiscent of the Uluru in Australia. We stop at the hot springs that are on the road.
Every few meters there is a road guard who is dedicated to watering it and keeping it well cared for as we go up and up. We go up relatively slowly, until we stop to take pictures and talk. Well, not everything is joy, since from time to time we get some huge trailers. The sun shines from a bright blue sky and we try to find shelter in the sparse shadow. It is already 10:30 and the other expedition members have not yet arrived. Just before starting the hardest ramps we take a short break. We're standing at a dusty intersection right in the middle of nowhere. The landscape looks like a wild west movie.
After we have treated ourselves to a hot bath and have cooled our feet in the mountain stream, we walk a bit further along the road. Finally, we sit down for lunch on the banks of the raging mountain stream, which accompanies us all the time. Satisfied, we continue along the road, which is slowly turning into a beautiful path along the river.
The weather offers us a factor in our favor. It starts to rain that allow us to get a little bit cool during the climbs. I will not explain how we climbed because the truth is that everyone did what they could, but always on top of the bike. First we pass through a small port of 3,400 m but immediately the thing continues until our final destination.
We are happy today to follow a normal path again. It leads us gently through coniferous forest up to a large meadow, on which a small tent stands and many horses graze. Our porters have already run, throwing the backpacks and talk to the nomads.
As we open up we are warmly invited to tea. We do not say no, even if we are only twenty minutes away. And there is not only tea but also Oromo. This is a delicious dough with onions and the first milk of the cow. Such invitations follow us several times on our way, and we sometimes have to turn them down with a heavy heart because of time constraints.
The Kyrgyz people are an incredibly hospitable people. They always pick up the best pieces for the guest even if sometimes they do not even know when the next one will pass. This tradition is deeply rooted in their nomadic culture.
Often a shepherd is out and about the whole day, seeking refuge from a storm. And since it can happen to everyone, even strangers are always warmly received and supplied with the best.
As cozy and funny as it is in this little tent, we have to tear ourselves away and move on. The path leads us on in a relaxed, shallow, uphill direction. The sun is fighting through and we are in a good mood. However, we also know that we still have to make a good elevation today .
Before that, however, the path leads us to a broad plain in which the river, which was still raging yesterday, continues to branch off and flows a little more leisurely.
It offers us a breathtaking panorama and we can not get out of amazement and taking pictures. To the right of us rise the mountains and we know that we have to find the way to the passport somewhere. And we also notice that our guide is not quite sure where to take the path into the mountains.
He insures with two nomads who come with their horses over and so begins the rise. And from here the way ends. Again and again we follow individual cattle rides and at the same time keep our eyes on the ideal line.
The group is slowly pulling apart as each one takes his own step and is busy breathing. So we screw ourselves piece by piece towards the pass. After about three quarters of the way uphill, we sit down for lunch. The wind whistles over us and it is quite uncomfortable.
We are strengthened by the rest of the ascent. After each hilltop we think now we are up but there is only one more uphill ahead of us. We keep fighting with our eyes fixed on the ground. Here I discover beautiful wildflowers, numerous grasshoppers and butterflies, which the rough wind does not seem to bother.
And finally I finally reach the ridge of the pass and am speechless for the moment. Opposite us huge mountains, covered by glaciers pile up. Below us is a green valley with a river that loses itself in the distance. We all cheer and enjoy this majestic sight .
The thought of the descent diminishes my joy a little bit. We now have to descend almost 1,000m into the valley before us. The slopes are steep and so we slide and hop more or less down the mountain. Again, everyone tries to find the best way. Every now and then someone slips out and lands on his butt. Luckily nobody is hurting.
At the bottom, I just see a movement in the grass and jump back. For the second time here in Kyrgyzstan I almost step into a Gadyuka Viper . It is probably not fatal for a healthy adult, but it causes the bite to swell very much. Well, I really can not use that here!
After about 10 hours we reach the end of the day but feel happy finally at our campsite. When we arrive our tent is already. We wash ourselves a bit on an ice-cold stream and sit refreshed for dinner.
The sun is burning and the landscape does not seem to change at all. This is exhausting as the pass crossing the day before. And in front of us is a long day on which we have to overcome another 1,000 vertical meters.
Before we start our ascent and leave the wide river valley towards the mountains, we have lunch break. We treat ourselves today even twenty minutes nap before it goes on.
After a few hundred meters we are again in front of a river crossing. And that will not be the last for today. Afterwards we have to climb up quite steeply, because unfortunately we cannot just walk through the riverbed into the side valley. So we have to reach the valley over the steep mountain slopes, which fall down to the river. And that is extremely tedious and exhausting.
Before the first mountainside, I am in a good mood, that we can then continue along gentle meadows along the river . When I reach the top and can look over, this hope is abrupt: The mountain slopes fall directly to the river, so we must now always run along the steep slopes .
And often only on extremely narrow cattle rides. Left it goes steeply down to the river. One wrong step and you slide down the mountain. I do not want to imagine that anymore and concentrate on my steps. The group is silent and everyone is just concentrating on themselves.
And then the way is suddenly blocked. Through a huge landslide, which has pushed through the river valley like a dagger. The debris certainly towers up ten to twenty meters in front of us. And there is no way around it! Above the path is too steep and we would have to fight completely through the boulder field.
On the other side, the path is blocked again by a raging, mud-colored glacier river . Again and again we hear how the water crashes rocks with it. Frustrated, we fall to the river bank on the ground. We are exhausted, have been traveling for 8 hours and know that at least 2 more hours are ahead of us.
We saw some cows cross the river. That gives us hope. After another half hour, it is time to put sneakers on and off in the freezing tides. The river is wide and after only a few seconds my feet begin to hurt like hell! Now just do not get hectic, a misstep and I get carried away. On the other hand, I try to get out of the icy sneakers as quickly as possible. Again we did it!
Nevertheless, the mood remains muted. According to our guide, we should cross the pass today and descend to the camp on the other side. How should we do that? Slowly we torture ourselves through the rough terrain. Everyone is clinging to his thoughts and stumbles forward.
Suddenly one of the guys calls something in Kyrgyz from behind. I turn around in shock and see how everyone points to the mountain to our left. I close my eyes but can not see anything. I follow his outstretched arm with his eyes. Now I can recognize her! As tiny points almost at the top of the mountain! Certainly 15 to 20 of these huge and majestic marco polo sheep are slowly moving up there. My mood brightens up a bit.
In front of us, another slope blocks the view of the way ahead. From the right, the landslide slides now in its full sizein our field of vision. What masses came down here!
I do not feel very well when I look to the left of us the mountain massif with its loose rock masses! Again and again we have to cross larger and smaller freshly slipped stone fields. It is unbelievably laborious, the surface is uneven and often drops off to the right towards the river.
When we finally stand on the top of the next slope, I lose all hope that we can make it to the pass. Again another mountain slope is ahead of us, the terrain is impassable. We stop. We discuss what we should do. There is only one way and that means moving forward! But we agree to set up camp at the next suitable location.
When I see the shallow shore on the other side of the river, I draw hope. Here we can make our camp! We are now at 3,500 meters , the night is going to be cold but that does not matter to us all. We are infinitely happy when we sit at 8:00 pm at dinner. We have even managed to light a fire with wet driftwood! It smokes terribly at first, but soon becomes a big, warming fire. We mumble into our tent and soon fell asleep.
At night, I wake up from the patter of rain. I think, hopefully the tent will be tight. I still cannot sleep properly anymore. The rain continues until the morning. Breakfast is taken in the tent.
It takes about an hour to get to the pass. And from there, in turn, we have a breathtaking but completely different view of the next valley. The sun paints beautiful spots on the grassy landscape in front of us.
The Dunguromo, after whom the pass is named, wraps itself to the right of us in dense clouds. I hope to catch another glimpse of him. But unfortunately that will not work anymore. So we start the descent, which actually starts with a path!
Unfortunately, the comfort does not last long and it is soon again rivers cross , along steep slopes and clamber along various mountain slopes . Again and again violent showers patter down on us and quite honestly: I just do not feel like it anymore!
After about 4 hours and a particularly hard last section on the steep bank of a river, we reach our end point in the Barskoon Valley. Here a road leads up to a gold mine and thus civilization caught up with us again in one fell swoop.
We reach the Barskoon Pass at 3,800 m altitude after a 2,400 m ascent. There is an impressive nature, from which we can see the mountain road from about 4,000 meters. A small footpath leads to a waterfall. At the end of the road we see the waterfall called Tears of the Snow Leopard Waterfall. Only a few take the hike. Here we are almost alone. We find a romantic pitch on the other side of the river under coniferous trees. At the top everyone celebrated as they could, but in the end we all ended up in the same place.
We have a strange feeling. One hour up, we are completely cut off from everything and we are on your own. And suddenly we are standing on this road feeling different and being catapulted into another time. While we wait for our pickup, we eat our lunch. The group is silent, everyone can review the experience once again.
Suddenly everything happens very fast. Our guide from Karakol comes with a car. The luggage is thrown into the trunk. And it means saying goodbye! Quickly we press them a tip in the hand and it goes on the dirt road towards Issyk-Kul lake. On the way are still a few beautiful waterfalls.
We squeezed in the van trying to get rid of the cold and waiting for those who would arrive just after. Then, we continue the hike down to find a place to sleep, since between rain, cold and snow the options were scarce. So we had something to do if we did not want to die frozen. Luckily the guide was with us.
He took us to an abandoned house in ruins a kilometer down the harbor. In the afternoon we return to the Tamga village. He told us that this was the best place to sleep. We clean the place, search for firewood, cut logs with a mini axe, try to open a abandoned container and we had dinner that day.
Our guide saved our lives again by leaving us his little stove that allowed us to make very generous portions of pasta with a Kazy salami, something inedible but we ended up eating it. We found a piece of bacon that we had bought and that momentarily disappeared. We try the traditional Kyrgyz drink, the Kumis, and enjoy the scenery. After a little while next to the bonfire that we created, we all went to sleep in our little house. Although there is no direct danger, but so much mass of rock above us worries me easily. At night it is bitterly cold. The puddles freeze. We have a taste of aleeping along the Pamir Highway.
In the morning we travel along the south shore of the Issyk-Kul lake. On the way we visit the Skazka canyons. Here we find objects of surprising shapes and sizes. Then we visit the town of Bokonbaevo, where we meet a hunter with an eagle and his bird of prey. In the afternoon, we wash ourselves in the real Russian bath, the Banya.
The road to Bishkek passes through the north coast of the lake and through the Boom gorge. On the way we visit the Burana Tower. The Burana Tower is an old minaret in the Chuy valley in the northern part of Kyrgyzstan. It is located about 80 km from the capital Bishkek, near the town of Tokmok.
The tower with funerary monuments, embankments, remains of the Castle and three mausoleums is all that remains of the ancient city Balasagun which was founded by Karakhanids at the end of the 9th century. In the evening we have a farewell dinner at one of the traditional Kyrgyz restaurants.