tradition in a modern world


Though Kyrgyzstan is often found advertised as an off-the-beaten track destination, people have been coming for a number of years, and by now there's a well-developed infrastructure catering to the needs of tourists. 

Hiking up to to the lake Song-Köl, a popular stop on the Kyrgyz tourist trail, 3000 a.s.l, I went to stay in one of the yurt camps set up to house and feed travelers coming through. By this time of the year, the lake and the surrounding areas are filled with the grazing animals of local herdsmen who set up camp in April to fatten their animals before selling them off in October. 

The camp in which I stayed
The camp in which I stayed. This one located in a  more secluded area, away from the main tourist camps.

The combination of yurt stays in a scenic environment of grazing animals lures tourists commonly accompanied by guides to venture up here, either by foot, the horse back or some motorized transport. In my case, I went on a two day hike to reach the lake, and once there, took my time to get an impression of life and the people of this family run camp.

Down by the camp, children joined their parents to spend their summer playing with each other and the tourists coming by.

Time moves slowly by the lake. Children play freely chasing their imagination and adults take care of the chores that need doing to keep the camp running. Typically the milking of animals, the preparing of food and herding of animals. 


Deciding to explore the surrounding area on horse, the horse and I reach the hills after some initial problems of mine getting into the horse's rhythm.

Walking back the trail leading down to road, on what I think will be my last day at the lake, I run into a furiously curious young man who's up here with his cousins for the summer to herd their family's animals. He speaks English well, and is so eager to discuss on a number of topics with a foreigner, that as I'm hitchhiking back to the region's connection point in Kochkor, I find myself having to return to the lake within the next couple of days.

He's just the man I've been looking to talk to. A man with a foot in the traditional world and another in the modern. 

And below, some photos from our hanging out.

Beksultan. Among many things, a student of Chinese linguistics and for the summer herding his family's animals.
The location of Beksultan's camp


Running and maintaining the kitchen is full-time work. This year it's 16 year old Bebi's first time running the kitchen by herself, and according to her camp crew, she's been doing a good job at it.