In Up To Our Necks: South Inylchek Glacier Trek, August 2013
A good travel story is worth telling even if the events took place nearly three years ago. We also noticed that there wasn’t too much information out there about this trek from the perspective of non-expeditionist backpackers. We hope you enjoy the crazy tales and awesome photos.
What better way to prepare for a friend’s wedding in South Kazakhstan than going on the demented Inylchek Glacier trek into the heart of the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan? Yes, it sounds rather ridiculous to us now too in hindsight! But, that is precisely what we did.
We super excited when our friends, Eric from Seattle and Assela from Kazakhstan, told us they were to be wed in the bride’s hometown of Kulan, 400km west of Almaty. The wedding and related activities would take up four days but we weren’t going to fly all the way there and not check out more of the area. We had always wanted to do an extended Central Asia trip and this was a perfect opportunity to test the waters.
We looked at the map and figured we could visit the Tien Shan mountains across … Read more
We had grand plans for the beginning of our round the world trip. We would travel across Central Asia overland from Istanbul to Xinjiang in the footsteps of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great. We had dreams of visiting the ancient cities and mosques of the Silk Road and trekking in the land of the snow leopards in the high Pamirs.
This wasn’t our first trip to Central Asia. In the summer of 2013, we attended our friends’ wedding in Kazakhstan and did two treks in Kyrgyzstan. But our Central Asia overland trip threw up a few more challenges than we anticipated. In the end, we didn’t make it all the way to China, and it wasn’t quite all overland. We saw some amazing sights, met a lot of interesting people, and went to a lot of remote locations that most people will never visit. We also experienced a lot of bumps on the road. For several reasons, we cut our trip short and bailed out to Bangkok.
Travel in Central Asia has more pitfalls than in many parts of the world – and some pleasant surprises. Here are some of the things we wish we had known when we … Read more
Besh Kol trek in the Alay Valley, South Kyrgyzstan
July 19-21, 2015
Our third hike in Kyrgyzstan was the three-day Besh Kol trek (Five Lakes) heading north from the village of Sary Mogul. Sary Mogul is a 3-4 hour drive south of Osh. The main feature of the area is the massive 7000m Pik Lenin and its attendant peaks. We had hoped to do a couple of hikes in the area but unfortunately we were hit by the first rainy and cloudy weather of our trip. We managed to complete the Beshkol trek but bailed on a second hike around Tulpar Kol, which is a lake right beneath the giant peaks of the Alay Valley.
Information about the Besh Kol trek was hard to come by. The CBT office in Sary Mogul sent us a lengthy document with short outlines of many treks in the region, but it didn’t include a map, photos or information about distances, altitude, or relative difficulty, so it was hard to know which hike to pick. We decided to confirm our itinerary once we got to the village. The Alay area regional CBT coordinator based in Osh, a fine gentleman named Talant, gave us a … Read more
Holy Lakes Trek, July 3-6, 2015
Our first trek of the 2015 season was the four day Holy Lakes trek (aka Kol Mazar) starting at the delightful Uzbek village of Arslanbob in Southern Kyrgyzstan. We traveled by minibus (marshrutka) to Arslanbob from Osh via Jalalabad and Bazaar Kurgan. The trip took 3.5 hours and the changes at Jalalabad and Bazaar Kurgan were very straightforward. All accommodation (homestays) in Arslanbob is arranged by the CBT (community-based tourism) office. We stayed in homestay #3 in the house of the Mashurbek the local English teacher. The room and breakfast was $7.50 per person and extra meals were $3 each. The village sits below the Babash Ata massif, which is the dominant feature of the trek.
The local CBT coordinator, Hayat, is quite a character and one of the key people in the CBT movement in Kyrgyzstan. He arranged a guide (Abdul), porter (Zia), cook (Ugun), food, and camping gear for us. The porter seemed a bit of an extravagance since we usually carry our own gear. However, we were cognizant that we were somewhat out of shape and the hike was at altitude with a steep pass on day two. Other CBT offices … Read more
Hiking is one of our great loves so we will be aiming to hit as many trails as we can in the next 16 months. At home, we try to hike most weekends in the Summer plus a few weekends snowshoeing in the winter. We hike following well defined trails plus we arm ourselves with detailed trail descriptions and clear maps. To prepare for hiking we have access to an abundance of recent trail descriptions so that we can be fairly sure that the trail is within our capabilities. We have rarely, if ever, undertaken a hike that is beyond our capabilities. We can be thankful for the Washington Trails Association and local hikers for the fantastic trail work they do and information they provide for hikes in the Cascades and Olympics.
When we hike overseas we usually take a guide and sometimes a porter (or horse/donkey and horseman) for their local knowledge of trails. Many of the world’s famous trails in the Himalaya and Andes are well-documented but we found that this is not the case in Central Asia. For some reason, writers of guidebooks (Lonely Planet and Bradt) provide useful detail for hiking to Everest Base camp, the … Read more