Kyrgyz Trek – Day Six: Going Back, Going Forward
Walking those last hours of descent back to pavement and electrical outlets was a time of comfortable contradictions. Steps tentative with battered ligaments, but perhaps a tiny bit of swagger after traversing the heights. My body was a perfect paradise…that I couldn’t wait to scour with extra soap. Mine was the deep calm of the organic human, detoxed of our silicone addictions, but I knew I’d plug right back in (after the shower). Because while my spirit was rebuilt by its time among the silent peaks, I was also a social animal starved for contact.
Which is not to say I didn’t find conversation along the way. My two companions gave me insight into the Kyrgyz people, as well as Americans. (My favorite was when they tentatively asked “Is it true…we’ve seen it in movies…but in America…do people really…wear shoes inside the house?”) And on that last day I enjoyed one of travel’s other great delights: the short but perfect friendships with others met on the road. In this case it was a friendship I had forged, as you do, while naked.
Our Arashan Valley metropolis had hot springs, funneled and fed into three or four rooms where hikers could soak away the trail. The Danish fellow and I had the same spring. When I asked him if he wanted me to wear trunks, he replied with a small laugh “I don’t have these things.” So we lowered our leathery faces and alabaster butts into the water, trying not to react too much to the scalding burn.
Once breathing stabilized, the conversation came around to travels. This man had been everywhere! As the hot water drained the ache from my tendons, his anecdotes of wandering planted vagabond seeds in my imagination, and new pathways formed. (The border conflict with Tajikistan just means you have to go through Uzbekistan, well worthwhile in its own right.)
But more significant than entertainment or logistics was the reminder of how much world we have available. My work takes me on a loop of seven or eight well beloved countries, and my Best of Romania tour promises to add another to the habitual stomping grounds, but those are just the base. As he told me about Mongolian explorations and I returned the favor with Zambian railways, the room was lit by an indefatigable glow from our eyes. The yen for travel is strong, invigorating, and some kind of holy.
This soothed the most potent of my contradictions at that moment: the joy of falling in love with a new country that had much more to explore, but simultaneously the eager crush for new vistas that waited behind the curtains. That delicious tension was its own cause for celebration as I finished my soak. The people, landscape, (and border officials) of Kyrgyzstan had impressed me and I couldn’t wait to explore more of the country. But I also felt a pull in my veins and under my feet to walk the Silk Road pathways of the surrounding nomadic lands.
There is so much to experience out there, and as long as we have vivacity and curiosity to meet it, the world is ready to respond in kind. The mountains behind me seemed to rumble their agreement, content to wait while I sought out the roads of fallen empires. Kazakhstan was not so far away.
Happy travels, my friends!