Here I am in an alley, or a street, call it as you want. No cars or people around except for some barking from stray dogs.
It has been almost half an hour now that a truck driver dropped me off in the center of Cholpon Ata, Kyrgyzstan. Oh yeah I forgot to tell you, I decided to hitch-hike in this country.
As Georges-Michel says , It’s the simplest means of transport. It is almost an institution in Kyrgyzstan. If you go to the side of the road and you raise your thumb, almost all cars will stop.
In short, to return to our sheep, Cholpon ata is a small village located 1500 meters above sea level of the beautiful lake of Issky-Kul.
Since you must be a bad geographer (do not worry too many months), I’ll help you
I’m standing there, unable to move to where to sleep tonight. I had arrived here without any program, my host at Bishkek had told me to stop there.
And I found myself there, with only my backpacking company, looking in the emptiness around me ..
After an hour wandering the streets, I simply said:
“Nothing to do here, I’ll break, I’ll find better elsewhere”.
So I took my stuff and started to walk to the only intersection of the village, hoping to find a car ready to drop me on the main road. From there, I would find a bus to take me to a bigger city.
I get on the road and a few seconds later I hear the engine of a car behind me, I thumbs up saying that it will save me a good half hour of walking if the person drops me a little further.
The car stops, a woman dressed in a black veil on her head opens the passenger side window:
– Uh, crossroads? (oh shit how do we say crossroads in English), heuuu to the next junction? Bus?
And there she answers me with perfect English
– You want to drop me to the bus station? (translation: “Do you want me to drop you at the bus station?”)
I was quite surprised, since the beginning of my trip I did not meet anyone who spoke English here. There are officially two languages in Kyrgyzstan, Russian and Kyrgyz.
In the car, with a smile on her lips, she asks me where I come from and what I’m doing in Kyrgyzstan. I explain that I am here to discover the country, that I travel alone and that I have not planned anything. Usually I avoid saying that I travel alone, a simple safety rule, but this woman had such a sympathy that I did not need to hide this detail.
I ask her how come she speaks English so well, she explains that she lived for a few years with her husband in the United States. Today they are back home and have a small guesthouse a few minutes walk from Lake Issyk-Kul.
The discussion continues for more than 10 minutes and she talks to me with passion about her country, the lake and the myths that exist around it. I listen to it religiously, it’s exciting!
Arrived at the bus station she said to me:
Do you have some time? You can come and drink tea at home and meet my husband and daughter.
At that moment, Cholpon Ata went from “boring city” to a place where I would probably spend some of my most beautiful moments in Kyrgyzstan.
In fact it’s a bit like the definition of travel. I love highs, but lows are important too. I love being disappointed when great surprises await me at the end. And I love the fascinating people I meet during my adventures.
I do not hesitate a second and accept the invitation. I know from experience that the power to say yes can change a lot.
A brief overview of Cholpon Ata, Kyrgyzstan
Well, let me introduce Cholpon Ata.
Then there you have the main street: