Song-Kul and the Sheep That Drowned Herself

It’s the day after the trekking as we all sit on the beach at Song-Kul lake. The sun is shining bright and burns on our skin. Mario, Carina and I just went for a swim. Or it was a plunge rather since the water is too cold for swimming. I think I stayed in for only half a minute. But it was refreshing and as there are no showers in the yurt camp, it’s the only way to freshen up. I feel relaxed. I put on some music on my iPhone, lie down on my towel and look out over the lake. The view is amazing.

Two days before we had started the trekking that Olga had arranged for us. After we had bought some supplies in Kochkor our driver dropped us at a mountain pass where we met our guide Bek and the two horses, Boss and Kara. It’s cloudy and there’s a cold wind. Everybody has to put on jackets and hats. Bek ties our backpacks to the horses and off we go. Across a big pasture to the first mountain pass at 2900 meters. Sarah and later Carina rode on one of the horses, the rest of us slowly climbed up on foot. After the pass we went down into a valley where we saw a river running. All around horses and cows. As we approached the lunch spot near the river the clouds disappeared and the views got better.

After lunch we follow the river for a while until we climb up again to cross another pass. Although the path climbs more gentle I find it harder than the first one. Mostly because of the heat. The clouds had now all disappeared and so had the wind which resulted in a sweaty afternoon. Besides that my back started to hurt a bit. Even now that I was only carrying a small backpack! I started to wonder whether my body was made for trekkings. An eagle joined us on the last couple of hundred meters to the top where I was happy to feel some wind again. Another green valley full of galloping horses and herds of sheep down below. In this valley was also our yurt for the night. As we gently walked down into the valley the pain in my back disappears.

The first yurt camp

The first yurt camp

Our camp consist of two yurts only. One for the family that lives here and one for the guests. The camp is beautifully situated in the middle of the valley. A river runs next to it. All around there are green mountains and there are no buildings, no electricity poles, no roads, nothing. Just nature. As we arrive there are already 4 other guests which means we have to sleep with 10 in the yurt. Cozy.

Trying the fermented horse milk

Trying the fermented horse milk

Bek shows up with a pan full of kumis, the infamous fermented horse milk. He starts handing out cups. Initially I want to refuse but then again, why not. I think you have to try the local food at least one time. Otherwise you will never know what it tastes like. And it actually wasn’t so bad. It’s sour milk. It tastes a bit like what we call karnemelk (butter milk) in Holland. Only this was thinner (and there’s a bit of alcohol in it but you hardly notice that).

The next day we directly start climbing up the last mountain pass before we reach the Song-Kul lake, our final destination. And it’s a tough one. As it gets steeper and steeper I start asking myself why I do this. I cannot imagine there are people doing 6-day treks, going up and down this kind of passes all the time. Mario is ahead of us. He doesn’t want to stop to have a little rest, afraid to lose his rhythm. Sarah goes up un the horse. Bek offers the other horse a couple of times but nobody wants to give up now. This pass shall be conquered on one’s own resources! It’s feels heroic when we reach the top. Mario is first, taking pictures of all the exhausted faces as we come up. The view at the top is beautiful. We are at 3300 meters now and see the lake in the distance. All the pain is forgotten right away. Later on we find out that we climbed up 900 meters in less than 2 hours. Almost as fast as the groups that did it by horse. It explains a lot.

Walking down to Song-Kul

Walking down to Song-Kul

It’s still a long walk down to the lake. After lunch I decide I want to ride one of the horses. Something I never did before. Kara is my new friend. There’s a river crossing right after we leave the camp where we had lunch and Kara is only interested in drinking so in the end we cross the same river three times before we get on the right track. I feel quite comfortable on the horse. But I have to admit that she only walked slowly and the track wasn’t too difficult either (just crossing the huge pastures). Still, for a first time not too bad.

We can see our yurt camp from afar but still have to walk for another hour. When we are almost there it starts to rain so we arrive at our yurt totally soaked. Luckily it’s only a little downpour and when the sun starts shining again we all share some vodka and beers outside while taking in the beauty of the lake and it’s surroundings.

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

And now we’re chilling at the beach. Enjoying the last day of the trekking. A day of rest.

Then I look up and see a sheep. A black sheep. All alone. This should have rung a bell since sheep normally walk around in herds. Anyway, I thought the black sheep with the lake on the background would be a nice picture so I approach her. This probably scares her because she runs off. Ok, so no picture then. I go back to my towel. A few minutes later the sheep walks into the water. This we all find a bit strange because none of us has ever seen a sheep taking a bath before. This should have rung another bell. Mario and I take our camera’s because, well, we thought a black sheep taking a bath would make for even a better picture. But she keeps on swimming further and further into the lake. The cold lake. As we had found out ourselves.

After a couple of minutes Carina and Tilmann start to worry about the sheep and set up a rescuing action. There is a rowing boat but it seems to be leaking. A boy runs back to one of the yurts to get help. In the meantime the sheep is swimming around in circles in the cold lake. Apparently she has no plans to return ashore. She can’t survive in this cold water for long. Not even with a woolen jacket.

Then the head goes under. She drowned herself.

It is a sad moment. We are all shocked and question ourselves whether we could have done more. But then we come to the conclusion that this is probably what she wanted. She had isolated herself from the herd because she felt she was going to die. And chose her own place and moment. Animals do that. We all agree.

And what a spot she picked.

We call her Nessie...

We call her Nessie…

See the photo album for more pictures.

This entry was posted in Kyrgyzstan.

One Comment

  1. barna August 26, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Wat ziet het er prachtig uit daar zeg!! Hoop dat je fijne verjaardag hebt gehad! Ben beetje verdrietig van het schaap, zielig hoor Nessie.
    Ik geniet nog steeds van jullie avonturen, bring it on.

    Dikke kus <3 van ons voor jullie

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