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Today was a big driving day, as we had to get as close to Song Kul Lake as possible in case the road over the pass the following day was a nightmare. We were up and packed early and began making our way southwest.

We stopped in a small town to stock up on food for the next night's camp and to take a tour of a small felt making operation. The Kyrgyz are known for their exception felts, which they use to make wraps and rugs for their yurts, for horse blankets, crafts and slippers. The shop we stopped at had a wonderful collection of both new felt items and antiquities from the area, including some rather sad looking taxidermies, but also some embroidered tapestries showing amazing skill.

Cute shop boy showing us how to play the mouth harp

I loved this - communist yurt decor

After taking care of a bit of shopping, we were taken outside to see how felt is made. In the yard sat an amazing, gorgeous eagle. The Kyrgyz still hunt with eagles, using them to catch marmots, rabbits and birds. They'll take them out on horseback still and it's even become a competitive sport.

me being funny, I crack myself up with this photo every time I look at it

A young woman demonstrated the technique of felt making: first you break up pieces of wool with a pair of sticks. Next you arrange the clumps of wool in layers. Then you add colored wool on top in the shape of your decoration. You then wrap the entire thing up in a mat and pour boiling water over it. You stomp on the mat for several minutes and leave it to cool. When it's cooled and the wool has shrunk, you unwrap it and you have your felt.

We were then served a traditional meal inside one of the felt maker's lavishly decorated yurts. Dried fruits and nuts, fried breads, borsch, tea and hey! Plov!


After lunch we stopped to stock up on beers and booze since we'd be spending the next four nights in tents and yurts, away from stores and shopping.

Vodka, so many options, these bottles ran about $2-3 each

Heh, Barf detergent. I guess "barf" means "snow" in Farsi

On the outside of town we stopped to refuel the truck and I pestered the locals with my camera and poked around a cemetery.

Everything you need - fencing, supplies, your children, your dog and your cow

Beautiful child and mom with gold teeth, she was so sweet when I asked for their photo

We continued on towards the mountains and stopped at the top of the first pass for a photo op in the howling wind.

At the bottom we made camp at a small farm nestled in the hills. It was very dry there, but a nearby stream brought out the mosquitoes in force. It also brought out the birdlife and I found myself taking an extra long excursion to gather firewood with my camera.

My favorite bird of the trip - Fire Fronted Serin. Gorgeous creature.

While we were working on dinner four local children came to our camp on donkeys. I'm not sure which was cuter, the boys or their mounts. We gave the donkeys carrot peels and tried out our Russian with the boys. In turn they let us ride around on their donkeys and had quite a few laughs.

It was a good night, minus the swarming insects and I could hardly sleeping knowing that the next day I would finally get some quality time with a Kyrgyz horse.
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May 2017

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