Friday Arslanbob and the Walnut Forest

Another beautiful day. Breakfast was at our Roman table but this time we were given 5 cold pancakes each! An interesting start to the day! After consuming one or two we escaped the table and had the opportunity to have a closer look at our surroundings.

It appeared to house three generations of family. The matriarch looked quite old as she had no teeth but judging by the age of the younger couple she was probably my age – which is a worry! Anyway, she was obviously head of the household and had some lovely teapots! Her husband wore a suit, his hat and had the required gold teeth when he smiled. The young woman of the house and the mother of the small children was stunning. Her husband seemed jolly but not around much and the children were lovely.

It was a large house with ducks, turkeys and chickens running around the garden full of flowers, at the end of which was a shaded day bed for pre dinner lounging. There seemed to be an inside and outside kitchen and I was delighted to find an outside bread oven alight and being used by our young Mum to make the family’s bread for the day. The flat loaves are placed on the wall of the oven to cook and then browned on the top on the floor of the oven. Great fun. They also had rabbits in a hutch and ducklings. (They did not look like pets….) There was also a barn full of straw.

The home stay family waved us off as we boarded Pendelope to collect our chums who were staying at another establishment. We left Penelope in the town square causing chaos and transferred to local jeeps to go up to the walnut forest. Goodness knows how old the jeeps were but they had few windows and of course no seatbelts. Our three conveyances set off with a roar as we left the square and started moving up a dusty track that took us up past the route of our walk the day before. We saw various people on foot on the route and the occasional car and even a lorry. As we left the town behind larger houses could be seen, either recently built or still in progress. Apparently these are funded by young people who are working in other countries and are sending money home for their palaces of the future to be built in their absence.

The walnut forest, when we reached it was beautiful. It is a natural forest. Old trees with a large canopy of branches ensured that the whole area was bathed in dappled sunlight. The air was soft and apart from us the place was silent. We got out of our jeeps and wandered along paths made by years of walnut pickers who travel to and live in the forest during harvest time. The forest itself is owned by the state with parcels of it rented out to families. The various family holdings are marked out by spiky twig fences. Each family is responsible for looking after their piece of forest. They then have to give a proportion of the harvest from their trees back to the state and they can sell or keep the rest.

Sadly, due to the dry summer the harvest in a few weeks will be poor. Certainly the walnuts we found on the ground were very small. This of course did not stop me getting walnut dye all over my hands getting into them. Not very attractive!

After our forest visit we went back to town and had our lunch just before everything closed down for the call to prayer. This is a much more Islamic environment than we have experienced anywhere else on our travels so far.

Sadly we had to leave as it was all very interesting, but the Silk Road calls and we had to find a site for one more bush camp before the Uzbekistan border.

An emergency within his company meant that Saied had to leave us just outside the town of Osh to get a ‘plane back to Bishkek to rescue another tour party, so our farewells to him were foreshortened. I was sorry to see him go as he was a lovely young chap with great ambition and high ideals. I hope it all works out for him. We learnt a lot about Kyrgyzstan from him. Saied flying back to Bishkek also made us realise the sort of mileage we have been covering.

After dropping him off we kept going to find a place to camp overnight about 30 kilometres from the Uzbeck border. To the surprise of the shepherds, their sheep, a cow herd and a herd of cows we settled on the field in which they were grazing and put up our tents. All was very amicable until one of the cows started to drink the bowl of Dettol water we rinse our hands in and had to be encouraged to leave the camp area…… I guess they were here first!!

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