Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mountains, horses and nomads

We are both emotionaly shaken after the episode with Janela. I might be a bit more shaken by Janela's story than Ilona and Ilona's a bit more shaken alltogether because she doesn't have a plan how to continue. She's not continuing to China and what will she do? Go back to Armenia and live on rainbow gatherings or likely events? Probably. But until she is sure, the stress accumulates. You can feel it, even I do. She is spending as much time as possible alone, lost in her thoughts. It has started on our way back from Ala-keul lake.
"I can't stand it anymore, one more week of this mindfuck and I just might shoot myself"
So she books a flight ticket. She is flying to Istanbul on September, 22nd. That's it. Ilona is leaving. She can't take it anymore. She cannot take it anymore because we are depressed under the pressure of the visa hell and for the first time, we do not have the strength to support one another. Our unbreakable brotherly duo, one that resisted against all odds, against physical, psychological, sexual harrassment; against mountains and deserts, against authoritary regimes and regions of anarchy; against sickness and wild animals; our unbreakable duo has just been broken by China. That says a lot about the country's political hospitality.
The thing with Ilona, when she doesn't have a plan is she quickly gets moody. It's her character, she has to have a purpose. Kamchatka was her purpose and now she has none. She just waits for her flight. So we decide to return to Bishkek, do my administrative stuff and then she flies. It's a little depressing hitchhiking. We are going back to Bishkek. It's evening again and our driver invites us home to Saruu.
Saruu is a village not too far from Karakol on the east side of the lake. There are very nice mountains nearby, we would be stupid not to visit them, says the guy. So we abandon our plans to get to Bishkek today and we stay.
Azamat, that's the guy's name lives in a big house with a huge garden. There is pretty much everything in that garden, including, of course, huge plants of Marihuana.

[Me and ilona and weed]

He lives there with some kids, one of them is his daugter, Marika and the other one is related somehow. Moreover, there is his cousin, Asyl. She is 19, has an Ukrainian mother so she looks european but is Kyrgyz in every other way.
I don't know where is Azamat's wife but he and Asyl have a wonderful democratical task separation in the family house. They both cook together and for the first time, we can help even though we are hosts. Me and Azamat go find some potatoes and Ilona and Asyl peel them.

[asyl and little marika]

Azamat is the silent type and he doesn't seem to be a macho as most men here are. However his kind and welcoming attitude changed radically when he thought I was looking at his cousin. Actually, I was not, the girl is nineteen! Such an overprotective attitude surprised me but I later learned that Kyrgyz guys, besides being protective don't let their girls close to guys from other regions and any shared activity between a foreigner and a Kyrgyz girl is taboo.

Besides that incident we had a wonderful evening. Azamat showed me his garden where a gigantic marihuana plant was growing, at least to three meters. He was going to cut it down because it's a weed and he doesn't like smoking anyway. Asyl took us to the fields to take out the cow who was feeding on the countless marihuana plants. The landscape was stunning with the sun setting over the mountains. Asyl is an interesting girl. While she is humbly accepting the reality of a life in a Kyrgyz village, she aspires to other things. She doesn't fall out of line in Saruu but she is leading another life in Bishkek, out of control from her conservative families. This is the way girls live here.

[Asyl milking a cow]

We sleep at their homes tonight. Azamat says we can stay longer, easily two or three more days. The father also comes. He is the silent type too, even more than Azamat. He asks me to help with his computer; luckily, it's easy to fix. He's looking for how much does a mtz-82 tractor cost in Czech Republic. If you know this, mail me. I get about a million questions about how much do cars cost in europe every day.

We leave to the mountains with a good supply of apples, pears and sunflower seeds, Asyl makes sure of that.

We hitchhike to a patch of the red mountains. They are really red and orange, contrasting with the blue sky. At last we arrive to a place where almost no cars can go. Few minutes of walking on foot and we meet a new crisis with Ilona. Her mood has fallen down into an abyss and she doesn't want to do anything. Actually, she doesn't know what she wants. I follow the advice she has given me countless counts: "Sometimes, women will feel better when you ignore their feelings, they'll figure it out eventually." Altough the advice was strongly directed at Nata it comes handy here.

Asyl takes us to the road

After a while she has an idea: we will build that base that we talked about. We will build that base that was supposed to wait for Theo even though he won't come. Unfortunately, Theo's road has deviated through Dubai because he heard about the visa hell that was waiting for him in Kyrgyzstan. He is to take the classical road through India towards China, the road everyone wants you to take when you are a tourist.
This one one more blow for Ilona and one more reason to turn her wings back to Turkey.

But now, no matter, we are going to build that base. We first find a place in the mountains. This is not easy, there is no flat space whatsoever. I notice that my shoes are in a pitiful shape. When I look at them I have the impression that they won't last one more day. We abandon the idea and we decide to go back.

On our way we meet a group of people on horses going down. They are transporting tons of mushrooms which, they say, are going to sell for a lot of money to germany. One of the women, rough product of a rough culture tells me in a straightforward voice that next year she is going to give her daughter in marriage to me. I bet that her daughter will turn sixteen next year or something like that.
"She doesn't know me, what if she doesn't like me?"
"If there is money, she will like you." says the mother sharply and the discussion closes.
Might be archaic but at least everything is clear from the beginning for both parties of the couple.

"Are you going back? Come with us to upper camp!"
Why not, after all, we were bored and waiting for something to happen. Turns out only two people from the group are going up. One tall and the other one smaller. The big one rides a proud beautiful horse, you can almost feel the power of the beast just by looking at it. The tiny one is sitting on a very uncooperative donkey.

Big man and little man, our help to the top

"Come on boy," he tries to reason with him, "we can help each other, just show some good will"

And "Fuck you," says the donkey.
"He's sly as a fox," says the donkey's owner.
"yeah, like an Uzbek". My jokes about Uzbeks which I know nothing about are very popular starting in Kazakhstan. It's very easy because everyone in the region hates Uzbekistan. This time is no exception.
"OOOhh exactly! He's Uzbek," the donkey's owner bursts into laughter, "Come one Uzbek, just a few kilometers to go"
They put our bags on the horse which rides with grace through the difficult mountain paths. The tiny guy drags Uzbek the donkey who refuses to take a single step alone even more categorically since he has been labeled after the despised nation.

"Come on boy, I know we can help each other, just show some good will"

The path took a harder turn and my shoes, attached to my bag got stuck into a tree. The horse however, had so much power that the shoe got torn out and the bag too. I had a huge hole on the side of my bag and another one in my shoe. The outer layer of my mountain shoe got completly destroyed. There still is the inner layer remaining but those shoes are going to go towards the garbage soon enough

After drinking some vodka with some locals we met on the way we made it to upper camp, 2500m. There, two families were living in yurts over the summer, pretty much like the Yezidi people in Armenia. Of course the camp was a lot smaller and the altitude was lower but the feeling was there.
They had a ton of horses, cows and sheep feeding themselves aroud the yourts and they filled their time cooking for men riding in the mountains. They had made about everything you can create from milk: butter, ayran (a modified version of yoghourt very popular in the region), kumus and countless other things that probably don't exist in our lands, all prepared inside small bowls around the table.

Yurt in the mountains