A few years ago, my friends and I went on a road trip from Bishkek around Lake Issyk-Kul. It was a trip that we decided was going to be our “spring retreat.” It was me, my wife, and a couple other American girls. We started our trip from Bishkek in the old VW Golf car we used back then. The start of the trip was great. We had great sunny weather and the air was cool. We stopped for lunch in the mountain pass halfway to Karakol. Nothing really special, just fun conversation and local food.
Right after lunch we got some snacks and got into the car to leave. It was my friend’s turn to drive. I was still getting stuff settled when she put the car into first gear and drove over my foot! Luckily for me, we were parked in a sandy lot and my foot was pushed into the dirt. No harm done, but I did tease her the rest of the trip about it. We drove on the south side of Lake Issyk-Kul to Karakol the rest of the afternoon, with one stop to take pictures. We spent a couple days in Karakol with a family we knew. The first day we were in Karakol, we went to the mountains with this family. Going up to have a picnic in the mountains, the car stalled out. The car had been giving us problems before the trip, so we weren’t surprised. Nonetheless, we had a great picnic and the car eventually started.
After a couple days in Karakol, we were off to the resort that was on the north side of the lake. We made it with no problems. We had our retreat and planned our year of work. We had many chances to go to the lake in the cold early spring weather. Walking in the lake barefoot was miserable.
The lake was ice cold, but we had a great experience. After our retreat, we packed ourselves to go back to Bishkek. Driving back, we stalled out in a town, Balakchee. With full bladders, I tried my best to get our car going again. Desperate, one of us (I will not name who) had to pee off the side of the car with only the car doors to shield some privacy. The car started 30 minutes later. We continued our drive, a little nervous of stalling again. We made it to a town, Tokmok, before Bishkek when we had another stall out. This time the car would not start again. I called a local friend I knew who worked close to Tokmok to help us out. We got our car into a shop to get services and two and a half hours later we finally made our way back to Bishkek. It was the longest trip I have ever had around Issyk-Kul Lake, but it was one of the best car trips of my life.