We’re spending a few days on the shores of Issyk-Kul, the world’s second largest alpine lake after Lake Titicaca. Issyk-Kul means hot lake. This is a lie. The lake is very chilly, despite our visit at the peak of the Kyrgyz summer. (Nevertheless Fiona is very brave and swam across a big tangent, she says).
Apparently the lake’s name comes not so much from its temperature but the fact that it doesn’t freeze over in winter. That could be attributed to its slight saltiness of the fact that it is astoundingly and suddenly deep. Take five steps in from the shore and suddenly you’re in over your head.
It’s hard to imagine this place in winter, covered in snow and surprised that the lake that’s too big to see across properly hasn’t frozen. It’s a beautiful summer climate here, warm, sunny and dry in the day and cool at night. That’s one of many things that reminds me of childhood holidays in Central Otago. Others: the dusty and slightly disheveled town that could be a major tourist spot if it got its act together, the spoiling apricots underfoot too plentiful to bother harvesting, and the views to the mountains that crowd around, angled like they might have been painted by Rita Angus.
It’s a pretty good place to spend a few days idling about, catching up on some life admin and pondering how to explain the more complex bits of booking flights online. All that’s really missing from this lakeside holiday is a decent fish and chip shop.
We’re taking a break in Tamga, a town too small to have a Wikipedia entry. It’s on a big lake in Eastern Krygyzstan.
There are stone fruit trees everywhere. We walk down the dusty streets sampling one apricot after another. Today we discovered there are cherries too, but few within our easy reach. The fruit is so plentiful that:
- there’s none in the local stores, which makes us feel better about standing on tip toes to pinch over fences
- occasionally the breeze has the sweet scent of an imaginary outdoor jam factory
- the birds have too much to choose from to make any observable impact on the things we want to eat
All this leads me to an important management consulting question. If you talk of ‘low hanging fruit’ to describe the quick wins you can easily pick off to show progress for a client, then what are the fruits that have already dropped from the tree and are now rotting in the grass?
After nearly a week in Kazakhstan we’re headed over the border and into Kyrgyzstan, once described by the great Sam Seaborn as a country: “on the side of a hill near China and has mostly nomads and sheep.”
Kyrgyzstan was a recently late addition to our travel plans when we realised it made better geographic sense to go through it rather than to backtrack to Urumqi and that we wouldn’t need a visa. It also comes highly recommended as an authentic and wild part of Central Asia.
It’s probably the country we’re visiting with the least prior knowledge. I’m not even sure I am spelling it right. It seems pretty under developed in tourist infrastructure terms, though, so it seems there is a good chance our internet access with be light. If that’s the case, see you on the other side in about a week.