Taking a walk in the park, and enjoying not only the view of the mountains, but also a hot spring
One of the things to do around Karakol is walking in the mountains that surround the lake; Karakol is sort of the unofficial Kyrgyz capital of hiking and trekking, from just walking up one of the many beautiful valleys in the vicinity, to six-seven day treks to far-away glaciers, or into Kazakhstan.
Luckily, for us, it is once again not yet the season – although even in season I don’t see us do multi-day treks carrying tent and equipment. But a good couple of hours walk in the mountains, that would be quite nice, of course, and the promise of a hot spring at the end, even better.
In the event, we turned things around, and found a guy with an ancient Russian Jeep prepared to drop us at the hot springs, up the Altyn Arashan Valley at about 2800 m altitude (Karakol is at 1800 m), at the end of a road even I would not have called a road. But the car and the driver managed, quite extraordinarily, to get the car not just through the mud, but also across some incredibly rough boulder-strewn patches, and after almost two hours we had covered the 17 km or so up the mountain.
The hot spring complex was, shall we say, rather basic, with a number of concrete pools inside small private huts which don’t seem to be able to survive another winter – but I am sure that is being said for years, already. Where the spring itself is, remains unclear, but somehow the water, hot and not too smelly, is being piped in, and flows out at the other side of our pool again, into the river. A pleasant enough experience, also because we had the hut just for ourselves.
And our mountain walk? Well, the idea was that we would walk down the valley again, more or less following the road we had taken up. Which took us a good four hours – not much more than a round of golf -, with views over spectacular snow-capped peaks to views of the fast-flowing mountain river that accompanied us downhill, including the occasional mini-glaciers. And let’s agree that walking down is a lot less strenuous than walking up!