Sary Mogul is a small town in the South West of Kyrgyzstan, on the way to the Tajikistan border. Sary Mogul is a destination for people who’d like to experience a bit of local Kyrgyz life, rural life, or venture off into the mountains. For me it was the starting point of a bunch of hikes, including a 6 day trek through the Alay mountains. The 4 hour drive from Osh is already quite scenic, following a decent road and crossing Kaldyk Pass at 3600 meters. On the other side lies Sary Mogul, on a plain between the Alay and Pamir mountains.
After spending the night in Sary Mogul, a couple of cars brought me and the hiking group into the mountains, to the start of the trail. The first day was tough, crossing the incredible Sary Mogul pass. At 4306 meters, it was testing our willpower. But the view was so rewarding, with the glaciers, colors and lakes. The next day was long, but with an easy morning, going mostly downhill towards Little Sary Mogul village. There were some more flowers and much more green; the oasis in the mountains. In the village people were working outside or in their houses, turning their heads as we approached. Then a dusty dirt road led us to the village of Kyzyl Shoro, where we had hot showers and an incredible meal. It wasn’t until after we felt clean and filled our stomachs that we were expected to ascend again. It started alright, but the ascent of over 800 meters got tougher and tougher as we approached the Koshmoinok pass. The cows seemed to have an amused look on their faces as we struggled up. But on the other side was the comfort of the yurt camp, down in a valley.
After another soup breakfast, we headed out for another ascend to Sarybell Pass at 3132 m. It was a beautiful day. On the pass we could see snowcapped mountains in the distance and we had a beautiful view of where we were heading and where we’d just come from. We descended along the side of the hills, pretty much circling around a rock formation called “the three dragons”. The landscape changed completely and resembled Australia or Arizona, with massive red rocks. Down in the valley was a super lush, idyllic site. We were at the edge of Kojokelen village. It felt like a scene in Alice in Wonderland or something. It was just too surreal, with rocks of different colors, a little river and plenty of plants and trees to provide shade. This was totally worth all the red dust I’d inhaled on the way down. It would just fly up with every step.
At the other end of the village we found our guest house for the night. The dining room was in the main family house. Across the road and river they had built some tourist accommodation. It was very simple, with mattresses on the floor, but gave us a place to shower and charge our phones. It was also much warmer than the yurts! The same family took care of the yurt camp we stayed at the next day. This was sort of a rest day, since we’d arrived in the village pretty early and could relax and stick our feet in the river. And the next day we only had to walk during the morning. We followed a road, where the occasional small truck or donkey passed us. It was very easy going, even though it was uphill. In the afternoon we hung out at the yurt camp, playing some card games and watching how bread was made.
Even though we’d had some lighter days, my legs were feeling the kilometers we’d already made. That, and not feeling amazing in general, made the trip up Jiptick pass somewhat uncomfortable. First the wider road led us towards the steeper mountains. We met a big group of horses along the way. And then it got more challenging. Slowly the path because smaller, steeper and more slippery. We left the vegetation behind us and stood among the now familiar grey-brown stone. My ears kept closing and I heard my breath in my head. No amount of popping would clear it. So I focused on putting one foot in front of the other, zigzagging up in tiny little steps.
On the other side of Jiptick pass we shuffled down the hill until we were back in a lush green and yellow landscape. I loved that we were surrounded by all kinds of flowers. The rest of the walk to the yurt camp was relatively simple, following the hillsides and a little river. The camp was pretty close to civilization, but we stayed one night, before walking the last few hours back to Sary Mogul town the next day. It was the day of the animal market, so we paid a visit on our way into town. Arriving in Sary Mogul again was bittersweet. But the warm meal and shower that were waiting in the guest house were incredible!