Karakol, Kyrgyzstan: Get Me Out of Here

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
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Trip End Feb 06, 2014


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Flag of Kyrgyzstan  , Ysyk Kol Province,
Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In the hope of going snowboarding, to see an eagle hunter or game of buzkashi/ulak (polo where they use a sheep or goat's caracas in lieu of ball) we decided to leave Bishkek and spend a five days in the town of Karakol. The Lonely Planet describes it as:

"Karakol is a peaceful, low-rise town with backstreets full of Russian gingerbread cottages, shaded by rows of huge white poplars. Around the town are apple orchards, for which the area is famous."

Sounds nice right? WRONG. The place was awful. It is true, we weren't there at the best time of year but I simply can't imagine it being a picturesque town. Sure the surrounding mountains are stunning but the town itself - no. Dirt roads, dishevelled square, a department store that looked close to collapse and rickety bazaar. It oozed no character, had nowhere decent to eat, wasn't as close to the mountains or lake as we were led to believe and the hotel we checked into only had hot water after 6pm and limited electricity. We did manage to talk her down from 1800 to 1200 though. That was about the only positive thing that happened. The rest of the afternoon was spent with Sam trying to be upbeat and positive whilst I just picked holes in everything and sulked.

With temperatures dropping below zero we found somewhere to eat right opposite the hotel. A place called Maximum which had a few tables all decked out with food and drinks. It looked nice and was a good sign for some atmosphere later on. Not that that mattered as we were shut away in a partitioned room with a table for two. Of the four things we ordered off the menu one was ok. We headed back to the hotel shortly after.

It has to be said, when I'm in a bad mood I'm not the nicest person to be around. Turns out my sulking the day before was just the tip of the iceberg.

Strike 1 - Being woken up by building works in the room next door before 8:30am
Strike 2 - No hot water
Strike 3 - No electricity
Strike 4 - Dust storms and a maximum of -11 degrees
Strike 5 - No decent food

All of which culminated in one awful Amber. When I was little it was said by many that the Golden Book "Good Little, Bad Little Girl" was written just for me because when I was good I was delightful but when I was bad I was awful. Haha it appears some things never change!! Sorry Bridge.

We walked the wind swept streets with eyes half closed as dust whipped our faces. Went to the Tourist Info Centre and CBT office but both were closed. Bought some things from the Turkish Bakery which looked promising were thrown in the bin after a few bites. Called into a cafe for an oil soaked plain omelette and beer. Left half the omelette but drank the beer. Went back to Tourist Info Centre to find out about snowboarding. They were open but may as well have been shut given the level of info provided. They couldn't tell us if Karakol Ski Resort was open but did find an eagle hunter 2 hours drive away. Back to the hotel to mope and waste time before going back to Maximum for another undesirable dinner. At least we were allowed to dine in the open with fellow patrons.

Unable to spend another day in Karakol without going insane we decided to leave the next day. If the weather came good we'd head into the mountains and if it remained bad we'd go back to Bishkek. Anywhere - so long as it wasn't Karakol!

INFO:

Mini Bus: Bishkek to Karakol dep 0950 arr 1545. Price KGS 300 ea (US$6) + KGS 50 ea (US$1) per bag.
Hotel: Altamira Hotel KGS 1,200 (US$24).
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