Karakul Lake – Day 2 (and closeup of the epic toilet!)

Rewind to 4am last night: Thanks to the failed heater, it was freezing cold and five layers of blankets plus many layers of clothings didnt seem to help. It was way beyond what I could bear, and I couldnt hardly sleep. I tried to wake up Az to set the heater again but he said it’s impossible and continued to (pretend to) sleep. I woke up and with little help by the dimmed, generator-powered light, I searched for lighter to set up the burner again. But with old papers alone the fire doesnt seem to stay!

I recalled seeing Mr Same Price putting some coal and gasoline in it to set up fire, and I searched around for the bottle, and the container was running out of coal. I was so determined to get the heater on again so I rushed out of the yurt (!!!!) in the middle of dark, freezing night to get the coal from bag Mr Same Price had left outside. With coal and gasoline, the fire still doesnt want to set!! :( It lights for a few seconds then died. So instead of getting a fire, I was getting alot of smoke inside the yurt! This is disaster! I gave up and went into the blanket and tried hard to sleep again for another few hours.

When it’s dawn we woke up and I instantly called Mr Same Price, but couldnt get through. I sent him a SOS sms asking him to come for help. I was panic that the smoke was still inside the yurt, and if I wanted to open the door to let the smoke out, it’s crazy coz the cold wind would go inside. Around 20 minutes later, he turned up and he set up the heater again… actually he uses a piece of old rubber! No wonder he could get the fire stay easily =.= I should have known!

It’s funny to realize our leftover soup (from instant noodle last night) turned frozen this morning. So is our bottled water. And they’re located *inside* the yurt with us! Imagine the yurt has turned into a refrigerator overnight? And we’re inside! Inga says it was even too cold for her (despite coming from Europe!) and she could guess it was -5 degree celcius.

After breakfast, we packed our stuff to get ready to catch bus for Kashgar. Mr Same Price and Inga says the bus from Tashkurgan would pass by here around 12 noon Beijing time = 10 am local time, so we have to be early to wait at the road side, if you miss the bus then the only other alternative would be asking Mr Same Price drive us (or I guess, his friend) to Kashgar for some hundreds yuan. The chance of getting the bus seat is also unknown, as the bus is probably full. So all we can do is just hope.

Mr Same Price came with his daughter Bibi (in this picture) to help him do housekeeping in they yurt. Inga is staying for another night because she’s too in love with the sunset view of Karakul Lake yesterday and would like to see it again today. We, on the other hand, need to go back to Kashgar despite of enjoying this place so much because our camera has been dead since yesterday!! And this morning all the photos are taken by my cheap HTC phone. Not the best, but better than none.

When walking down the lake again, we could see the lake was half-frozen. And we get to hear some chirping sound from the lake, and it’s amazing to learn that the sound is made by the broken ice that surface the lake water. I purposely try to break the ice layer just to hear the sound! :) Watching this great view on our last day in here, it’s so beautiful that we dont feel like leaving!

Can you spot the outdoor toilet? It’s facing to the lake. And believe it, this is the most stunning view I’ve ever seen while using a toilet!

The toilet, close up. Yes, it’s open air, and the proper way to “flush” is using the sand. Luckily there’s only us living here at the moment, I can’t imagine of using it when you know other people are around. Okay, and you can always use the lake water! :P

It was when I was just done with my toilet business, we caught a sight of bus passing the road!! We got panic and ran for our live towards the road, waving with hope the bus driver would see us and stop. But it did not. It was so much a tense, thinking if we already missed the bus and no other bus for Kashgar today, we have to stay in here for another day without camera, or, to ask for Mr Same Price’s car for some extra fares. Or, maybe we could hitch hike some lorry! Nevertheless, we keep waiting by the roadside and hoping for another bus would appear (I was trying to recall reading there’s some Tashkurgan government bus or something).

There’s hardly any transport passing by except big lorries. We wait for like half an hour, before a small bus finally pass by to save our soul. The bus is different than what we used to ride from Kashgar, but nevermind. The driver doesnt immediately ask for fare when we get in (possibly coz we’re the only who get in at the middle of the road!) and only when reaching Kashgar, we just paid 36 yuan per person, as much as we had paid for inbound bus earlier.

Motorbike Ride around Karakul Lake

Mr Same Price returned to yurt bringing a big bowl of polo rice, and that’s supposed to be our lunch. Taste is bad, and I couldnt even finish half plate. We asked him if we can have boiled water for our instant noodles, and after checking that water isn’t enough after making our tea earlier, he went out to take water from the lake! Yes, where else we can get water here? =.= I just hope the lake water is clean. The water was half water-half ice when he brings it to put on fire.

While we’re eating, Mr Same Price offered to bring us on motorbike ride around the lake, it’s going to be around 2 hours, which is all we have until sunset. He asked 50 yuan per person as each has to be passenger of 1 motorbike. It sounds expensive but I guess we have no choice since there’s no other means of transport here!

The ride was very exciting along the lake side and mountains, although we have to bear with cold wind. I ask them to stop everytime I see beautiful view to take some photos. There’s a part in a corner of the lake where we find fresh ice frost, totally untouched. It feels so great stepping on them, it’s soft and powdery.

Continuing the ride, we’re now on the other side of the mountains, much like in the middle of deserted land. We cant stop being amazed on how beautiful the place is, and among all, the emptiness of it.

Muztagh Ata from the other side. This place is called Akto, a small county inside Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture located in East Xinjiang. Kyrgyz ethnic people make a large population here, and they actually live in this corner of the world where there’s no sight of buildings and proper road ways (apart from the Karakoram Highway that connects Kashgar to Tashkurgan, and even Pakistan if you go beyond that).

We somehow arrived to a community place that looks like a school, nearby two blocks of houses (which probably lives around 20 families). I was so surprised to see people here. I mean, can you imagine they really make a living in this cold place without much facilities? Those are the Kyrgyz kids we meet there. Look at the chapped cheeks suffering from the extreme cold! I just hope they do actually move to a warmer place when it’s winter.

And we get to see yak! Not one, but quite a number of them, and the locals get milk from yak. I have read earlier in other blogs that you can taste yak milk tea in here, so we ask Mr Same Price we can find it somehere.

Mr Same Price brings us to a village house which I guess one of his relatives, and he asks 10 yuan per person. I believe he’s trying to over charge us.. I mean, a cup of milk tea for 10 yuan? I said we’re not having much, just to try a little. So we agree 10 yuan for two persons.

Inside the house. It has a large hall and there’s the kitchen at the entrance. I guess the burner also is also functioning as heater. The Kyrgyz woman quickly prepares yak milk tea for us

Yak milk tea is ready. We’re given hard, cold naan bread to go with it. The tea is salty! Before I assume that the woman has put in salt by mistake, I see Mr Same Price drinking it just normally. And now I recall having read someone’s blog before that he’s given salty milk tea in Xinjiang. It’s possibly this, no mistake! Finally we pay 10 yuan for something we can’t really consume for the strange taste. But at least we can say we had Yak milk tea in in Kyrgyz house.

It’s nearly sunset and we continue the ride. Mr Same Price says it’s about 13 km to circle the lake. Because we already paid 100 yuan for the ride, I tend to utilize it by making them stop at many places to take photo ;p

We arrived to an extremely bumpy land, and their motorbikes seem to be capable in riding in such condition. It feels like riding a wild horse! Nearby,  we saw a few children playing and they seem to know Mr Same Price very well.

There’s a corner of the lake we get to see this pretty reflection of mountains in the lake (I guess the lake isn’t fully frozen here).

The view is so imaginary, dreamy, breathtaking and romantic. I wouldnt mind spending hours in here just to be amazed of how wonderful this place is.

Az with the bike. For photos only. And look, wild camels! I dont know if it’s okay to approach them but apparently Mr Same Price lets us to walk to the camels by ourselves. I dont think they’ll attack us, but yeah.

A view that reminds me to some cigaratte poster. Or was it Harley Davidson?

There’s a small stream with a small waterfall and it’s amusing to see how it looks like when waterfall gets frozen! Right picture is Az with Mr Same Price and his friend, our motorbike buddies! Yes, face is full wrapped coz the wind is too cold!

Traditionally, Kyrgyz people are nomad who set up canvas yurt in places they go. But somehow there are brick yurt too, and they call them “fake yurts”. They’re meant to be permanent there for whatever reason. At this point of time, nobody lives in there though.

We then get back to yurt when it’s alsmot dark. Camera battery is nearly finishing, and thanks to cold weather, we’re afraid it will quickly dry even though not using it. Therefore we decide to snap some final photos at the lake again while watching the sunset.

Mr Same Price and Az inside yurt. When the night comes, the German lady whom mentioned by Mr Same Price earlier returns to yurt. Her name is Inga and she’s traveling alone. Instead of taking bike ride like us, she chose to walk around the lake. We have a real great talk with Inga and learn how she’s been traveling the whole China and ended up in here. After dinner, Mr Same Price prepared the bedding for us, one  corner for Az and I and another corner for Inga, three of us are equipped with many thick layers of blanket, but they still dont seem to be enough. He prepared the traditional heater and then leaves to go back to his house, which I regret for not asking him well about setting up the heater, coz apparently the fire dies around 3 am and we’re freezing in -5 degree celcius!