On the long ride back along the northern shore of Issy-Kol, from Karakol to Bishkek, there was much time to think back on the last month of travelling in Kyrgyzstan. From stunning steppe scenery around Song Kol, to the alpine mountains of Jeti-Oghuz, or still different to the desert hills of Kadji Sai, in all the amazing variety of landscapes on offer there is one ubiquitous site: the yurtas. And these represent far more than just the felt nomadic homes of the Kyrgyz horse herders. As well as hot, sweet chai accompanied by friend honey pastry, a cup of finely fermented kumys (mare’s milk), or a display of intricately woven shyrdaks (rugs), at every yurta I happened across was a smiling Kyrgyz, welcoming me proudly to their country, homes, and families.
Any traveller can guarantee that they will be able to find a bed for the night, if not in a shepherd’s yurta then in their family or friend’s home in the nearest town. Never has a country been so hospitable, offering an endless chatter of Kyrgyz (whether or not you understand it) and stream of chai. Despite deep cultural and linguistic barriers, much laughter will be shared by all, and you will without a doubt find yourself caught up in conversation about anything from the best traits to look for in a horse to exactly where London is anyway.