It’s ambitious to not long have changed country and then attempt to take 3 buses (4 if you count the marshrutka we took to the bus station) to get to somewhere in the country, but with a few words of Kyrgyz and Russian (Emma) and the village we were heading to being a common part of the traveller trail we figured we’d make it. There is a direct bus but it doesn’t leave until mid-afternoon, arriving early evening so we’d effectively lose the day. Besides where was the fun in that?!
We got lucky and didn’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for any bus. Each one had to stop for fuel but it was a quick affair as the engine is left running so it is simply a case of sticking the hose in and paying the forecourt attendant.
On the second bus we were the last on so there were no seats but it was the bus we were only taking a short 30 minute hop so we didn’t mind, but the locals were insistent we sat, despite our protests we were fine, and seats were cleared for us.
In total it took us almost 5 hours to get to Arslanbob (the same as the direct bus). We headed up the street to the CBT office so we could sort out some accommodation. It had just turned 1pm so according to the guidebook it was their lunchtime. According to the sign outside their office they weren’t open on a Saturday. Helpfully their cell phone number is on the door so we gave it a call and the coordinator left his lunch to open up for us. Homestay number 10 was organised for us and our Uzbek host came to pick us up. He was a cool granddad with his shades on.
We settled in and then headed out. The CBT guy had suggested a walk that took in 2 of Arslanbob’s 3 ‘sights’ – the small waterfall and part of its ‘world largest’ walnut forest.
The small waterfall was like the Kyrgyz equivalent of Blackpool complete with stalls selling rock. There were too many people for our liking, so initially we weren’t overly enamored with the place, but to be fair it was Saturday and we have come from the sparsely populated Pamirs.
Naturally we still bought some rock, just to keep the sugar levels up. They tried the change trick we kept encountering in Osh bazaar where instead of giving you your change they make out that they don’t have it and offer you something else instead. A firm polite refusal has so far always resulted in the change being provided.
We’d photographed the hand drawn map of the walk in the CBT office and it seemed to lead from the waterfall cafe but we couldn’t find it and the people that worked there kept telling us to head across, but we couldn’t find any across. Eventually we decided that must be the top route and there was a bottom route to a view point so we left the tourists behind, headed down the hill a bit and after asking around eventually found the path.
It was hot and exposed in places so we took our time but the viewpoint was fantastic and we could see the path carried on slightly up and round the corner so we carried on hoping for a view the other side. When we reached that the path flattened out into some trees so we carried on and realised we were in the walnut forest proper. It was beautiful; so green and lovely to be in dappled shade. When the path started to head downwards we turned round and headed back.
The village square was much quieter as the crowds were dispersing in the early evening. We found somewhere for chai but you had to be brave (or mad) to eat there, it was humming with flies and as unhygienic as you could imagine.
Back at our homestay we used the ‘hot’ (lukewarm) shower. We’d been given the option of what we wanted for dinner and after seeing the state of the meat at the shops after granddad had been dispatched to buy some, we had been kicking ourselves for getting complacent and ordering meat when we had a choice (influenced by the delicious kebabs and manty we had in Osh the night before). We eyed up dinner preparation as we passed by the cooking area and was thankful it looked surprisingly ok.
They served us a feast for dinner. 3 of us guests were in one building and the other 2 in another, so when we asked if we could all eat together there was a brief moment of chaos as things were rearranged. We chatted the evening away.
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