Kyrgyzstan Trek Day Two – Orcas and Golden Spirals

Sometime in the mid-1980’s my family went to Seaworld, in large part to see Shamu the killer whale. (We didn’t know any better.) My brother had recently been given one of those 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. Consequently, for us the verb “to Shamu” means taking endless pictures of the same subject.

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

The entire day was one long ascent up a valley of physical majesty, changing vistas united in beauty from before sunrise to well after sunset. Step by step past tree, stone, and a remote farm in the morning, then an afternoon of gratifying strides through open countryside. With the orogenic majesty of the mountainous gods above me, I felt the hot cosmic spark within myself, surging with every clear sharp breath and push of tireless legs. I remembered this feeling of muscles like machines, an engine burning hot but seemingly capable of going forever, from previous hikes, particularly a day-hike in Sri Lanka.

That day on Sri Pada came during a particularly troubled moment in my life, and 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 the feeling that the one paradise island on my map of otherwise uncharted seas had just sunk beneath the waves.

Now, as then, I faced that open ocean of possibility, menacing storms for sure, but also currents capable of carrying me to newly glorious shores. The dangerous beauty of such unknowable potential was delineated by the eternal constancy of the stones that made my horizon, their permanence balancing my finite human moment. We are a fierce little species, with our earnest plans and confounding failures, hoping our cycles are Golden Spirals upward instead of useless wastes of potential in place. But there beneath the peaks, I saw my personal path as an ornamentation detail on the biggest work of art there is, our collective Map of Everything, and I was happy to add my dot.

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

We crossed the river on an improvised 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 was 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 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 hike is always a 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 story I really wanted to follow was written on 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.

Not a bad place to pitch one’s tent.

When the photos came back from that childhood trip to San Diego, we had a stack of glossy images of a faraway pool with one black speck moving around. And it was perfect, both for the memory and the lesson. This time I have a long series of images I want on my wall, and the lesson is one of stupifying awe that a short-term shutterfinger like mine gets to live in a world of such magnificence. We’re all walking our paths, and I’m glad to have mine on the same Map as you, my friends. I hope your vistas are bright today, and your spirits are Shamuing the beauty around.

I hope you are enjoying these trekking posts and pondering your own beautiful places, be they past, present, or future. For the future, my Best of Romania tour is all set to go in August 2023! These have been tumultuous times 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!