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All About Yurts

And Eagles

View Central Asia 2019 on Bob Brink's travel map.

May 8

At breakfast Rita said that had she had seen my blog, but it is only up to date to Amsterdam! Now I am in trouble. Well, not really, but I am now aware that my fellow tour group members will eventually read what I have to say about them. I better be nice. And I am having trouble keeping it up to date.

From the first time I did my travel blog, I considered it as something to write during a trip, a way of sharing my experiences with others, something that is current, a bit spontaneous, and by necessity a bit rough. These first days on the tour have been especially busy. I have been keeping notes and taking many photographs but have had no chance to put together coherent blog entries. I am now thinking about doing my blog once I get home.

The drive out of the Chon Kemin valley towards Issyk Kul was spectacular.


In Kyrgyzstan the graveyards are combinations of dissimilar traditions – shamanistic, Islamic, and communist. When their nomadic lifestyle had to be abandoned, the Kyrgyz began erecting monuments such as wrought iron yurt frames that reflected their previous way of life. Also, any literal representation of living things is contrary to Islamic teaching.


Today was all about yurts. The Kyrgyz people were traditionally nomads who used the yurt as their seasonal homes. They are warm and comfortable, but also quite portable, able to be taken down quickly and carried on horses or camels. Although the nomadic life was suppressed during Soviet times, yurts remain quite important to the people and are used for special occasions and for homes during the summer grazing. The Kyrgyz continue to move their animals between summer pastures in the mountains and winter grazing areas or settled farms in the valleys or lowlands. And the yurts are used for tourist accommodation. We will be staying at such a place tonight.

Our first stop was in Kyzyl Tuu at a small one-man factory where the man builds the frames. There are several such factories in the village. Yes, you can order one for your backyard.


There were some curious children.


There are monuments everywhere.


We went to Bokonbayevo where we learned about felt carpets. Our own Lynley showed off her skills. In the one photo you can see Begaim and Aijan (with the camera).


We had lunch in a private home. The food was delicious and again, quite plentiful.


We stopped for some shopping. Two boys came along and shook my hand. At the first store there was a selection of exactly one bottle of wine. I decided to look elsewhere, but Evonne bought it. I later had the chance to be the first one to try it. It was quite bad.

We were driving along Issyk Kul, which is the second-largest mountain lake in the world, after Titicaca. It is a slightly saline lake with no outlet. We were surrounded by the Tien Shan Mountains.

We were headed for Skazka or the Fairy Tale Canyon. We stopped just before at some interesting structures which were apparently built as some type of resort by one government but was never finished by the next.

We turned off at the road to the canyon. We were joined by a man with his young assistant and his eagle. The hunter first gave a talk. The most amazing thing we learned was that eagles can even kill a wolf.

The initial demonstration of hunting was a bit disconcerting if you like little bunnies. (And who doesn’t like little bunnies?). The eagle was taken to the top of the adjoining hill. They then brought out a live rabbit. It was rather docile, asleep or drugged or simply tame. It had no idea of what was about to happen. The rabbit was placed on the ground and a few moments later tackled by the eagle. The eagle got to keep the rabbit. There were a couple of other demonstrations where the eagle flew from the hill and landed on the handler and another using a decoy. Those were easier to watch. You can watch the video which has been edited to be good for all ages, including seniors who love bunnies.


At the end we were able to hold the eagle. She was heavy. I got to wear the Kalpak hat. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Westerners look quite silly in the hat. The eagle hunter looked better.


We then went the short distance to the entrance to the Skazka or The Fairy Tale Canyon where we took a short hike. The rock formations were amazing, but the best was the backdrop of the mountains and lake Issyk Kul. Besides being the second-largest mountain lake in the world, Issyk Kul is the seventh deepest, the tenth largest lake by volume and the second largest saline lake (after Caspian Sea). Issyk Kul means “warm lake” in Kyrgyz. It is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, but never freezes. But really all you need to know is that it is beautiful.


It was a short drive from there to our night’s accommodation in a yurt camp located in a little village named Tamga. It is in a beautiful spot, steps from the lake. Everyone had their own yurt (except our one couple). They are quite big, with three beds in each. Since we had learned all about the construction of yurts earlier in the day, it was fun to look at the parts and know how they all fit together.


I walked down by the lake and then into the village. My feet still hurt some, so I did not go very far. There were beach umbrellas and a gazebo to show that the beach might get busy when it is warmer.


We were the only guests. We had dinner in a separate building supplied with low tables and little stools. After dinner, Michael told us a great story about when he and his wife travelled to Lhasa, first trying to hitchhike and then taking a bus. In the middle of the story some of the group ran off for sunset photos. The rest of us enjoyed the finish and more so the teasing of Michael about him losing his audience.


We had Wi-Fi. I had not known at first that we had Wi-Fi in the van which worked off and on depending on our location. I was amazed that I could get a connection from where it was parked, five yurts away. I visualized a meter showing yurts. I later found out that Begaim had taken the portable unit into her yurt, so maybe it was only 2 or 3 yurts of power.

It was cold. I was having not pleasant flash backs to last year’s trip when I froze in my tent. I had thought that the yurt would be warmer. I was wrong. There were some separate shower units, but by the time we finished supper it was too cold for me. I decided to use my wet ones instead and jumped into bed. In addition to the heavy blanket already on the bed, there were some big blankets beside the door. I brought a couple over, thinking that I might use one. I ended up with both of them on top of me.

With the Wi-Fi I was able to talk to Po. She asked whether there were many stars. I said it was too cold to look. Then in the night I had to pee. That meant getting dressed and going across to the toilets. Yes, there were many stars. Then I had to do it again. Too much water and tea? I checked out the stars a second time.

Posted by Bob Brink 05:57 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged central_asia kalpak_travel issyk_kul yurts

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Love the scenery by the lake! We stayed in a yurt on our Uzbekistan trip but it was four to a yurt so we had to share with another couple. The woman was suffering a bit with the strange food so had to get up several times during the night. It wasn't a great night's sleep!

by ToonSarah

Sarah, I might have been the person waking the others. I thought that we would share, but with a small group there was room for everyone in singles.

by Bob Brink

A large eagle on your arm, combined with that hat is a very cool look! Wonderful photos, Bob; I look forward to hearing more stories and seeing more video and photos!!

by Tony

Tony, So you think I carry that off in Pouch Cove? I could have brought home a hat, the eagle would have been a bit harder to take on the plane.

by Bob Brink

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