The Karakol Animal Market has been described as a ‘must see’ but it only takes place on Sunday mornings. Things apparently get underway at dawn and are finished by 10.00am. So, we set the alarm for 5.30am and set off to find the market at 6.0am.
Identifying the exact location of the market proved to be a challenge. The Lonely Planet guide talks about the market but gives no directions. A web search indicated that the market was ‘on the northern edge of Karakol’ which wasn’t too much help. We tried to find GPS coordinates without success. The receptionist at our hotel gave us a general indication of where the market was located, after we declined the offer of a paid guide.
As we left our hotel, we saw a small truck with two horse in the back. Deciding that there was a good chance it was heading to the market, we followed it as it headed north through the town. Unfortunately, it kept heading north, so we turned around. However, we saw several vehicles turning off the main road and heading in the same direction. Figuring that the market would be the only sizeable activity at 6.0am on a Sunday, we headed in the same direction and soon found the edge of the market, with vehicles parked wherever they could. For the benefit of travellers coming behind us, the GPS coordinates for one end of the market are N 42.50668 and E 078.37810.
The market was already extremely busy by 6.00am. As we made our way into the market, people were unloading sheep from the trunks of cars and from the back of trailers. Others already had their sheep loaded and were standing with them, hoping that passing buyers would take an interest and commence negotiations.
Whilst the buyers and sellers of livestock are predominantly men, there are also women and children who get involved.
Once we had worked our way through the narrow street where the sheep were for sale, we reached the open section where the horses and cattle were on display. Horses were generally kept separate from the cattle, with both sections being very busy. Don’t wear your best does when visiting the market – the ground is a combination of mud and animal droppings, made worse on our visit as there were occasional showers to help make it even messier!
We wandered through the animals and traders, taking photos along the way. Some of the sellers even posed with their animals.
Here are a few animal photos from the market