Following the epic trial over Dzhuku pass, a few days of rest, recovery and repair in Karakol were in order. After a decent guesthouse was found, Magda set out to find a welder capable of repairing her aluminum rack as well as Kit’s pinhole radiator leak.
Meanwhile Kit cleaned all of the gear and clothes, packing only the essentials for a quick trip down the lake to visit a Kyrgyz cultural festival. Loaded 2-up on the KTM, they made quick time to the other end of the lake where the festival would be held on the shore.
The festival, held on the shores of lake Issyk Kul, near the town of Kyzyl Tuu, was to be a sampling of traditional Kyrgyz culture and food. Activities planned included yurt building contests, horse games, demonstrations with bow and other weapons, music, dancing, acrobatics and Kit’s highlight, eagle hunting.
Another highlight of the morning was a girl who could shoot a bow with her feet while hanging upside down from a spinning metal hoop. Not sure what use this was to their traditional culture but it certainly was entertaining none the less.
As the lunch approached, and the smell of giant bowls of plov filled the grounds, everyone gathered to see the main attraction of the day. Two champion eagle hunters, dressed in traditional garb and mounted on horseback approached to give a demonstration.
Tragically, a young girl had found her way into the demonstration area. She had found a spot directly in the eagle’s path to hold up her cell phone and get a close up shot of the eagle flying low overhead. The eagle, confused about what his intended target was, landed directly upon her head.
Uncertain if she was a perch or prey, it dug its powerful talons into her scalp in an effort to stabilize itself as she rolled around screaming for help. This produced quite a lot of blood in the few seconds it took for the handler to rush over and help. Luckily she seemed mostly OK: The damage limited to some very bloody but shallow cuts of her scalp, a lifetime of Ornithophobia and what was unfortunately a very white dress now stained dark red.
Unfortunately this was not the only accident of the day. During lunch one of the older boys convinced a prettily costumed girl to take a ride on his horse. The high-strung stallion, not used to its new rider, immediately spooked and dashed off, eventually bucking the girl off and briefly trampling her before running off. Fortunately the ambulance was already waiting.
The afternoon brought horseback games. First, two mounted, shirtless Kyrgyz men attempted to unseat each other from their horses. This form of horseback wrestling was called Er Enish. Next came the other highlight of the day: Kok-Boru, A ‘Central Asian sport in which horse-mounted players attempt to place a goat or calf carcass in a goal’. In this case the riders were fighting to steal a large headless goat into a tractor tire at each end of the field.
Despite both these events being heavy contact sports, no further injuries occurred. As the afternoon wound down Kit and Magda returned to their own mount who was well tempered and easily returned them the 200 km to Karakol.