Monday, 7 September 2009
Monday hiking resumes/ Joy to the world tra la la
This morning, the hiking club reconvened after a long summer break. We drove up to Chimbalak ski resort in the mist and rain, which then became sleet, and then turned into a full-on snow storm and all piled out next to the smelly farm at the top of the track. The smelly farm's little yurt tent outside was all covered in snow and looked very 'Lonely Planet does Central Asia'.
We walked down towards the absolute torrent that is the stream there at the moment, crossed on the metal footbridge and then walked back down the valley, not a single uphill burn of the legs required. This was a brilliant walk for all the unfit summer thighs, wobbling away under our plastic trousers - sorry, not a nice image!
The snow was falling thick and fast, and we scrambled along the valley over bracken, under fallen trees, ducking beneath branches and slipping all over the place until we reached another metal bridge with a drop of about 100 feet below it, that we needed to cross to get back to the cars. It was a good no-messing group of girls (unfortunately none of the guys came today), and even though some people were crapping themselves with vertigo and the quite real fear of crossing an untested metal bridge over a raging stream in the snow in Kazakhstan (we could not see the condition of the bridge for the snow cover), everyone managed to pull themselves together and make their way across. I think it was a classic case of (very genteel) mob rule, for I am quite sure that some of the gathered would never have made it, were it not for the general consensus that it would probably be alright.
We made our way back home, soaking wet and freezing cold (my aged fake North Face jacket is officially no longer waterproof) to thaw out in hot showers. And now, two hours later, the sky is glorious blue and the mountains are magnificently white and clearly towering over the city in all their majesty. What a brilliant day.
It sounds rather over the top, but the hiking in Kazakhstan has been one of the most uplifting things I have ever done. Quite honestly, the scenery year round is breathtakingly beautiful and changes weekly. I love the fact that I am able to walk through it in good health, in the company of interesting pleasant people, feeling so alive and lucky to be doing what I am doing. I love seeing eagles soaring overhead. I adore walking past silent mountain streams in the winter because they are frozen solid and milky white, or skipping across them in summer as they race over the rocks beneath making happy, rushing, babbling brook noises. And I love doing this on my own, without my family, just me. I take my husband and kids to the places I find with the hiking club at weekends, but Mondays is my time and I truly savour every second of it.