Along Lake Issyk-Köl

Lake Issyk-Köl, Kyrgyzstan, on Wednesday, October 15, 2014.

Lake Issyk-Köl is the world’s second largest alpine lake, after Lake #Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru. The northern shore is mostly beach clubs, bars, and resorts, but the southern shore is much quieter. Back in the 1960s-70s its surrounding area was known for opium and cannabis production. (And I thought it was this pure lake for nomadic people.)

If you’ll notice in the back of this photo, several peaks of the Ala-Too mountains jut above the clouds. #jaqshe


“Tcho!” we’d command our horses when we wanted them to go. It was either that or variation of the vowel sound.

Baha and I leave Kysyl-Tuu and ride across a valley to arrive on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Köl. On the way, he teaches me how to ride with one leg across the saddle for comfort, and things continue to be “jaqshë.” He occasionally plays music from his cell phone, which he’s always on anyway, either sending or answering a text message, or having a brief phone conversation. (Twenty year-olds will be twenty year-olds, Kyrgyz country boy or not.)

Not too far from the shore of Lake Issyk-Köl is a smaller, saltier lake, simply known as “Salt Lake.” (It even says so on street signs, in English even.)

We stop for lunch at one of the beaches of the southern shore, where not much is going on since the warm season is over.

Baha plays one of the four songs he has on his cell phone. It has Arabian melodies, but I’m not sure of the lyrics. “Is that Kyrgyz?” I ask.

“Ya. Kyrgyz,” he replies. He wonders about music on my phone. “Music… American?”

“Yeah.” As we continue to ride our horses through the countryside, I put on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and out of urban context, it’s sort of like that scene in Guardians of the Galaxy.

I hand Baha my phone and he skips through my intentionally eclectic playlist. “Janet Jackson,” he says. He skips through the shuffle. “Blondie. Neil Diamond,” he says. I realize it’s not song recognition, but him sounding out words on my screen. “Michael Jackson is American?”

“Yes, he’s American.”

Baha continues to shuffle without finding a song to play for more than five seconds — until he settles on that Timbaland track “The Way I Are” and gets into it. Soon he doesn’t realize our horses are about to walk straight into a small canyon and I alert him to turn.


He gives me back my phone.

Another pitstop on the beaches of Lake Issyk-Köl. We chill out by the water and skip stones, while the horses take a well-deserved break. Baha’s horse apparently likes to sunbathe.

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Next entry: The Issyk-Lake House

Previous entry: Kyrgyz Hospitality

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This dispatch is one of over 70 travel dispatches from the trip grouped and titled, "The Global Trip: 'Stan By Me." It's an archived compilation of Instagram and Facebook posts which chronicled a trip through three countries in Central Asia: Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

Next entry:
The Issyk-Lake House

Previous entry:
Kyrgyz Hospitality


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