The tour of Song-kul

Day 8 – Wednesday 7th August – Song-kul lake (95km)

Song-kul lake is located at 3016 meters and is accessible via dirt roads only. It’s shores ara dotted with yurt camps that belong to the nomad people who raise cattle there – horses, cows, sheep and goats – and also offer accommodation to the few tourists that visit the area. When I say few I mean compared to what a place like this would be like in Europe, for example, but here it is one of the main tourist attractions in the country. People who come up here fall mainly into three groups – hikers, cyclists and adventure bikers.

Today we spent most of the day riding around the lake and taking pictures and videos of this amazing place. On the way we met a couple from France who are riding around the world and they told me about the Wakhan valley road, which I hope to do. They said it had very bad washboard combined with sand, which is about the worst possible conditions for riding, but only for the first 80 or so kilometres, then it was fine, and they added that it was totally worth riding it for the views and its closeness to Afghanistan. I guess that if they made it riding two up with so much luggage it is worth a try.

On the north shore we found this building and rode to it, thinking it could be a caravanisai, the places where caravans stopped to spend the night and stock supplies, but it was in fact a the burial place of Olzhobolot uulu Andash, a hero who fought against the Kazakhs in 1847.

Before reaching the east end of the lake, where the water flows out of the lake, we found a nice beach and jumped into the water, setting a new personal record for the highest place where I have had a swim, and then rode back to camp as if were on a Dakar stage.
Back at the camp, we decided to go for a walk to the shore of the lake to stretch our legs a bit, since on a trip like this you spend a lot of hours on the bike. We set off thinking that the water we could see was about 15 minutes away, but by the time we had walked almost two kilometres we still had not reached it. This was a good lesson on how on such vast flat terrain perspective changes, and without a point of reference for scale, everything is much, much further away than it seems – our European brains are not callibrated for these distances. We turned around and headed for the camp before it got dark, the yurts now tiny in the distance.