Possibly the night before, possibly overnight in the cold, our camera died. It now takes exactly one picture, which appears to be a blue carpet of pixels. So no pictures of Song Kul, Bishkek, or Kazakhstan.
A yurt is a conical structure with a slightly domed roof, with a wooden (usually willow) frame and a felt cover. The roof is made of poles, cut to a point, bent on one side, with a center hole (tunduk) set in the middle. The national flag of Kyrgyzstan is decorated with a tunduk. One could look up at the complicated lattice work and perceive light through the variations of thickness of the felt. Buckminster Fuller was not all that original with his geodesic dome.
We awoke in daylight around 7 am to bleats, baas, barks, brays, and bird sounds. The sky had cleared. Our hosts' 70 year old father was standing by the lake with his binoculars, looking at the horses and wild fowl. The temperature was somewhere in the 5 - 10 C degree range.
Breakfast included hot bowls of cream of wheat (?), yogurt, nan bread, kaymak, saru mai (a granular butter), and varini (sour cherries in syrup) , along with tea. Thus fortified, we went outside where our extended host family and other locals had gathered. Grandfather led all in a brief prayer. Then on to the main event.
A large black sheep lay on its side, legs securely bound. One man slipped his hand into the sheep's mouth, steadying its head. The other, with a quick stroke of the knife, severed the sheep's esophagus and main arteries. With the head half removed, a large vessel was placed under the neck to gather the cascading blood. Eyes open, the sheep lay still. Two or three minutes later, the sheep was dead and still.
It was time to get to work. The ropes were untied, and a long shallow slit was made down either leg to the midline. With two people (one of them Carol) holding the legs wide, and two working from the midline with knives, the sheep was quickly skinned. (Mike watched almost none of this or the following.) The resident dogs, eyeing the blood pan, had to be shooed away repeatedly.
The two young (3-5 year old) children of our hosts, who had been watching quietly now brought over some plastic tubs. The sheep lying clean upon the skin was cut open. Various internal organs were harvested, some for food, some for the dogs. One man carried away the immense stomach, everted it, and washed out the silage. The women took the intestines and began cleaning out the chitterlings while a toddler stood solemnly at their sides.
The butchering took place amazingly swiftly, with joking and conversation. In less than an hour, it was complete, and meat was hanging in the cookhouse.
It was now 11 am. Carol and Mike took a one and a half hour walk down the lake shore. CBT has constructed several yurt camps for different travel groups (trekkers, horseriders, tourists, etc.) mixed in with the resident shepherd population. We had a conversation with a couple from Stuttgart who were tent campers, and who had walked 2 and a half days into Song Kul from the north over the passes. They had been solo trekking and camping for the better part of two weeks.
Back to the yurt at 1 pm, our lunch was ready. It was spectacular. We were served kattama, a flaky bread. Then we were each served a large bowl of kurdaq, a potato and mutton dish that contained liver, heart, lung, rib tips and mutton that probably came from our morning anatomy lesson. There was so much food that we got plastic baggies to hold the leftovers for our dinner meal.
At 2 pm, we were ready to drive back to Kochkor. Grandpa and one of the grandchildren came along. The trip over the pass and down to the valley took about 3 hours, with one break to cool off the car.
We were back in Kochkor, ready to go to our homestay for the night. The house we were taken to, the home of irrepressible Kuku and her taciturn husband Adamkalyi, is on the edge of town. Turkeys and calves roam the street, with a far view of snow capped mountains to the north. The house has at least three guest rooms, with pleasant beds. However, it has no running water, an outhouse on the far side of a large vegetable garden, and absolutely no way to shower.
Although we travel with backpacks, we are not true backpackers - those folks who go for a week or more without a change of clothes or a wash. We LIKE our en suite facilities, thank you very much. The idea of getting up in the middle of the night, getting dressed, and walking across the property to get to an outhouse was rather repelling.
After we got settled, it was close to 6 pm. We walked back to town. The CBT office was still open, so Aidai made a phone call for us reserving a hotel in Bishkek for the next night. We continued across town to get in some internet time. As we walked into the internet facility, it started to rain, the first rain we had seen on our trip since at least August 1, and perhaps before.
On the way back, we spotted a small discarded plastic tub. It is very to spot discarded objects in Kochkor since there appears to be no sewage facilities, or trash collection whatsoever. There is running water in spigots, so we washed our providential find, and smuggled it into our room. Voila, instant en suite.
Mike finished off the leftover kurdaq, and we went to bed, around 8:30 pm.
The tub was used several times during the night, and Mike disposed of the evidence and contents at 5:30 the next morning.