Day 1: Arrive in Bishkek
We take a tour of the ‘White City’ – so called because many of the government buildings in Soviet times were built from the beautiful locally mined white marble… until they ran out of marble. We will learn about the history of the country with our local tour guide and have dinner in one of the most well-known tea houses in the city with traditional live music and dancing.
We drive from the capital to Cholpon-Ata, located on the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, where we will stay in a nomad yurt camp for the duration of the games. We will watch the opening ceremony in the evening: a huge pyrotechnic display of fireworks, music, dancing, partying and breath-taking horsemanship.
At the games, the biggest and most fiercely contested of the sports is kok-boru, a violent Central Asian form of polo in which two teams battle for control of a decapitated goat carcass! Punches are thrown, whips fly and the goat is tugged back and forth before one horseman emerges from the melee to score a goal.
At the lakeside hippodrome and also at a nearby mountain pasture we can also watch eagle hunting, horseracing, traditional intellectual games and performances of drama and music with many of the people dressed in both traditional and outlandish costumes. The games are all about celebrating nomadic culture in all its forms, so get ready for some medieval craziness.
Tashrabat an ancient Caravanserai (rest stop for travelling caravans of horses and/or camels) on the ancient Silk Road winding its way through the mountain peaks to the Chinese border a days’ travel away. Rebuilt by the Soviets, it is one of the few remaining stone constructions of the period. It is surrounded by picturesque yurt camp run by a local family who live there throughout the year, with whom we will be staying.
Day 6: Hike/horse ride up to pass with views of Chatyr-Kol Lake then back to Tashrabat yurt camp
Today we can either hike or ride (or both) up to a high pass with spectacular views of Chatyr-Kol Lake, with an impressively high elevation of 3530m, and beyond which we can see the mountain range guarding China’s western border. We will have lunch at the pass before making our way back to the yurt camp for supper. The views are tremendous.
We will take the winding road up into the very centre of Kyrgyzstan’s hidden plateau to the majestic Song-Kul Lake; probably the most picturesque lake in the country. It is a popular ground for nomadic shepherds who bring their flocks here in the summer months. We will stay in a beautiful yurt camp on the southern shore with the family who run it, play with the innumerable children, and sample the delicious local cuisine. We can either hike up into the surrounding foothills or take the horses out.
In the morning we can either take the horses for a run-out again or drive and/or walk around to different parts of the lake to take in the staggeringly beautiful views, and meet more of the local people in the area. In the afternoon we will drive back to the capital for out last group dinner in the city.