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Trekking Kyrgyzstan’s Keskenkyia Loop, Day 4

We set the alarm for midnight and reluctantly climb out of our sleeping luggage in hopes of photographing the celebs. It’s undoubtedly arduous to rise up, however we deliberately didn’t go to the toilet simply before bed, in order that we might have the extra motivation of relieving our bladders as insurance. It’s chilly, so we layer up as greatest we will: pants over long johns, rain coat over down jacket, hats, gloves, the works…

It is remarkably quiet, and the celebs are shining brightly. I see a small mild shining and shifting about 50 ft away from us. At first, I feel it have to be one of the shepherds smoking a cigarette, but, as my eyes modify, I can see the silhouette of a horse. It’s simply mild reflecting from Bob’s eye. He doesn’t seem phased at all by our presence. Even at this hour, he is nonetheless standing and munching the grass. When does he sleep?

We stroll to the spot we scouted out a number of hours earlier and arrange our tripod at what we expect is about 15 ft from a gaggle of rocks that we’ll use to concentrate on. I shine my headlamp on the rocks, in order that Matt can focus and compose the shot. That is the primary time that we’ve ever used our mirrorless cameras to photograph the celebs, so it’s a bit trial and error, but the principle ought to be the identical: high ISO, low depth of subject, and not than a 30 second publicity to seize star factors. The mirrorless proves just a little fussy, however ultimately we get it to work and are capable of look at the outcomes and readjust. Our foreground rocks don’t register in any respect, however the Milky Approach arcs throughout the night time sky, satisfying us for a first try.

Next, we attempt the basic illuminated tent shot. I am fairly pleased to climb back into our shelter and handle the lighting. Ideally, we might have a gentle mild that may illuminate the tent evenly, but we’ve to make do with my headlamp and a water bottle.

I lay down within the tent, dim my headlamp and shine it by means of the water hoping to diffuse the sunshine. Matt sets up the shot like earlier than decreasing the publicity time to compensate for the extra mild within the scene. After a couple of photographs, he climbs back into the tent, and we get again into our sleeping luggage to look at the outcomes. The tent appears somewhat overexposed, so we’ll have to determine a method to get even softer mild subsequent time. Nonetheless, the picture conveys that sense of being one small half in an enormous universe and the grandeur of the cosmos.

I used to be a bit of chilly sleeping last night time, so I have determined to regulate tonight by adding socks beneath my down booties and sleeping in my down coat. The additional layers are efficient, and I am able to drift again asleep. As regular, I toss and turn throughout the night time. At one point, I wake up and open my eyes sufficient to notice it is already daylight. I’m curious how early the sun comes up in case we need to get some pre-dawn photographs sooner or later. It is just 5:00 am. If we need to see some alpenglow on this trip, we’re going to need to rise up mighty early. Yikes!

By the time the alarm goes off at 7 am, the tent is cooking, and we will’t unzip our sleeping luggage fast enough to take off all the layers we’ve got slept in. We pack up all of our belongings contained in the tent and then step out to a different morning of crisp blue skies to make use of the toilet and brush our tooth.

Around 8, Urmat seems outdoors of the shepherd’s hut and waves us over for breakfast. It’s another spherical of immediate mashed potatoes and bread for us, whereas the 4 of them eat big bowls crammed with leftovers of last night time’s rice. Urmat asks if we wish some, but I can see that they have added some meat to their plov. Does it have meat? I ask. Only just a little he solutions. We take a move. They don’t seem to mind.

We point out that we are academics, and the quieter of the two shepherds takes an curiosity. He asks what we train and if we have now any college students from Kyrgyzstan. I inform him that I do, and he seems happy. Once we inform him that there is even a Kyrgyz restaurant in Chicago, he will get an enormous grin on his face and says that he needs to return to Chicago so he can eat there.

After breakfast, we rustle up a quick recreation of horseshoes, and Matt learns some Kyrgyz numbers whereas preserving rating. He beats Urmat 10-7, and fun is had by all.

It’s virtually 10:30 by the point we hit the path at present. The shepherd who met us on the river yesterday makes use of his horse to steer Bob, loaded down with all of our gear, a few kilometers down the trail, the place Adis, traveling on foot, will meet him. We comply with behind Urmat, and, by the time we catch as much as them, the hand off has already been made. The shepherd rides past us by way of the flower-filled meadow with the foal and his canine operating behind, waving goodbye as he disappears shortly out of sight. It’s cool to see how cooperative these people are with one another. The sense of group is noteworthy.

As soon as we all meet up, we take a brief break before tackling our first massive move of the day. Urmat says will probably be a bit of troublesome, and, from the place we’re standing, it’s onerous to make out the path.

Once we set off, we decide up numerous animal tracks and make our method down into a bowl, where we will see the long sweep of the path that may take us to the highest. I assume that it’s about 300 ft to the top, but Matt checks the altimeter on his telephone as soon as we crest the broad ridge and may see over to the other aspect. It says the climb was almost twice that.

We rest right here and have a snack break (we’ll by no means end these nuts!), whereas Matt pulls out the map to see where we are headed subsequent. The second move of the day isn’t too far from where we’re sitting, and neither is the border of Kazakhstan. Based mostly on the size of the map, it appears to be no more than 10 kilometers away. That’s another place we want to visit some day.

From the cross, we head down into a bowl and then climb up onto a ridge with the jailoo sprawling out so far as we will see in all instructions. It reminds us a little bit of Snow Mesa on our hike out of Creede on the Colorado Path final yr. There, too, it was troublesome to capture in a photograph what it feels wish to be in such an enormous open area, especially once you come from such a densely-populated place like Chicago. It’s a humbling expertise for us each.

Just earlier than the subsequent move, we stop for a fast lunch. It appears like there isn’t a lot greenery up there, and Bob wants his sustenance, too. Before lengthy, we pack up and make our approach as much as the top at 10,600 ft. Adis and Bob take off, leaving Urmat to guide us alone the remainder of the best way.

There are a few snow patches still at the prime, however they’re the final we’ll see as Urmat tells us that we are taking place, down, down the remainder of the day. Certainly, after a brief ridge walk, we step off the trail and go cross nation, chopping across the meadow and dropping elevation quickly as we descend. The bottom is uneven and rocky, so we have now to select our steps rigorously. At one level, Matt loses his footing and takes slightly tumble, but he pops up and walks it off with out Urmat ever noticing.

Ultimately, we decide up some animal trails and make our means right down to a stream in a decent valley. The temperature is climbing as we drop elevation, and we reap the benefits of the opportunity to splash ourselves off with a bit cool water before rockhopping across. On the other aspect, the trail is overgrown with small bushy crops, making it troublesome to see the rocks, marmot holes and ankle-twisting depressions underneath. There’s no path to comply with, and it’s straightforward to imagine that not too many people have walked here earlier than this season.

There’s a bit climb out of the valley, and it is lined with the yew-like shrubs that appear to attract birds like magnets. We spot two new species: the Himalayan Ruby Throat with its shiny orange throat patch and the gorgeous Purple-mantled Rose Finch that stops us in our tracks with its rich purple hue. We debate snapping on the lengthy lens to attempt to get a photo, but we worry we’re sporting out our information’s good graces and press on.

Once we catch up to Urmat, he tells us that we at the moment are on Mount Kensenkyia, and it looks like we’re on new terrain. The trail right here is that super dry, slippery rock that slows me right down to grandma pace, especially on a downhill. I attempt to just settle for it, but I can’t help however want the trail would all of a sudden rework into one thing extra manageable and to my liking.

When that doesn’t work, I attempt to hold my concentrate on the beautiful panorama surrounding us. Throughout the valley from us is a spectacular mountain-scape presiding over a river that winds like a silver ribbon in the valley far under.

We turn a nook, and, abruptly, we’re walking in the shade of a giant evergreen tree. There are timber here! And we instantly understand that we have now been above treeline for the past three days. We all know we are making progress when the panorama modifications that dramatically.

We proceed on, slowly choosing our method down the trail, and we chat about how it looks like we could possibly be in certainly one of our own nationwide parks. That is the primary time that the trail feels everlasting and established, and the terrain is harking back to the Pacific Northwest. Probably the most notable difference is the utter lack of people. We haven’t seen anyone since we left the shepherd’s camp this morning. Superb!

The solar is blazing scorching this afternoon, and once we lastly reach the river we understand why. Because the second cross, we have now been headed downhill all day. Our camp is at 7600 ft, and we’ve dropped over 3600 ft from our highest point. Abruptly, the temperature seems like July!

Adis continues to be establishing the tents once we arrive. We drop our packs and head right down to the river’s edge where we soak our ft and filter water for tomorrow. The water is cold and instantly drops our body temperature whereas also providing some aid for our ft which are sore from the fixed pounding of at the moment’s steep descent.

We sit back for a while, taking within the particulars of this basic alpine scene on the tight bend within the Tyup River where we are camped for the night time. Masked Wagtails make their death-defying stunt dives while searching bugs from their rocky perches up and down the river’s edge. The horses from the neighboring shepherd’s camp come down for a drink, just as the daylight glowing on the peaks in the background begins to soften and saturate the colours of the evergreen timber.

Once we’ve finally had our fill, we grab our telephones and spend just a little time catching up on our path notes and modifying pictures. Urmat asks us if we wish some beer for tonight. Apparently the little shepherd’s hut down the best way serves as the jailoo convenience store, and Adis is about to make a run. We give him 200 som ($three.50), and he comes again with two large plastic bottles of room temperature piva that we drop in the river to relax down for later.

Matt has been carrying the kurut (dried bitter yogurt balls) he bought on the drive to Jyrgalan this entire time. We have been advised that they have been greatest with beer. So when the piva is chilled, we offer some to the boys. They aren’t all that excited concerning the beer, however their eyes mild up once they see the kurut. We’ve got a winner!

Dinner tonight is sort of an improvement from final night time. The boys have made a nice salad with tomato, cucumber and a few type of bean that may be a mixture between a pea and a chickpea. We also have an enormous bowl of noodle, bean and potato soup and recent bread. Perhaps they bought some more groceries at the minimart?

After dinner, we pour one final cup of cold beer and luxuriate in standing and talking outdoors of the tent for some time earlier than heading to bed. The temperature is far hotter at this lower campsite and extra conducive to hanging out. The boys have a special treat for us on this final night time of the Keskenkyia Loop. Matt has been asking to attempt kymyz, fermented mare’s milk, that may be a local specialty, they usually have picked up a bottle. It is slightly alcoholic (2%) and tastes somewhat like liquid smoked cheese–undoubtedly an acquired taste. It’s solely made within the spring and early summer time when the mares are foaling.

On this lovely night time, it’s undoubtedly cheers to another fun and challenging day on the trail in Kyrgyzstan!