Thursday, February 02, 2006

Things I Wish I Could Do

I have often wished I could roll my r's. This thought occured to me as my Krygyz horse sped across the high alpine meadow with no hope of ever stopping. The problem is that to get your placid horse moving simply requires you to tap it on the flank and whisper "chu chu chu" (something like Ivor the Engine but not with a Welsh accent). On the other hand, to stop the crazy beast, you need to pull back on the reins and shout "d-r-r-r-r-r-r" being very careful to roll your r's. "Dur" simply doesn't cut it in the harsh nomad way of life and simply leads to the embarassing experience of having a thirteen year old boy chase you down to stop your horse from exploring as yet uncharted parts of the valley. Upon being reunited with the rest of the group there are, of course, laughs and smiles all round but deep down there is the thought this proud people will never respect a man who can only say "dur".

But despite my failures I had a fantastic 2 days in the mountains. As a last minute guest I was the only tourist in the yurt camp. I had no translator so I had to rely on the limited English of the managers daughter. This wasn't a problem at the yurts as I simply had to let them know when I had eaten enough of the delicious food they'd prepared. But when out on a horseride with the manager, he described the surroundings in our only common language..... German!!! It's around 12 years since I spoke German and I wasn't particularly skilled back then, so sadly I probably missed the once in a lifetime sight of a flock of golden eagles attacking a pack of wolves, and I certainly didn't see the dancing snow leopard. I did see some little yellow birds though.

The weather had been questionable on my first day but had broken briefly for a spectacular firey sunset down the valley. By 4.30am on day 2 the sky had cleared and a dazzling moon hung low over the mountains. This boded well for my afore mentioned horse trek up to the high yak pastures. Despite my shocking inability to control a horse I was still able to take in the rolling hills with snow capped peaks beyond and in the foreground flowers everywhere. Blue, purple and other posh colours in between. It was all very nice but what I was really thinking was it's already 10am where's the crazy alcoholic binge drinking. I was not to be disappointed as the head of a yurt household higher up the valley invited me into his tent. After meeting the family the real business began. We started with fermented mare's milk (with authentic horse hair chaser) and moved onto his special occasion vodka. We proceded to knock back some shots and despite my protests that I might fall off the horse (I guess they thought this would be an improvement after my earlier performance) we drained the bottle before washing it down with some more of the slighly sour tasting Krygyz national drink. After this I could care less that the yaks must have heard of my riding abilites and had retreated out of range. Instead I enjoyed another tasty lunch before we headed back down to the lower camp.

I also wish that I could organise a taxi quickly, easily and efficiently and that taxi (and driver) would also be quick, easy and efficient. Of course this wasn't the case yesterday. I had been advised on booking the tour (in German through Belgian interpretors) that it would be easy for me to organise transport back to the city. This proved to be a total lie (or a total mistranslation). For it turned out the no taxi would come up the valley due to the awful state of the roads. And as an alternative there was only one car in the village (where most of the yurt dwellers lived in the winter). This car was around two hundred and fifty years old and unfortunately was "kaputt". The manager, who had been rather surprised to be told I'd be organising transport locally, went to great lengths to try and salvage the situation. But already my evening tour of Bishkek with Alina was looking unlikely. Occasionally some banging would be heard or there would be the sound of a two hundred and fifty year old car not starting. Once the heap of junk was simply rolled out of the village. To cut a very long story short, I eventually paid for some crucial part to be replaced (an engine perhaps) and we were on our way down the to civilisation. The scenery was astounding in the late evening sunshine but my mind was on the terrifying sounds coming from under the car's bonnet. Everytime the accelerator was pressed the noise become a little closer to what I imagined complete engine blowout would sound like. But some how the manager, resplendent in his traditional felt hat, nursed that undead vehicle to the nearest big town, and then (as if sensing my inate fear of clapped out Russian automobiles) he found me the taxi driver with the biggest, fastest and (most importantly) newest car in the whole bus station. Of course my new chain smoking Russian driver was then stopped for speeding 15km from our destination but that's another story.

This was originally written on 24 July 2005. It is from my summer trip to Central Asia, China and Tibet.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice! Where you get this guestbook? I want the same script.. Awesome content. thankyou.

8:34 pm  
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5:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way weird, huh, kid?
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