Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan | 23 August, 2006 | $6.36
Kyrgyzstan has a wonderful network of homestays across the country run by a community based tourism organization called, oddly enough, Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association (CBT). I had met a Dutch couple up at Altan Arashan that I got along with so we ended up traveling together from Karakol to Song K?l Lake, which meant a stop in a town called Kochkor. We had a lot of trouble getting to Kochkor since most of the buses travel along the Northern side of Lake Issyk Kul, the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan (113 miles long).
In the end we had to take a bus back along the Northern route, almost all the way back to Bishkek and then haggle for a private taxi to Kochkor. Valentine, the eccentric owner of the places we stayed in Karakol and Altan Arashan, told us not to pay more than 50 som for a taxi but the drivers wanted 300 each. We finally got the price down to 100 each after a long session of haggling surrounded by a huge audience. Of course, three passengers is never enough so the driver let another man into the back seat and a second man sat on his lap! The men didn’t speak and didn’t appear to know one another.
We knew there would be trouble once we got to Kochkor because our bags were locked in the trunk and we weren’t disappointed. We refused to get out of the car until he did. Finally I we got out and motioned to the trunk and he jumped back in and started to drive away with our bags. The Dutch couple quickly jumped back in and yelled at him. Finally I ran into the CBT office and got a woman to come out and reason with the guy. We eventually got our bags (exchanging money and opening the trunk at the exact same moment like a hostage situation) and the CBT office found a place for us to stay a 10 minute walk down a dusty back street.
The family kept themselves scarce but I did manage to sit with the owner and her grandson for a bit. After showing them the pictures I’d brought of my family from home (those are always a hit) the woman sat down at her sewing machine and sewed me a small square piece of cloth as a present. Its not too difficult to get to know local people when you put in a little effort.