The Sweds, Robb and I left Karakol mid-day and ventured to the less-visited southern route of Issyl-kul. We decided to head to Tosor, a small village between Km125-127. We didn’t exactly have a plan and no guesthouses reserved.
We headed towards the lake and knocked on a door of a pinned guesthouse. But nobody answered. The kids on the street told us to try a house across the way. A boy opened the door. He talked to his mother. His mother said we could stay for 200KGS ($2.96) per person per night and with breakfast. It was hard to say no.
We spent the afternoon sitting by the lake. The water was cold and definitely not swimmable. In Kyrgyz, “Issyl-kul” means “hot lake” since it never freezes thanks to its mild salt content. We found some guys on a boat, but when they came on land, all they had was trash from the lake.
Tosor is a tiny village. When we went into one of the five shops in town, we found a 13-year-old boy in charge of the store. It was just funny to buy alcohol from a minor.
After a cold night with several layers of blankets, we started our hike to Skazka Canyon (сказка каньон) aka Fairy Tale Canyon. The almost 8km walk to the entrance of the canyon took us almost 5 hours after some minor detours and misdirection by Maps.me.
Walking alongside the lake was nice. The water as crystal clear. It’s hard to imagine that the Sovits once used the lake as a torpedo testing site.
Skazka Canyon received its name from its incredible sandstone rock formations that will make you feel like you’ve entered a fairy tale. Visitors will see formations that resemble the Great Wall of China, a hippo, a sleeping giant, a snake, a castle, a dragon, etc.
The guys went off to see how quickly they could walk to the end of the canyon. They found out the canyon kept going for quite a while.
The view was breathtaking. The rocks formed waves in the land. Cows meandered the land looking for food. The pictures do not really justify the reality of the landscape.
We were lucky to find a passing mashrutka as we started our trek back. It drove us back to Tosor in 10 minutes versus the hour it would have taken us if we walked. And the ride was a mere 10KGS (15¢).
Back in Tosor, the guys celebrated the day with beers and vodka. Some local guys sitting by the road wanted to join in.
As we walked back to the guesthouse, kids really wanted to say hi to us. There were some girls playing a jumping game and asked the guys to join.
Robb jumped first then Patrik. After one jump, Patrik hobbled back saying, “I forgot I broke my toe.”
It was sad to say goodbye to Tosor. The smallness and us being an oddity made us an unusual, temporary attraction for the locals. But it was good fun wandering around and randomly chatting with people.
We left Tosor and headed back to Bishkek the next day. The husband of the guesthouse was also a mashurtka driver. He called his buddies and like magic, the car drove right in front of the house and picked us up. We ended up paying 300KGS ($4.42), which was odd considering we were halfway around the lake. Hay foreign pricing!
Since the southern route is not as popular as the northern route of Issyl-kul, the marshurtka had only us and three very kind Kyrgyz women who kept trying to talk to us (or at least me since they really thought I was Kyrgyz also).
Even after we stopped for lunch, the three Kyrgyz women kept giving us snacks and candy for us to try.
We arrived in Bishkek by 14:00, roughly a 5 hour trip with a 30-minute lunch/bathroom break.