Wandering through the frosted trees and sparkling snow, catching the golden red leaves, Suiunbek and I slowly made our way through magical Ala Archa. Striking in winter and peaceful in summer, but the alpine National Park really comes into it’s own in autumn, with crisp and clear mountain air offering respite from the Bishkek smog rising from the coal-burning power plants, gentle snowdrifts and smiling snowmen, and the jagged peaks rising into the blue skies.
Up past the wish trees and across the icy river, we made our way to a sun-warmed tree where we sat and watched the stream bubble past and talked about everything. Over the last months, and countless hours, Suiunbek and I had become close friends, and my heart aches to think that in no time at all, I’ll be leaving, and 4,000 miles and 9 hours later, I wont see him again.
For all that our worlds and lives are poles apart, sitting in Ala Archa’s autumn, we are two people moulded of the same earth, teasing and laughing and joyfully arguing about whether or not our sticks won the downriver race. Somehow, across all that land and time, Suiunbek and I had had created a friendship that, above all, was seamless. It would be easy to construe the hours we spent together as tinged with sexual tension, but what made our friendship so special and so deep was that that was never an issue. We never had to worry about those feelings getting in the way of genuine affection and genuine fun. My heart was always Callum’s in any case. If ever two people were meant to be, yes, that was Suiunbek and I. But we were meant to be no more, and no less, than true friends.
How could I go back to the UK, and sit with people and have to think of things to say, when I could be in Kyrgyzstan, unable to stop talking with Suiunbek? And as we stretched out to watch the clouds move across the sky and count the icicles hanging from the trees, I forced all thoughts of leaving far away, holding on instead to those timeless minutes in Ala Archa’s autumn