Kyrgyzstan Trek Day Two – Orcas and Golden Spirals

Sometime in the mid-1980’s we went to SeaWorld, in large part to see Shamu the killer whale. (Those were uninformed times and we didn’t know any better, including that Shamu had died in 1971 and this was one in a long line of imprisoned orcas.) My brother had recently been given one of those old thin cameras that put the “snap” in snapping a photo since you always wondered if you had just broken the thing. He had two rolls of film for the vacation, and eagerly burned through both during that one show. Over the decades the verb “to Shamu” has come to mean taking endless pictures of the same subject.

I Shamued the hell out of Day Two of my trek.

It was all just so beautiful, from before sunrise to well past sunset. Step by step past tree, stone, and a couple farms in the morning, then open countryside for hours of solid walking between the geological mountain deities above, and my smaller cosmic spark in the burning strength of my legs and lungs. I remembered this feeling of muscles like machines, an engine working hard and burning hot, but seemingly capable of going forever, from previous hikes. One in particular.

I first really recognized it on Sri Pada, a day-hike in Sri Lanka that I climbed during a particularly troubled time in my life. Now, as I climbed among the Kyrgyz Mountains of Heaven, I realized this moment was much like that one. A fundamental reordering of the assumptions I’d grown to fit, and vast ocean of the unknown with just one paradise island of promise…which I would never reach, because human relationships are not mountains, are they.

In my present moment, among the eternal presence of these mountains, the cycles and Golden Spirals of my finite human life seemed like an ornamentation to the Whole Symphony of Things, one flute’s trill amid the polytonality, lost and insignificant and beautiful anyway. It’s funny how traveling to foreign places outside can bring you closer to home inside.

Somewhere around midday we stopped for another hiker lunch of peanuts, bread, cheese, and slices of meat product loaf-thing, all of it washed down by water from the bottles from the streams from the mountains. Feeding my furnace in that setting. It was among my life’s best meals, every time.

We crossed the river on an impromptu bridge of branches, traversed the shifting slope of a new rockslide, and as afternoon considered its evolution into evening, we reached our campsite. I had been sure that the first night’s camp had been the peak of beauty, but this blew it out of the water. We were held in the titanic arms of a canyon ending in silver glacial waterfalls, whose slopes had dressed up for us with yellow and purple flowers, tended by chirping marmot gardeners who nibbled here and there to keep everything just right.

Taking off one’s shoes after a few hours’ hike is a unique delight, and immersing the tired toes in glaciermelt afterward is a joy to sing songs about. Or just sigh a hum of contentment. That works too. Feet restored, I settled on a rock to read, but the volume I wanted to examine was written all over the slopes around me. My eyes moved from rock to cow to baby marmot, and eventually the wind carried away most of the pesky thoughts, and that place and this me were enough.

When the photos came back from that family trip to San Diego, we had a stack of glossy images of a faraway pool with one black speck moving around it. And that was perfect for the memory and the lesson. But how magnificent is it that there are so many places on this world where an overactive shutterfinger like mine can twitch and click all day long and leave you not with a long line of monotony, but a gallery of orogenic opulence that may never actually be looked through again, but is its own silent flute trill in the wider symphony anyway?

I hope you’re hearing all the music, long and short term, all the emotional melodies, and feeling the harmony in your bones, my friends!

Not a bad place to pitch one’s tent.

And I hope you’re enjoying these trekking tidbits, and pondering your own beautiful places, be they past, present, or future. In case you’re looking for suggestions for the future part of that, my Best of Romania tour is all set to go in August 2023! These have been tumultuous times for Europe and the world, but the outlook is good for the passionate traveler, the hotels are booked, and there are still spots available for this small-group tour. Sign up for my Romania mailing list here, check out relevant posts here, and let me know if you have any questions!