Celestial Trek: David Spear
I went on atrekking holiday to Kazakhstan, for the first time recently which was a truly amazing adventure. The group ended up on a glacier in Kyrgyzstan and, during the journey, a 72-year-old client and I ended up stark naked having a bath in a glacial river. We were rosy-cheeked at tea time! The trek is not for the faint hearted but I figured, if he could do it, I could. Surprisingly, no-one one else shared my sentiment!
Nomads and Mare’s Milk
This tour was simply beautiful. We had a fantastic nine days in the wilderness and, along the way, we were lucky to meet a few nomads. They were an incredibly hospitable people and invited us into their ‘yurt’ tents to share their bread and fermented mare’s milk. I would have to say that mare’s milk is an acquired taste, and ever so slightly alcoholic - it certainly gave us a buzz! The nomads also entertained us with their phenomenal horse riding. Like boys in England with their bikes, the youths would perform stunts on their horses, such as riding backwards and jumping on and off while the horse was in motion. Truly terrific entertainment!
Botony and Lepidoptera
Kazakhstan is magical, and because it is largely undisturbed by tourism and people the botany in the remote valleys is beautiful. This place is not only a botanist’s dream, but lepidopterists will be also be spoilt for choice! I saw butterflies that have been extinct in England for years. In the party there were four scientists and myself – a keen lepidopterist. We all went completely dotty, scampering about the valley studying the lovely butterflies and plants. I was fortunate enough to see large Copper Butterflies, that have long been extinct in England, and plants that looked like they came from Mars! We were extremely lucky to witness the multiple hatchings of a type of Tiger Moth one morning – I was in heaven, or very close to it!
Playing Hide and Seek with a Cow
One surreal moment occurred when a cow decided to commit grand theft and stole our toilet tent. This poor beast became trapped in the tent ropes and, upon leaving the campsite, took the tent with it! This resulted in many of us scuttling across the landscape attempting to retrieve the tent from a very bewildered cow.
Riding in Ex Russian Military Helicopters!
Towards the end of the trek we headed to the Inylchek Glacier, which we accessed via a Russian ex-military helicopter that still had its gun sight! On the glacier the temperatures would reach 25C during the day and you were in danger of getting sunburn from the glare of the sun bouncing off the snow. In contrast, at night the temperatures would drop to minus 15C - it got so cold that the water bottles would freeze! Walking across the glacier is a remarkable experience; I would recommend it to anyone who has a sense of adventure and the nerve to do it. Standing surrounded by the snow covered mountains, you can hear the whisper of the ice sheet cracking beneath your feet as you step. When standing in the shadow of the Tien Shen Mountains, we could hear the distant sound of little avalanches happening all around us – truly magnificent. The permanent base camp at Inylchek was brilliant, with great food which was very welcome.
You need to be confident that you will be able to walk for up to eight hours a day. I do not mean you must be bionic, but you need to be sure of your ability to complete the daily treks!