Few people make it to Eki Naryn. There are no attractions to speak of (well, there is the swastika forest in Tash Bashat), and it’s some way east of the “Kymys trail” of Bishkek – Issyk Kul – Song Kol – Naryn – Tash Rabat. All the better for those who do, as Eki Naryn is located in a little paradise. For those seeking to fulfill their unattainable dreams of rural idyll – you’re tantalisingly close here.
It’s a jazzy, syncopated road that leads east from Naryn along colorful meadows and fields of grain. Going up the Naryn river, past the Naryn nature reserve (this part of Kyrgyzstan was named last and they actually did run out of names) and the dusty hamlet of Tash Bashat, Eki Naryn suddenly springs into view, perched on a cliff-top above the wild confluence of 2 rivers (both called Naryn).
It’s a quaint village, typical in every sense for Kyrgyzstan. When we visited in summertime, the population seemed to consist of children only, as the men and animals were out on the jailoo and the women inside the house. But pretty soon, an invitation for tea and bread saw us lounging around a table overflowing with sweets and condiments, chatting to the lady of the house, who promptly invited us to stay overnight.
We declined politely (and repeatedly) and decided to strike out on the prairie beyond the village, filled with the technicolor display of herbs and wildflowers in between the verdant grass. Near the river, a small riparian forest serves as shelter for the horses of Eki Naryn, who are attracted by the beach’s promise as Eki Naryn’s top spot to chill out and have a drink.
Eki Naryn isn’t really a cul-de-sac; an easy gravel road loops back to Sary Bulak where it rejoins the main Naryn – Bishkek road, while another, less frequented trail leads to Tosor on the southern shore of Issyk Kul over passes near 4000 m – a wonderful horse trek for 3 to 5 days, and a challenge for modern-day off-roaders and adventure cyclists.
But somehow, it feels like the end of the road. As if you have achieved your destination, and there is really nowhere left to go. The people of Eki Naryn certainly don’t go anywhere. Asked about the roads beyond, they offer frowns, and directions to another village person who they think might have travelled there.
Maybe it’s the wolves that scare them. Maybe it’s their husbands keeping them in check. Or maybe, there really is nowhere else to go.
Thanks go to Isabelle Klopstein for the pictures.