Ala-kol

Just came down from the mountains after four days three nights.

It was a hard climb up to Ala-Kol lake and very steep climb up to the pass. Scary was the descent over snow-covered scree on a steep face. And camping in such cold conditions was excruciating. Note to self – next time, don’t visit later than August!

More of the hike later. Meanwhile here’s a photo of Ala-Kol, taken while my fingers were still nimble.

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Sunday livestock market in Karakol

The livestock market apparently starts at midnight till midnoon. I was told there’s a hype in activity as it’s the season for various expenses (for example, school) and people are selling their livestock to raise money.

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The market is packed with people and livestock.
This is just the horse section.

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Young and fearless.

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Young and fearless.

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Station for fitting horseshoes.

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Border crossing

It’s been a while since I crossed borders by land (not counting Johor-Singapore) so I was looking forward to this one.

Starting from Almaty, I took a mashrutka (minibus) to Kegen. Along the way the minibus stopped for a break at a market where I grabbed some lunch.

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The minibus dropped me off at Kegen in the rain where I managed to get a taxi driver (that’s just anyone with a car) to take me to the border.

Ever since yesterday’s belated realisation while in Almaty that 1) I don’t speak Russian 2) I can’t read cryllic, I got even more nervous about the trip. But so far the trip went well.

The Karkara  region must be rather beautiful though the grey clouds and horizons peppered by rain and laced with mist makes it hard to see. Large trucks transporting big blocks of straws lumbered on the unpaved roads leading to the border.

Arrived at the border control. So this is it? There’s nobody else crossing except for me. I was directed to a shed in the rain.

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After that I was asked to open my bag for checking on a mud-splashed table. But I’m leaving Kazakhstan! Felt a tad annoyed as I had earlier painstakingly packed everything compactly into the bag. The rain went on. The customs officer seemed to realise it was not easy to stuff the things back in and let me off a bit easier.

I walked towards the Kyrgyzstan side in the rain.

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On the Kyrgyzstan side, the officer asked me a few simple questions and stamped my passport : yay!

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I’m glad I had arranged for transport on the Kyrgyzstan side. I don’t think it would have been much fun to wait for public transport -if any exists!- in the rain.

After more rain and some hail, the weather cleared up. The pastures sitting at the foot of the great alpines reveal themselves.

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Nomadic shepherds (they only herd for a few months a year) are everywhere.

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It’s the season!

The weather is hot hot hot. I’m not kidding when I say it’s hot. It’s hot even when it rained buckets this afternoon, displacing all the hot air onto me (after all, this is a blog about me), engulfing me in a stream of sauna hotness. My English teacher (who taught me a lot) would have shuddered with the repeated use of the word ‘hot’. And the whining.

But the heat and sudden rain has prompted a wonderful blooming season. These are days for cyclinng outdoors, to get sun-burned, be invigorated by fresh air, be surprised by nature, be enticed by its beasts and floras…

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Love these yellow saraca! I saw some budding ones a week ago near my home. Today we cycled along Ulu Pandan park connector and all these beauties were blooming! Yay! Plenty of egrets and kingfishers along the waterways too. Alas, birds don’t pose for phone cameras.

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Later in the afternoon, in an art class, the lady next to me was painting these yellow saraca! Talk about coincidence. We both marvelled at our find.

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Sundays are made of these meandering explorations. Yes it’s swelteringly – there comes the word a again – hot. But since you are already out and about, almost sun-burnt, you might as well just continue and keep on exploring.

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Till next weekend!

Fruit of hundred fragrances

Lunar new year was spent at my parents’ home. This is the passion fruit vine, one of the products of my father’s guerilla gardening. The passiflora edulis – its botanical name – is native to Brazil and Paraguay – many plants that grow here have travelled far! It is said that Catholic missionaries in South America gave the fruit its name because they thought the flowers of the plant looked like the crown of thorns that was placed on Christ’s head.

In Chinese, the passion fruit is sometimes transcribed as ‘百香果‘ which literally means fruit of hundred fragrances. 

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