Suusumyr ValleyJune 9, 2019 in Kyrgyzstan ⋅ 🌫 15 °C
We had prepared ourselves for another long day in the bus, as we progressed towards the Uzbekistan border crossing just put of Osh. While Kyrgyzstan is not a big country (around 200,000 sq km compared with 268,000 sq km for New Zealand), the combination of mostly poor roads, wandering livestock and inclement weather means that travel can be quite slow. But there is much to observe and photo and toilet stops offer diversion. Travel by cycle or motorbike definitely has definite appeal as an alternative.
Shortly after our departure from Kyzyl Oi we came upon an unusual yurt which turned out to be a memorial to a previous village leader, who'd been killed during the Stalin era (as did 100s of 1000s more). Apparently this fellow was around 7 foot tall, became the village leader at 20 and was very strong. One story goes that when his horse became lame, he threw the animal across his shoulders and carried it home! The yurt was built in his memory. Although our guide Nastacia is only 23, the devastation to her country from the Stalin era is clearly still raw. The loss of life was even greater from World War 2.
One of the major exports from Kyrgyzstan is water - either in its raw form or as electricity from a number of large hydroelectric reservoirs. The breakup of the Soviet Union and resultant independence of the "stans" meant Kyrgyzstan now sells water to Uzbekistan, even though they share the same river!
Suusamyr Valley lies at 2,000-2,500 meters above the sea level and is part of the Tian-Shan mountains that we'd been following since Western China. The highest point in this range is found in Kyrgyzstan (Jengish Chokusu, 7439m, near the Chines border), though our highest point today would be just under 3200m. The Suusamyr River flows through the area, with numerous tributaries formed largely from snow melt. It appeared that a large wetland area formed a central part of the valley, though the word wetland proved a bit of a challenge to our guide (her English vocabulary was excellent). The valley is predominantly used as alpine summer pastures, with colourful herbs and wild flowers carpeting the valley floor. Once again we were treated to the sight of yurts, caravans and livestock grazing in the lush pastures. An assortment of roadside stalls lined the road, all selling the dried cheese balls that we'd learned to avoid (they were definitely an acquired taste!).
Kyrgyz people are, for the most part, very friendly and our stop to purchase dried cheese balls turned into a photo session with the family. We were even invited into their yurt.
As we neared our destination for the evening, we came across yet another statue of Manas, the beloved leader and focus of the Kyrgyz epic. After some wonderful guest house and home stay experiences, it felt a bit flat to be spending a night in a rather ordinary hotel. A walk along the shoreline revealed not only interested rocks, but sadly, a diversity of plastic items. In fact, we could see plastic bottles tied together to form markers for fish farms. Innovative use of plastic but not a great long term solution.Read more