From Temir-Kanat we drove to Karakol, and on the way we stopped at a place called Jeti-Oguz, which means "seven bulls" in Kyrgyz, because the rocks are said to have the shape of bulls. On the other side of the area, there is a rock that is called "broken heart", you can see why! We hiked in the area for a couple of hours.
We walked up one of the mountains and got this beautiful view! But it was getting colder, and we headed back to the car just in time before the rain started.
Then in Karakol, the capital of the Issyk Kul region, we visited the Dungan mosque built by islamic Chinese people who arrived in Karakol as refugees. We had to wear a headscarf and a sort of dress to visit the grounds, but were not allowed to go in. After the mosque we stopped at the Russian Orthodox cathedral, built from wood.
The next day we drove along the north side of the lake, and hiked in a beautiful valley with strangely coloured trees. In that valley, the nomadic games were held last year, a sort of Olympic games for traditional sports from Central Asia. One of the most popular games is kok boru, a type of horse polo played with a dead goat...
After a nice picnic in the valley we drove further along the lake, passing a brand new hippodrome that is used for horse racing in the Central Asian Nomadic Games. On the building you can see the circular figure that is also part of the Kyrgyz national flag: a yurt seen from above.
Passing through Cholpon Ata, a popular beach resort for Kazakh and Russian tourists, we drove to Tamchy where there is a large open air museum displaying 2000 petroglyphs found all over Kyrgyzstan. The petroglyphs date from 800 BC to 1200 AD, and some where still really intact. The one that I am standing next to is a depiction of a hunting party using snow leopards as hunting dogs!
That night we stayed at the house of a woman who makes yurts, as well as other felt things, and we had a nice traditional dinner in the yurt.
The following day we had a last look at Lake Issyk Kul, which is actually the second largest mountain lake in the world, after lake Titicaca in South America. Its name means "warm lake": the lake never freezes because of the salt in the water.
On the way back to Bishkek we stopped at Konorchok Canyon. Although it is a 1.5 hour hike that includes wading through a muddy river (brown shoes!) and climbing rock walls before you get to the canyon, the view was definitely worth it!
Then, back to Bishkek and from there with a marshrutka to my home in Almaty. This time I was less lucky and the whole trip took six hours, but I got home before midnight. Now it's back to work!