Earth of contrasts.
‘Ally’ 2017 cave expedition began on September 13th in the evening in an old Bulgarian custom with home grape brandy and meatloaf, under the clock at a central station. After several photos of the consignment team, we boarded the train and headed for Istanbul. Early in the morning of September 14, we woke up in ancient Constantinople, where, for our luck, we met an old friend. Thanks to him we avoided wondering how to get from the European to the Asian side of the city and wander through public transport. In a word, we reached the Sabiha Gökçen Airport quickly and painlessly.
After a four-hour flight with our low-fare Pegasus, we landed in Kyrgyzstan. Dazed by the long journey by train and plane, we followed the crowd of people and found the visa counter. We got them already at 4:00. on the morning of September 15, passed the passport inspection and headed for the hotel. Our first steps in Kyrgyzstan included a light sleep, a hearty breakfast, first local beer for me, and a walk in the Bishkek market. The market turned out to be a hybrid between the one in Druzhba-1, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Mashhad (Iran). In addition to the typical products, typical goods for the post-socialist countries, including the hair dye of the Rose brand, can be found, all blending with the colour and aroma of the Orient. After the market, we visited the cult shopping center “TZUM”, which is located just opposite the GUM, and reminded me very much of Sofia’s “TZUM” in combination with the RUUM of Druzhba, about 20 years ago . It reminded me of childhood!
On the way to our hotel, our Romanian friend Alex admitted that he needed a drill at all costs! Quite randomly on the way, we saw a drill shop, a drill, and all the drilling tools, where Alex’s eyes lit up and he took one of them. A little later in the story, we will go back to the rented drill, which got its own name, given and loved by its tenant.
Late afternoon, the entire group involved in the expedition gathered in the hotel lobby. This time besides the Bulgarian cave core: Kamen – chairman and leader, Ladie – reporter and operator, and Heliana (I) – zoologist and young scientist have not yet acquired a Ph.D. degree, and cavers from Serbia represented by Nemanja and Deyan , Romania represented by aforementioned Alex, and Switzerland represented by Shellie. Organizers of the expedition from the Kyrgyz side were Alexeiy and Sergey, and our guides and contestants of Formula 1 Misha and Sasha. An expedition will not be right if you do not have a chef to enjoy you every day with hot coffee and delicious food for us that was Lena.
On September 16, we set out with two bus stops to the hilltop Djalpak-Tash, which was the first target area for our expedition. The road to it included the transition from the north to the south of Kyrgyzstan through the only passageway in the country. The Tianshan Mountain Pass is very picturesque and beautiful and at the same time filled with adrenaline. The road has absolutely no markings and the rules of movement as we know them do not exist. There are cars, trucks, and tanks, which most of the time are ahead of the curves and most often in the narrowest sections. Fortunately, our driver Misha was a better driver than Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen put together. By piloting his bus, he demonstrates Formula 1 techniques that the aforementioned pilots can only envy by competing in the world’s most technical track, Suzuka. In the middle of the road there is a few kilometers long tunnel which was closed briefly. It turned out that the reason for his closure was the passing of herds of sheep through the pass, accompanied by shepherds of horses.
All cars and trucks waited quietly for the sheep, but after opening the tunnel, they went chaotic and lost in it. The largest dam in the country of Toctoglu, where we spent the night.
On September 17, we woke up early in the morning and breakfast and went to Djalpak-Tash. Our road passed through the city of Uzgen, which is marked by the Muslim spirit and culture. Right in this city, Alex admitted he did not take his boots and should buy at once. Without much thought, he took with him Shelley, who was not dressed in Islamic terms. So our two English-speaking comrades were lost in the minarets and the market disorder, and we cannot stop them. A few seconds later a team was formed to bring them out of the market as quick as possible, and for Shelley a safe way. Fortunately, she had figured out how irresponsibly she had acted, unlike Alex, who could not count on his new boots, still underestimating where he was. An hour later we were on our way again. This stretch included off-road on the slopes of the Fergana valley and the western gangs of Djalpak-Tash. Along the way, Alexei showed us one of the largest landslides that we have heard about through the media. This phenomenon happens once every few years, b.c. the area is covered with a thick layer of soil and because of the dry continental climate there are no trees. At the first strong rain the huge masses of soil brake and flooded like a muddy avalanche in the surrounding area. It was evening again, and we did not reach our goal again. On the other hand, after dinner and some vodka, I and our Russian organizers made an improvised disco under the stars that melted the ice between us. From this night on, the anthem of the expedition became the song “Ya free”, and our driver Misha became a volunteer carer.
September 18 was the day we reached the target area we were going to explore for the next few days. That same day we were divided into three groups. In the first group were Alexei, Sergei, Sasha, Alex and Shelley, and in the second Nemanja and Deyan. Their purpose was to survey a part of the area and take the coordinates of a well-known but not explored cave. The third group included me, Kamen and Laddy. Our goal was to crawl through a big breakdown that Kamen noticed, potential openings of caves set in a straight line. Most of the area was a hilly plateau covered with a thick layer of loess soil lying on gypsum and partially chalk. The gypsum is softer than the chalk and the caves are formed much faster than the normal karst. To our regret, the openings were tightened and we did not find caves. On the other hand, we were admiring the wild herds of horses that were running free and making new paths across the plateau, the numerous flocks of sheep and the vastness of this nature.
Inspired by the horses and yurts before and after the pass, Kamen and I drank in order to feel the taste of the Proto-Bulgarian. You must have Proto-Bulgarian roots to enjoy the taste of the kumis. he is very sour and salty at the same time as the spirit of an old sheep. We have been with such. It was so easy to roll out the day, and we were on the shore of the best, The next day Kamen and Alexei went to check the farthest part of the area and its cave potential. Alex, Ladies, Nemanja, Deyan, Shelley and I went to explore and map the cave they had taken the coordinates of the day before. Alex and Shelley bit a bit, and then a little mistaken, but we finally found the cave. In front of her entrance, Alex pulled out his new boots, pounded them with childish joy, then took out the rented drill, looked at her lovingly, and stroked her gently. So our Romanian colleague went into the cave with the others and as Lady’s picture they equipped the plumb. Equipping takes time, especially when you forgot the exact key. That’s why we and Shellie had already invaded the caves while we were snaking in the sun and remembering our old “love,” and then inventing nicknames for the most interesting participants in an expedition. The day sprang up and finally our order came into the cave. I had prepared several tubes for collecting material, but when I hung up on the rope and looked around, I found that the cave was hopeless for bio-speleology. I was slightly discouraged, but it did not last long, because that was our first cave in Kyrgyzstan.
At dinner we all gathered together, and Alex excitedly explained how he had hoisted the drill. After tonight he named Lenuza his favorite piercer. In her honor, we were listening to a Romanian folk song, under which he was dancing a regiment with elements of horo.
The next day started in the usual expeditionary way. After breakfast, Alex and Alexei went to map the cave the day before, while everyone else went to the Kara-Ungur Cave. We took the smaller Sasha bus, Sergei proudly sat there, trying to remember the road to the cave, behind them, I, Ladies, Kamen and Nemanja, and in the trunk, they struck the dealers, Deyan, Misha and Shelley. The off-road was the most terrible and, at the same time, the most colorful in my life. Terrified because of the inhaled powder and colorful because I was in this place with these people at the right time. After about 100 km we reached the village of Jethim – Dabo, where we stopped in front of a wagon. The wagon was a shop, and the delicious Misha immediately surprised me with cold beer. The vendor was a lovely woman who immediately closed her store and got into the bus to show us the cave. In about 20 minutes we were standing at the entrance of Kara-Ungur, which is a monocannal, water cave. Inside I found a guano, and to my luck, and a few cave beetles. Later, Deyan spotted the first bat, which I caught and identified. Kamen, Nemanja and Shelley found a human skull and bones, and Ladies shot all this. We did great teamwork for a short time. We all got out of the cave, we took the woman back to her store and got our beer back. After we arrived at the camp, everyone began to unload their pennies and prepare for dinner. While they were vanishing, I and Misha just sat with beer in hand and we were admiring the reddish-coloured sunset over the plateau. One of the short and rare moments in life that you want to stay forever. A stolen moment that makes you feel free, forgot about your past and not thinking about your future!
Nothing in life lasts forever, and on September 21 we gathered the camp and headed for the town of Osh, where we spent the whole day. The city is the second largest in Kyrgyzstan and impresses with an impressive statue of Lenin piercing the heart of the city.
The next day we went to the market to take some supplies and eat sausage with a lamb. Early afternoon we arrived in the second target area, the holy Mosque for the local Muslims Abshir-Ata. We looked around the area, then Nemanja, Kamen, and Alex were left to try to equip themselves to the water outlet. I and Misha weaved nets around the river near the camp, under the watchful eye of Sasha, who photographed and laughed at us. In the end, none of the two ventures succeeded, and we stayed another day in the same area. Early in the morning of September 23, Alex took his beloved Lenuza and began to build up the system until Kamen had secured it and froze. For Alex, that day was the greatest of his life, and for that he spent a lot of testosterone while banging like a carrot in front of Laddy’s camera. In the end, Nemanja came to replace the frozen Kamen, and Alex kept shaking in front of the passers-by. After a few hours of equipment, the moon pushed the sun and stood in the evening. That same night, Misha lit a fireball of passion around which Sasha was dancing with a Kyrgyz girl under the rhythm of the Shishi Baba hit song.
On September 24, Alex and Kamen woke up very early and went to the waterfall. There, Kamen puts the missing part in it, and then clears up a bit. The result, in addition to hypothermia, was to establish a siphon part of a potential cave system without penetration into it. Later in the camp, we were invited by local grandmothers to join them. They were sitting around a rug on which there were all sorts of banquets, cakes, cakes and tea and singing traditional songs. Among the grandmothers, one of them stood out with a merry temper, and although I did not understand the Kyrgyz we discussed all the world news, plus when it was best to get the potatoes in the autumn. And so, from word to word and from song to song, we danced.
At dusk, the same day we arrived at the third target area, the Tuya-Mujun mountain massif. Due to the fact that my attempts to catch bats in the first two regions were unsuccessful, this time I was successful on that very night. Having looked around the area and Misha had become a volunteer lair during the first days of the expedition, we stretched a grid near the entrance to a mining walk. The results were not delayed and 10 minutes later I unravelled the first underwater bats, and after a few more minutes with Misha we built the ideal litter tandem. About an hour before midnight Lena, Sasha and Alexei came to us. To our luck, Lena had supposed to have dinner and Sasha to bring some vodka. Half an hour later, the other members of the expedition joined us and then an Asian wide-eyed bat battered in the net. When I saw him, I was happy as a little kid and jumped around Alexei, trying to explain why I was so happy. Distracted with the bat, I never knew when everyone was heading to the camp. Again, we were left in front of the grid …
The morning of September 25 began in the usual way with a cup of coffee, breakfast and a plan for the day. The plan was for everyone to go with Sergei in the crystal cave, which was located above the canyon. Here is the place to mention that the most remarkable part of the massif is the Dangy Canyon, in which the Aravan-sai River flows, and the Eagles are proudly rumbled over it, one of the symbols of the Kyrgyz land. And so we all walked together through the canyon to reach the cave. In several desolate places, Alex, Kamen and Nemanja built a rope rail that helped us pass safely. As they were making the first two rails, Alexei, Misha and Sasha stood on the other bank and documented the event. At one point, there was a rumble, and we saw Kamen’s penetrator rushing through the river. At that moment Misha jumped into the river with a devotion and took the penetrator away. A gesture that few people would do so selflessly. About a kilometer on the canyon, Sergei stopped and showed us the location of the cave. It turned out we had to climb about 30 meters in a risky plumb line. We all did it and went into the cave, which started with narrows through which you reached the Crystal Hall. In it Lady made some compelling photos. Whether by the type of camera or by Shell’s legs coming out of the slim, the levels of testosterone in Alex’s blood rose again abruptly. He again began to shake and take inexplicable actions for the band. After exploring the cave and going out, we realized Alex was left inside. Kamen, Nemanja and Shelley returned to see what was happening with our Romanian counterpart. They all came out a few minutes later. We went back to the camp. Towards the end of the canyon, we saw that Alexei, Misha and Sasha were waiting for us on the banks of the river. As it was already dark, I was angry that I would not be able to catch bats in the evening. I passed across the river, where Misha met me with a bottle of cold beer. This immediately remedied my bad mood. Misha did not stop with the surprises here and shared that Sasha had convinced Alexei to take a lamb for the barbecue. A few minutes later, I, Misha, Ladies, and Shelly were in the shepherd’s home. After a few more minutes in the camp we ate shashlitsi, we drank and were glad.
After the morning coffee on September 26, Kamen and Ladies went to see a baritone cave, Alex strolling, and we and Shell at a bath in the river. On the way to the river, we discussed the hot expeditionary gossip and invented the nicknames of the participants. Half an hour later, we had already found a sheltered place that was perfect for a bath. The sun was hot and the horses were running around us. We, as a true self-indulgent, especially I with my simple soldier’s hairstyle, let loose our lustrous hair, get stripped, and walk into the river. Our skin was bruised by the cold water, and as we were in each song we dried out under the warm sunshine. We spent the afternoon at the camp. In the evening, I and Misha this so successful litter tandem, we went to catch bats.
On September 27th, we woke up very early in the morning, and breakfast, gathered the camp, and went on our way again. Late in the evening until midnight we were again on the shore of Totokul dam. The dam, apart from being the largest in the country, has been built for 10 years, and the pillars of one of the submerged cities still have been seen from the shore. The place we spent the next day in recreation and playing was an old campsite made in a Soviet style. There were old plywood bungalows painted with a hero of Russian tales, a children’s carousel that only those born up to 1989 could appreciate and swing on the shore of the dam. Here the weather seemed to have stopped, making our stay both nostalgic and sweet.
On September 29 we headed back to Bishkek. Again, we found ourselves in the only passage in the mountain connecting the north and the south. Again, Misha maneuvered skillfully in the chaos of sheep, cars and trucks. Again everything was the same, but somehow different. For a few minutes, we found the winter and everything white. For a few minutes I realized that I was letting my soul gallop with the horses at Tuya-Miuyun, swirling with the winter wind in the Tianshan Pass, and enjoying the red sunset over Djalpak-Tash. I leave my soul free here in this land of contrasts, and the rest carry home!
Earth of contrasts.