The Thundering Mountain Horse
Staying a while and taking a good rest in Kochkor was great. Strangers became friends… and friends finally became closer like a family. People in Ormon Han village greeted me and fed me well with their traditional Kyrgyz food. They knew that I was tired after travelling for many days with two horses all the way from Karakol. They filled my stomach with kymyz. Drinking horse milk makes me stronger… and I need the strength to lift all my 50kg luggage on my horse and to pull my horses if they’re stuck on mud. Local kids in Kara Saz village were cheering on my cameras and when I flew my drone to get aerial footages of the village. Some say that I look a lot like a Kyrgyz man from the countryside… probably my burnt skin and my appearance. I look a lot like those horsemen who just descended from the mountains. Its just that when I start talking, I speak a language that is foreign to them… a language that is spoken by the brown people of the far south… people of the Pacifist…
After I gained back my strength… my horses too were ready for more adventures together. People of Ormon Han were waving at me while I was passing the street heading towards the fields… a graveyard and finally towards the wild mountains. The mountains are big and high, they look very near but trying to get to the foot of the mountains takes forever. Its mid summer now in Kyrgyzstan which means that I’m now battling against the heat every single day. Clouds seem afraid to appear to protect me against the fierce sun. The blue sky is naked without any clouds and the sun is attacking me directly with its heat. The mountains are steep so I chose my way carefully. I saw a big river and go through its valley which I thought was a good decision. After less than 10km riding through the valley, it became too steep and rocky and filled with trees… which makes it impossible to pass with my horses. So I had to turned back and find some other way towards the high mountains.
My horses were getting nervous and refused to cross the rivers. The rivers are big and deep and filled with big rocks. My horses are afraid of rocks… which makes it difficult to pass by the rocky mountains. Sometimes, I had to get down and pulled my horses through the big river and rocky areas. When they keep refusing, I had to calm them down and pulled them slowly. Travelling on horses really gave me another level of experience that I never get after many years travelling on a bicycle. I started to see things differently and I appreciate the nature even more. I have to think like a horse. I started to see the grass as my food… so that I know which grass is delicious for my horses. And I also have to be afraid of rocks just like my horses, so I will dodge them whenever I see them. I used my instinct to see if my horses are tired and hungry, so I know when to take a break and lead them to good grass. I learned how to smell the grass and see the quality of them by their colours. I began to think that taking care of horses is just like taking care of our own kids. Sometimes you have to be strict but gentle at the same time. And the horses need to love you. I learned to establish a good relation with my horses.
I couldnt find any other valley except for the river to get through the mountains. So I decided to climb one of the hills to get a better view from the top. Once on the hill, I started to see a way to get higher… so I kept going higher and higher until finally I saw a path towards the top of the mountain, probably a path used by sherperds. As I kept going higher through the mountains, I could see the peak of the mountains that are all covered with snow. And when I looked back, I could see Kochkor town far away from the valley… it was stunning. I kept going all the way until the shadow was about twice as long, which means the sun will set within 2-3 hours. I crossed a few small rivers and passed by a few sherperds living with their families up in the mountainside. Until the last part of the climb before I reached my destination, which is a beautiful high altitude mountain lake… my horses refused to keep going. I tried to force my horses to keep going but they kept refusing. I then went on foot and tried to pull them but they walked only a few meters forward then stopped again. I brought them to the lower land and let them feast the grass for a few minutes, where I thought they were both tired and hungry. Then I pulled them again to climb the last part, which is steep and rocky. But they kept refusing… fear were shown on their faces. I then gave up, sat alone on a rock… thinking what to do next.
All out of a sudden, in the middle of the silence, came a thundering white horse with a young horseman coming down from the steep mountain. I was shocked to see the young horseman galloping fast from the steep rocky mountain with his white horse. The white horse was galloping as in it was a flat grassland… filled with confidence. I then asked him for help, as my horses refused to climb the last part of the mountain. He then smiled at me, telling me that my horses are stallion, they are Issykkul horses. They’re too big to climb steep mountains. What I need is a Narynski horse, smaller and even more agile than Issykkul horse… a true mountain horse. He then helped me by leading me and my horses to climb the steep rocky area but still my horses refused. So we changed horse, I rode his white horse and he rode my horses… and finally we managed to climb the last steep rocky part. Once on top, I could see the stunning view of Kol-Ukok, a small mountain lake sitting over 3000m above the sea level, surrounded by beautiful snow peak mountains. I was amazed with his horse. It was much smaller, skinny horse but very agile. The horse confidently chose his way down from the steep rocky part running down towards the mountain lake… very impressive.
The young horseman then helped me to pitch my tent and went galloping away with his horse back towards one of the mountain. A few minutes later, he came back with his father and brothers, taking a few mountain horses with them, all galloping towards me. They told me that the lake contains delicious fish and they planned to catch some. The father told me that I will have problem riding my horses in Naryn mountains since the mountains here are very steep and rocky, much higher than the mountains in Issykkul Province. Issykkul horses are good for eating, they’re big with a lot of meat but poor for riding in high mountains. So he offered me to change one of my horse with his horse. I agreed as I was impressed to see Narynski horses in action. So he let me try all his horses for me to choose. I took his horses towards the steep mountains. I was so impressed, I almost fell down from one of the horses as I didnt expect that the horse would gallop while climbing and descending the steep rocky mountain. It was so impressive. They are small horses but they seem not to fear anything. So I finally changed my black horse with one of his horse. A yellow horse, 3 years old… small and skinny but very impressive mountain horse. It has no horse shoe but I can put it in Kochkor anytime if I want. A good trade…
After done trading horses with me, I sit near my tent enjoying my hot tea watching them trying to catch some fish on the lake. They’re nomads, living in the mountains near the lake… catching fish and taking care of their sheep and horses all summer. After an hour, they disappear.. back to the mountains. I spent my time alone through the night. It is a very desolated place. So quiet here… so peaceful. If Im a musician I could create a beautiful music just by sitting alone here watching the beautiful view. But since Im not a musician, I took my pen and diary and started writing, putting everything that came to my mind on paper, so that I will remember them. Once in a while, I looked up, watching the sky changed colours… from day to night. The night is short at this time of the year. Its only about 6 hours before the sun rises again. But the night here is bright… filled with stars and the shooting stars are all over. The nightscape in Kol-Ukok is something really special. I kept on watching them… never get bored.
Early in the morning, the nomads came again to the same place where they put the net to get the fishes. They helped me to pack and wish me all the best on my journey as I descended from the mountains. I was so happy riding my new Narynski horse, I had the same feeling as when I got a new toy when I was a child. I had no problem crossing big rivers and descending steep mountains. My mountain horse was so confident and my other stallion who carried all my luggage was also confident following the mountain horse. Only problem is it is difficult to control as Im still not used to riding a mountain horse. Sometimes it went too fast towards every direction and I had to really guide the horse to the right path. Only after less than 4 hours, I descended the big mountain areas and reached the farming area near Kok Jar. I then saw an area with good green grass which is near someone’s farm, so I went to the farmer to ask his permission to pitch my tent near his field. The farmer and his family were so kind to me. They came to my tent on sunset to give me some horse milk and meat. It seems that people here really value travellers, especially those who came on horses.