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Trotting through the Alps of Central Asia

After 12 hours and two flights from Kuala Lumpur, we finally made it to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

If you have trouble pronouncing this unusual Soup of a country name, try this: The country is landlocked and it bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan (west), Tajikistan (southwest) and China (east). Just in case you wondering, the suffix means land of . More than 80% of Kyrgyzstan is mountainous, thus the country nickname, Switzerland of Central Asia Kyrgyzstan, with its unique topography, offers adventurers some of the world best trekking, biking, mountaineering and horse trekking around.

With our guide Ernist (a Kyrgyz) and van driver Mikhail (a big friendly Ukrainian) we were taken to the starting point of our two day trek in Altyn Arashan Valley. We took a small back pack with necessities for one night stay while our big luggage was kept in a homestay building in the town of Kochkor.

Set 17km into the Terskey Ala Too Mountains, Altyn Arashan can be reached from May September via a steep, bumpy jeep track running up through the verdant Arashan Gorge (winter snow makes this jeep trip impossible).

We decided to be adventurous and trekked in. The road is very steep in places, passing through pine forests which contain many hidden springs knock off bvlgari serpenti bracelet (both hot and cold) and a fast flowing Arashan river that is perfect for white water rafting. Along the way, horsemen and their dogs, can be seen.

Half way through the trek, ascending to about 2,400m above sea level, it started to rain cats and dogs and even hailstones! Cold and wet from both the wind and rain, we felt tortured.

It took us about seven hours to reach the hostel which had clean beds in large dormitories, a dinning hall and most importantly, knock off bulgari serpenti diamond bracelet a fireplace, which became our refuge to warm our bodies and to dry our socks and shoes. After dinner, some of us decided to go to the hot sulphur springs to relax and heal our weary limbs.

Our original plan was to sleep in tents but the ground was too soggy from the rain and the winds were too strong. We had no choice but to sleep on the floor and benches in the dinning hall together with three Polish girls as the dormitories had been taken up by some Taiwanese hikers.

Morning greeted us with stunning scenery: picture perfect lush green alpine valley, dotted with yurts, horses, eagles (circling far above) and the 4.260m snow capped Pik Palatka mountain in the background.

Ah, our torture yesterday had been worth it!

After lunch, it was time to trek back to the starting point and it rained hailstones again! After another arduous trek, we were so happy to see Mikhail with the van, patiently waiting for us! Then we headed back to the home stay in Kochkor for dinner and a well deserved hot bath .

The next day, we woke up with a bit of anticipation but mostly fear because most of us would be riding horses for the first time in our lives.

We headed to Kyzart pass, some 70km northwest of Lake Song K where the trek starts (Song K is a lake at 2,900m in elevation, in the Tian Shan mountains and located 100km west of Kochkor).

Some 16 horses were readied, including one for Ernist, five for the horse owners and maybe another three to carry our luggage. The first question asked was can ride?

I and another member, Doc, put our hands up. I thought, gosh, they are going to give us the difficult horses, no doubt!

Mine was a grey pony called Courger and Doc was a brown white pony by the name of Tiger. Courger was a good and calm horse to ride but Tiger was slightly unruly and had a bad habit of cantering off.

Over the next two days, an incredible bond between me and Courger would be formed. He cantered steadily with minimal aid whereas some of the other horses were lazy. Otherwise, they were quite well trained and calm except when they were teased by horses outside their group.

Don ask for a helmet either because the word seems to be foreign to these horsemen, who ride without any headgear. Our group was followed by the faithful dog (whom we called of one of the owners.

I cantered constantly to get ahead so that I could stop longer to take in the view and fresh air. After crossing Kyzyl Kiya jailoo (the summer pasture for the nomads), we continued over Chaar Archass Pas (3,061m), and had a picnic lunch by the river with views

of the holy Baba Ata Mountain (4,400m) in front of us.

After this, we followed the trail to Kilemohe jailoo. Upon arriving at the small yurt camp, the horses were tied up and blackie got acquainted with the yurt owner dog. We lazed around, had some tea (chay) and snacks (boorsok pieces of deep fried dough) which were delicious when eaten with kaimak, a rich and delicious cream. We could also eat our snacks with butter or honey.

There was also kalama a flat, unleavened bread, made without yeast which was baked quickly on top of an iron stove. This is the most common sort of bread eaten in yurts of the mountain pastures. We also had kattama another form of unleavened bread baked especially when there are guests where the dough is rolled into a thin layer, greased with butter and rolled to a spiral with layers.

The next day, three members had to abandon the second half of the horse ride but fortunately, an old Mercedes was available to take them to Lake Song K for a bvlgari serpenti bracelet price copy fee of US$50 (RM159) each (luckily, the previous day weather had been good and there were no problems driving to the lake).

For the rest of us who continued, the scenery was as breathtaking as the previous day, with superb views of grasslands and mountain ranges, as we climbed to Jagyz Karagai pass (3,400m) and entered the lake basin.

After lunch at Jaman Echki, we followed the lake shore east to Batai Aral and met our yurt host family of Kyrgyz shepherds. Those who took the Mercedes had arrived way earlier and made themselves comfortable in the yurts.

All our horses seemed to know where to head except for one whom we labelled as horse with no sense of direction as he cantered off to the wrong yurt! After alighting from Courger, I found that my rear was very sore while my shins and shoulders were chapped from the constant rubbing on the stirrups and my own backpack straps. Sitting was rather uncomfortable!

The alpine Lake Song K (3,016m) is one of the loveliest spots in central Kyrgyzstan. It 100km in circumference and surrounded by flat monotonous grasslands and mountains. The lake and shore are part of the Song K Zoological Reserve.

All around are lush pastures favoured by herders from the Kochkor valley and beyond, who spend June to August here with their animals. Devoid of electric power and mobile phone reception (except atop one big slab of concrete on the lake shore where you can get a faint signal), Song K is an ideal escape from frenzied city life.

About one dozen yurts around the lake charge a fixed fee knock off bvlgari bracelet snake price for basic accommodation and meals. Other than walking by the lake shore, dipping in the very cold water, watching herds of cows and horses running about or horse riding through the grasslands, there was not much else to do.

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