On Monday 9th June, we set off from Karakol to commence our journey along the southern side of Issyk-Kul (Hot Lake). Our first destination was less than 20km from Karakol – the small town of Jeti-Oguz. From the town, we drove about another 10km in the direction of the mountain. On the way, we saw the ‘Broken Heart’ rock formation and then reached the ‘Seven Bulls’ rock formation.
After taking photos of the rocks, we drove along the dirt track that runs behind the café near to the seven bulls. This track leads to the ‘Valley of Flowers’ which is reported to be carpeted in wildflowers when the season is right. We had been told that there were no flowers out at the moment but took the drive anyway. The track has several small wooden bridges that cross a river until it reaches a more open area of grassland.
As we were driving, we saw a Golden Eagle tied to a wooden perch outside a yurt. We parked and approached the yurt to ask if we could photograph the bird. We were told that there was a 100 Som ($2) fee to take photos, and a 250 Som ($5) fee to have photos taken holding the eagle. Klaus and I both paid up the 250 each for the photo opportunity. I could feel the power of the eagle’s claws through the leather glove – an amazing bird. I hope that it gets to fly and hunt and that it isn’t kept tied to the perch as a tourist attraction!
As we drove further along the valley, the rain started and the ground was getting worse, so we turned around and headed back to the café next to the Seven Bulls for lunch.
After lunch, we drove about 80km towards the town of Tamga. As we got closer to Tamga, the road began to follow the southern shore of Issyk-Kul, which is a sizeable lake. Close to Tamga is a beach on the lake shore, where we stopped to check it out as a possible camping spot.
We then back-tracked for about 6km to the town of Barskoon and then continued south through the Barskoon River valley. There are apparently a couple of waterfalls above the valley but we couldn’t see them. The Barskoon River flows through the valley and contributes to the nice scenery there. We saw two local cars parked on the opposite side of the river with their respective occupants enjoying picnics. Unable to find a better spot, we returned to that location with a view to camping there for the night. Again, it had started to rain, so we thought we’d bide our time in the Defender until the rain stopped and it was getting cool (we were at an altitude of over 7,600 feet). After an hour, the rain had not stopped so we decided to head back down to the beach near Tamga.
The beach is over 2,000 feet lower in elevation, so it was somewhat warmer. There was also no rain – although we could see the rain clouds above the nearby mountains. After scouting possible spots for the tent, we set up camp with the Defender parked on the beach.
We managed to cook dinner and wash the dishes before the rain reached us again. At least we were dry inside the tent.
On Tuesday 10th June, we continued heading west along the southern shore of Issyk-Kul. Our first stop was Skazka (aka Fairy Tale Canyon). Drive west along the south coast road from Tamga and watch out for the brown sign that points the way (see photo). After a short distance, the winding dirt road comes to an end but there is space to park. The area can then be explored on foot. It is a nice area but nowhere near as impressive as the larger Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan.
After leaving Skazka, we tried to find the attractions named Panorama and Boz-Salkyn, A brochure suggested that they are located south of the village of Kajy-Say but there were no indication of their presence there. A local shop-keeper told us we needed to go to the town of Bokonbaev, which we did. But we could find no signs or indication on which was to go, so we gave up and headed further west. The next destination was Tuz-Kul Lake (the Dead Lake of Kygyzstan) but when we got to the turn off, the dirt track was blocked and there was a sign that we couldn’t read. It seems that the dead lake was closed!
We continued to drive along the southern route until the lake ended, and we continued on to Bishkek.