Altyn Arashan, Kyrgyzstan

Distance: 0 miles
Time on bikes: 0 hours

It’s an early start as breakfast is being served in Valentin’s lodge at 7 am. We have a good night’s sleep and feel ready for the day ahead, especially after we’ve had a good fill of some meat soup, about five pancakes each and countless cups of tea. The tea was to help hydrate us as we’ve only got a mouthful of water to set off on the walk.

After saying our goodbyes to the rest of the guests at the lodge we get on our way at 8.45 am. Valentin has given us some basic instructions for finding the lake – Ala Kol, which is about six or seven miles away in the mountains. One of our first tasks is to find a bridge across a river about a mile away. It’s located in a forest and we can’t believe our luck when we stumble across it in the forest. So far so good.

We decide to fill the now empty bottle with water from the river using the MSR water filter that had been a leaving gift from Carl’s work. We’ve been carrying it since leaving in April but hadn’t even got around to reading the instructions. Thankfully it was easier than expected to operate and within a few minutes we’ve got a litre of filtered ice cold mountain river water. We gulp down about half the bottle before filling it up again and getting on our way. This filter is fantastic!

We continue to walk through the forest and eventually emerge into the valley we’re supposed to be following. We walk for about ninety minutes before stopping by another river to filter another litre of water. This is turning out to be a great tool as we don’t need to carry about four kilos of water and can just filter what we need to stay hydrated. The local cows find it incredibly interesting to see what we’re up to.

As we get on our way again there is a bit of confusion about which way to go – there are a few turns offs the main valley and a Russian couple have caught up with us. None of us have a map, but we have got a photo of the map on the camera which we’ve been using for navigation. We set off in one direction, but after a few minutes we decide it may be the wrong way. We signal to the Russian couple again and after a bit of discussion with no language in common, just hand signals and facial expressions, we head off in the direction of another valley.

After about another thirty minutes it starts to look like we’re heading in the right direction. Although we felt slightly ill prepared, the Russians make us look ready for Everest. He has a small day pack and the lady has just shorts and a t-shirt. We later find out she’s five months pregnant. We stay within reach of each other as we continue to ascend up the valley. We’d started at an altitude of about 2,600 m and are now at about 3,200 m. We can see the end of the valley ahead, but all we can see are steep slopes of scree leading up to the mountain peaks, many of which have snow down the side. We wonder which one we’re supposed to take when we see a few people slowly coming down one of the slopes. It looks very steep, but at least we know which direction to take.

As we get to the bottom of the slope, it looks extremely daunting. We’d been told by Valentin that the final ascent would be a scramble, and while Béné has had some mountaineering experience, this is something new for Carl. We’re out of range for the mobile and it’s now 2 pm, so has taken us five hours to walk here. The scramble to the top will take us from about 3,600 m up to 3,900 m in a very short distance. The Russian couple decide to call it a day at the bottom as it’s too much of a risk, especially as she’s five months pregnant.

We feel we’ve come too far to turn back, so start to head up the hill. It’s a bit tense going up as the ground is moving around underneath us. We keep our heads down and stop for a few breaks on the way up. Carl ploughs on to the top where the view is stunning and manages to get a few pictures of Béné on the way up. We seem to be at the top of the surrounding mountain ranges and the lake below us is beautiful under the clear blue skies.

The air feels thin and it takes a while for us to catch our breath. It’s so warm under the sun, so we just lie there for an hour. We’d love to go down the other side to the lake for a swim, but we’re exhausted and it’s a long way to get back to the lodge. At 4 pm we decide to get on our way.

It’s a bit of a slog to get back, but we arrive back at the lodge at 7.30 pm. We’re absolutely wrecked. One thing we had wanted to do was try one of Valintin’s ‘natural’ hot springs. We thought we had enough energy for a short walk, but it turned out to be longer than expected and we we’re just too exhausted. After a quick dip we head back to the lodge for dinner and a chat with a new guest  – Peter from Colorado.

It’s been a while since we last did any serious walking and it’s really taken it out of us today. Our plan for tomorrow is to try a shorter walk to a more local lake. That should be a bit easier.

Jour 115 – Mercredi 11 Aout 2010. Altyn Arashan, Kyrgyzstan

Distance: 0 miles – Temps a moto: 0 heures

C’est un demurrage au quart de tour: petit dejeuner a 7 heures après une bonne nuit de sommeil. Le petit dejeuner est une soupe a la viande, des crepes et du the. Puis après avoir salue les Hollandais qui redescendent sur Karakol nous partons en direction du lac Ala Kol, qui est a une quinzaine de kilometres. Le sentier est superbe est passé dans une foret de pins tres fins et hauts. Nous esperons ne pas avoir de problems a trouver le pont de la riviere, car la description de Valentin est tres vague. Nous avons de la chance et le trouvons facilement.Nous nous arretons au pont pour utiliser le filtre a eau que Carl a recu comme cadeau de depart de son travail. C’est tres rapide et en 5 minutes nous avons 1,5l d’eau.

Nous continuons a monter dans la foret et arrivons dans une grande vallee ou il y a des moutons, des vaches et des chevaux et qui est entouree de montagnes. Nous avons vraiment de la chance avec le temps et nous avons un grand ciel bleu. Apres une heure et demie nous nous arretons a nouveau pour filtrer de l’eau et les jeunes vaches sont tres interessees.

Nous ne sommes pas sur d’etre sur le bon sentier, mais nous savons que nous sommes dans la bonne direction: nous avions pris une photo de la carte sur laquelle nous pouvons zoomer, et nous avons le GPS a Carl qui nous sert de boussole.

Nous sommes ratrappes par un couple qui parle russe et qui n’est pas trop sur de la route non plus. Nous allons dans la meme direction et marchons un peu ensemble, mais ils sont tous les deux bien plus rapide que nous… ca fait plus d’un mois que nous n’avons pas fait de marche et nous le sentons! Ils nous dissent qu’elle est enceinte de 5 mois, quelle forme!

Nous sommes a 3200 metres et avons commence a 2600 metres, nous voyons le col que nous voulons passer et il est raide, Valentin nous avait dit qu’il serai difficile, mais maintenan que nous le voyons…il avait raison, ca ne va pas etre facile. Peu après le debut de la cote raide, l’autre couple decide de s’arreter, c’est trop dur pour la femme.

La derniere partie de la montee nous prends pres d’une heure et nous croisons les deux Japonaises et leur guide que nous avions vu la veille a Karakol, ils sont surprise que nous allions dans ce sens qui est bien plus dur que le leur. C’est un pierrier assez raide, mais les pierres sont petites, ca glisse un peu, mais a 4 pattes ca va.

Arrives au sommet la vue est fantastique: nous sommes a 3900 metres, ily a le superbe lac Ala Kol et les sommets enneiges et quelques glaciers. La montee nous a pris pres de 6 heures, il est 3 heures. Nous profitons de la vue et nous reposons pendant une heure avant de redescendre, nous decidons qu’il est trop tard pour descendre au lac. La descente est longue et nous arrivons epuises au refuge a 7h30. Nous n’avons envie que d’une chose c’est d’aller dans une des sources chaudes don’t Valentin nous avait parle. Peter qui vien du Coloradeet qui est au refuge nous montre ou c’est, mais c’est bien plus loin que nous ne pensions et après quelques minutes dans l’eau nous nous pressons de retourner au refuge pour manger et aller nous coucher. Nous sommes tous les deux bien plus fatigues que nous ne pensions et nous sommes contents de nous coucher.