Bishkek Stories and Tips

Kyrgyz Cowboy to the Rescue (Part II)

The Kyrgyz Cowboy Photo, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

(Excerpt from about 4 weeks into our trip. Having finished our climbing, we are several days into our trek back down the valley).

Our state of mild starvation has led us to devise a number of optimistic schemes to get food from the huts we passed the first time we came through the valley. To our luck, the Kyrgyz Cowboy (who saved the day earlier in the trip by ferrying us across the river) was doing the rounds with his son.

We approached him and attempted to communicate the fact that we were suffering from malnutrition and would happily use our Western riches to purchase whatever food he had.

Unfortunately, our grasp of the Kyrgyz language extended to the knowledge of only a single word: "kancha", meaning "how much". After Ben’s attempts to mime the shovelling of food into his mouth, the cowboy signalled to take our rucksacks off. Without further ado, we debagged, and the horseman loaded all our rucksacks onto his horse and motioned for us to follow. We may have failed to put across our dire need for sustenance, but we had successfully enlisted the help of a local horseback rider in the role of porter. Our new friend then also fulfills his familiar position of private taxi, as he once again takes us across the river. The debate of how much to pay our helper is solved quickly when he makes a request for a short length of rope, an item which Thom conveniently has to spare. We make a final attempt to convey our desperation over dwindling food supplies, and this time the message appears to hit home. He signals for us to follow and trots off back to his house.

We arrived at his house (a small metal hut with a large canvas tent attached) and are beckoned into the kitchen/living room/lounge. He comes through with a big pot of tea and two large loaves of quality Kyrgyz bread. It should be pointed out that unlike most references that involve the words "quality" and "Kyrgyz", the reference to "quality bread" infers no sarcasm. Kyrgyz bread is in fact far superior to most baked goods produced by the likes of Kingsmill or Hovis. The sight of this food and drink is almost too much for our ravenous group, so our rapture can only be imagined when our host produces several huge slices of watermelon and his wife follows with three plates of scrambled eggs (curiously, but quite pleasantly, served with sugar on).

This unprecedented hospitality was attained for the princely sum of 200 Som (approximately 3 pounds). Having shown us a number of photos and letters from other passersby, the cowboy then requests that we photograph his family, which we are happy to oblige. Astonishingly, it would appear that his little outpost is on the receiving end of some kind of postal service.

The continuation of our trek was undertaken in a notably more jovial mood following our replenished energy levels, but despite our purchase of rice from the local good samaritan, we felt in need of more. Just over the hill was a small village, as we recalled, and we walked in in search of eggs.

The best method we could think of in which to indicate our desire for eggs was to flap our arms like chickens. This was perhaps not the best form of mimicry with which to greet a complete stranger, but he pointed us in the direction of what turned out to be a restaurant with supplies for sale. How much business a restaurant in such a prime location as this receives remains a mystery, but they gladly provided us with half a dozen eggs and some oil in which to fry them.

Previous discussions of what food we would indulge ourselves in upon our return to the UK were replaced with what food we would be indulging ourselves in that evening, now that our supplies were restocked. Some wild horses were encountered on the pathway later on in the day, shortly before Tim leaving behind the only remaining intact platypus temporarily halted progress. Due to good progress and the ever nearing of our terminus, an early stopping place was sought next to an abandoned hut.

Ben created an elaborate grill on which to cook the evening’s meal from nearby scrap whilst Tim and Thom were to fetch water. The usual ration of Wayfayrer meal was supplemented with bread and a truly delicious serving of egg fried rice.

Our final night out was spent under the stars.

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