As we got to be the last visitiors in Hotel Coocie we would like to use this opportunity to tell you all about it.
This really nice vacation is just over. It has been just a little more than 1 year that Joerg and Ann-Katrin have left Germany. So our anticipation has grown quite large. As the two travellers keep changing their plans it became a little difficult to pick out the best destination for our visit. As we wanted to be sure, that Coocie would arrive fine after the shipment, the preps became quite exciting for us. Just in time, one week before our trip, he arrived to the port of Aktau and we could finally get our flights. So we would meet them at Almaty (Alma Ata). The flight from Berlin via St. Petersburg with Rossia was really good. We arrived quite early and Joerg and Ann-Katrin picked us up from the airport. We spent all day long in Almaty. Staying in a nice appartment we took our time to of course chat a lot after such a long time.
The next day was the 1st real travel day with Coocie for us. As soon as we headed off, we had a police check. After many ups and downs and communication problems, it turned out that Coocie lacked liability insurance for Kazakhstan. The solution and settlement of the problem was not until the afternoon hours: Joerg had to go with the police to buy insurance. That alone took about 2 hours. Ann-Katrin and the two of us waited at the car and went ahead to do the shopping for the coming days. After Joerg and the Police came back form the insurance they started negotiating the penalty. Since no agreement could be found, we went to the police station now – again it took about 2 hours ... Not really the way you should treat your guests. At the end it was a real travel experience for us.
Back to the nice part of the journey we headed out of the city – with police guards ahead of us. Driving through, we must say that Almaty is a really nice city with stunning mountains around and beautiful silhouette and really cool flower arrangements. Check it out:
After leaving the city, we started to get a feeling about the steppe and the vastness of this country. As it was slowly becoming late we were looking for a camp spot and found a premium one for that night. At the end it turned out not to be the only one on this trip. Directly beside a little mountain river overlooking 4000m peaks capped with snow. Immediately we had this feeling of the old trappers and started to collect wood for the camp fire. Unfortunately wind came up and made us move inside. The large timber we packed in a bag and took it with us. Ann-Katrin cooked and we enjoyed the evening under a beautiful sky - even the Milky Way could be seen.
The next morning we got to see the daily stuff - washing, cleaning up, secure everything and start the next exciting day !
We headed off to the direction of the Kyrgyz border at Kegen and wanted to reach the Issyk Kul soon. According to the stories we had heard, this lake is supposed to be beautiful and have lots of things to do for us tourists. The Issyk Kul is the largest lake Kirgizstan with an area of 6236 km² and is the second largest mountain lake after the South American Titicaca. It is 1606 m high and located in Tian Shan Mountains (an extension of the Himalayas). It is also called the "heart" of the Tian Shan.This lake was selected by Joerg an Ann-Katrin as it would be the perfect trip for the two weeks we had. And they have told us before it usually works out different than planned.
It would take another few days until we really reached the Issyk Kul. They pass by very quickly though. As there were a couple of things to fix on Coocie we got a real impression of the country and people.
On the way to the border of Kyrgyzstan we wanted the reserve tank to be welded. It had a small leak. On the way we saw a company with large trucks and a few mechanics. We gave it a shot. The men were very helpful. Unfortunately they had no autogenic welding tip, but a cutting torch to solder the leak. The soldering material was an old tire valve made of brass. An aspirin tablet was used as flux material .... okay! After 2 attempts it wasn’t actually looking that bad! Since we had no vodka on board, 4 bottles of beer settled the bill.
We went towards Kegen but the clutch of Coocie was having a small problem. In Kegen, we found a workshop. Again, the helpfulness is awesome. A young man takes out the newest inverter welding machine and started “welding”. It took him quite a few more attempts to get the pieces stuck together. It worked out at the end and we were finally calling it the day.
It was about time to find a spot before sunset as we turned off the road. We found an awesome spot above a river with a stunning view. This is the first night we get to sit outside with a camp fire and everything.
After we have crossed the border to Kyrgyzstan, we reached the small town of Karakol. Here we went to see a church. We gut the full bazar experience. It is a "store" of a different kind - the market is divided, in the vegetable, bread, shoe, tool department, ... You can buy everything here, just the environment is a little different. So even shopping became an experience for us! In the small town of Karakol we discovered a tourist information office, where they spoke very good English. Jörg and Ann-Katrin got all the information we needed quite easy there.
The next 2 days they scheduled a horseback riding tour. We ride to the beautiful Altyn Arashan-Valley. It is a ride over rough terrain and partially a "road" which is more like a nasty test track
than a road. It's quite amazing what horses and jeeps go through, just to achieve the "hot springs" in the mountains at an altitude of 2300 m. After a nearly 7 hour ride the valley opens up for
us and we get a great view of our destination! After we got our room in the guesthouse (shared with a Japanese hiker) and were spoiled with a nice dinner, we enjoyed the hot bath (about 3x3m).
Well organized, once at a time, small groups of visitors could enjoy this small "pearl" in the mountains. The next day we ride back. Once again we spent a night on a premium spot in Coocie and
continued towards Issyk Kul.
On the way we we stopped at "Jeti Oguz" - what a surprise! A red sandstone formation. A stunning landscape that invites us to stay. A nice spot is found quickly. It does not take long before we
get our first visitors - a shepherd from the neighboring yurt. He was really interested in our truck – of course. For us it is always amazing how open and nice people come up to us. Despite the
language barrier we chatted with the shepherd quite a long time and learned about the area - where he gets his power for the yurt, that there are wolves, how many animals he has ... The
entertainment was just great.
The next morning we packed up and headed off to finally get to the lake. Our water stocks are coming to an end. In the next village we had spotted some springs and pumps on the day before so we stopped at one of them to stock up. Just a minute later another camper truck arrived. It was a Mercedes 911 from Germany. Of course they stopped and we started chatting as this is quite common on these kind of trips. You stop at the road and chat with other travelers to get their experiences. As Joerg and Ann-Katrin say, often there is no tourist information and we get insider knowledge, attractions and campspots. Usually you have a chat, exchange some GPS data and go on. But not this time. It turns out that Hilmar and Ines (http://jonnyontour.blogspot.com) are really nice and as they speak German it is so much easier for us. Since the chemistry is right, we simply decided to turn around and spend another night at the spot we just came from. We get a bunch of stories and information that day. This really gave us a push as we have been considering this way of travelling on our own. Our idea to go on this way is reinforced - the decision is not easy!
The next morning we have breakfast together and give it yet another try to get to the Issyk Kul. We could actually see it already. There was still something on the way: the Barskoon - waterfalls! They are located on the road to the largest gold mine around. The path to the falls is pretty steep and difficult. We go up to the first waterfall. Ann-Katrin and Jörg do the whole thing. But there is more stuff for us to see. Besides the yurts we find 2 monuments of the soviet cosmonaut - it is Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Why do they put it to this point? - We have not found out, but eventually we will.
Again it is time to find a spot! Not really difficult up here in the mountains. Slightly below the waterfalls in the valley, we have seen a beautiful place. Not far away from some yurts.
Said and done. Arriving at the parking space we enjoy views and already we have again visitors – it is Zhenya. Zhenya is moving their cows of "our" meadow home and is curious about our house. What would the vehicle look like from the inside? Result - an invitation to dinner in their yurt. A little later we make our way into the yurt. We sit on the floor at a low table waiting for things to come. As her English skills are non existant, we give it a shot and try our Russian from 40 years ago. Well, ... it worked out a kind of. But that does not detract from the warmth. The welcome drink was sour milk (tastes a bit like buttermilk - only sour). All locals drank it like water. We couldn't really drink a lot of it. At that point of time the thought of the coming food scared us just a little bit. Turns out it was a really tasty salad and fried potatoes on Kyrgyz style (with carrots and chili and something else) - Really delicious! Thanks to Zhenya and her family!
Today we are really going to the Issyk Kul. We finally reach the lake and take a another stop along the lake - the "fairy tale canyon". These are sandstone formations where you can walk through and start dreaming - quite cool!
A few kilometers away we were about to meet a friend of Ann-Katrin and Joerg. It is Robert, who takes a "short trip" around the Caspian Sea with his motorcycle. Together we are looking for a spot on the beach. With a gorgeous blue sky, warm temperatures and sandy beach we feel good here. After all that work we take an extensive coffee break and swim in the Issyk Kul - pleasant temperatures and slightly salty. In the background we see the mountains - simply a beautiful! It's always nice to see the fellow travelers how they choose their way of travelling. Whether it is a motorcycle, a Micra or a 911 Mercedes, it is working out for all of them.
The next day we spend on the beach, surrounded by cows, a few sheep and a few children playing. Again, we are welcomed - one of the very nice kids came over first and a cowboy with his herd later. Again we experience the warmth of these people - a great experience that will remain in our memories!
Yes, even the most beautiful journey comes to an end, eventually. The last few days we need to travel back to Almaty. On the streets of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, we learn that the horn is a very
important tool to survive the traffic. Unlike in Germany it is used for a bunch of reasons for example warnings, as a hello, as a sign that you have the right of way ... If I would have to name
something that is intact on the cars, it is in any case the horn. But the traffic works out somehow! In Almaty, we spend the last day in the yard of a hostel, which is currently rebuild according
to European standards. We get a chance to review the passed days. It was a great time with our kids, with so much to see and all of these great experiences. We are looking forward to the next
For us it was a special holiday, beautiful in every second and with everyhing a real camping trip needs!
We thank our children for great time! We hope you can keep on getting these beautiful experiences.