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One million steps for the three of us

Chapter 3. SNOW AND SUN


The boot with a vibramsole found by Zhenya on the bank of the Chon-Kemin which had been lying in the water for a long time judging by its condition showed expressively that the river was not quite an easy one. It was interesting to think of what had happened to the owner of the boot. Did he swim further with stream without one boot or did he walk? We wondered how he could do it.

We were roaming to no effect along the Chon-Kemin for rather a long time and even got over several streams towards the Jasyk-kul lake. The logic of that actions lied in the fact that the Chon-Kemin is flows from there and obviously the river-bed must be narrow there. In fact it turned out that the water ran much faster there. As a result we had to jump over all the streams in the counter direction. In one of the streams Sashacaught some small fish by hand but we had to let it off because of its food uselessness or insignificance.

All the stories we heard revealed that there were no safe bridges over the river in sight (except for the ferroconcrete bridge which was too far). Therefore the problem of forced crossing the river at that exact place where, judging by the map, it was comparatively narrow and divided into several branches was critical. To tell the truth, the river was overfilled with water because of the rain and we hesitated for long time before daring to wade it. That is why we decided that it was necessary to at least wait for the rain to stop and halted. We began cooking boiled rice which was supposed to be a remedy for our stomachs tortured by yesterdays incident.

The boiled rice was eaten and we began to boil the water for tea but it was still raining and every drop made the possibility of our crossing the river more and more illusive. Then the divine intent sent help for us in the person of two Kyrghyzes hunters who offered to take us across riding to the other bank, not for free of course. But who said that the divine intent should be disinterested?

The crossing over Chon-Kemin

The crossing over Chon-Kemin

When the weather grew calmer the Kyrghyzes began to transport us and our backpacks in lots across the roaring river. The poor horses pawed the ground with all their might trying to grope firm ground and resist the strong current. From time to time they plunged into the water to the level of the belly. Several times my horse bent so much that I thought: Thats all, were going to overturn. But nevertheless the brave horses withstood and took us to opposite bank safely. Well, we thought, what would happen to us in case we conceived the idea of wading the Chon-Kemin. No rope would help. The rain had done its part and the river was just overfilled with water.

Will you give us the rope, eh?. We heard this phrase from our Kyrghyzes about ten times both before the crossing and after it. We had been informed of the fact that local people were distinguished for their simple souls. Give it and that's that. But we stood firm not even because we didnt want to give the rope away but because we were anxious it could be useful.

The Kyrghyzes told that we would have to cross three rivers and turn left before the third one, that way we were supposed to reach the Kok-Airyk pass. We finally gave them the rope but not the one they asked for. We gave them a thinner one.

The road along the Chon-Kemin valley has no increase of height and therefore doesnt require any special effort. The effort had to be made to the small rivers flowing into the Chon-Kemin we were told about. So, we wandered along the North Cholpon in search of a place to cross the river for about two hours if only not longer. It was evening, about six oclock, that is why the water in the river was just raging. While roving around small islands in the river-bed and trying to cross the river I found a wooden box which was very useful for us in the evening taking into account the fact that the place was very poor in wood for a fire.

By the way, we have made up our minds to spend the night at that bank and I even began to set up a camp while Sasha and Zhenyawalked around in search of wood. However, in ten minutes the overnight rest was postponed because our explorers returned. And they told that the crossing was possible that day and we would have to moisten our feet in the Chon-Kemin again in order to get to the other bank.

Extravagant bridge over Chon-Kemin

Extravagant bridge over Chon-Kemin

You wonder why? The reason was in the history of the highway construction. Human mechanical ingenuity decided during the construction to make a bridge not over the river but over its new channel for saving of efforts. In other words, they built a bridge at the bank, dug a new channel under it and tried to redirect the river into it. However, the stubborn mountain river not only washed the foundation of the bridge away but also returned to the old channel. There was a rather useless construction connecting an island in the middle of the river with one of the banks and the connection was rather questionable. As a result we had to get to that island first and then go along a bridge rather high but awfully rattling and unsteady because of wind or any move. We were afraid of giving a cough there. Having jumped from the bridge to the wanted bank we felt firm ground underfoot and continued our trip.

It is necessary to say that by the end of that day crossing rivers and streams seemed something ordinary. We stopped taking off our boots and walked in the water in them. Am I wearing Gortex or not? Why shall I freeze my feet? That was the way we crossed the Tertunchu-Koy-Suu the second of the four rivers we had been told about. After crossing it we decided to make an overnight stop.

Camp-fire heating flame

Camp-fire heating flame

Zhenya fell the only bush on the bank, arrange fireplace of several stones and in half an hour we were pleased with the warm and somnolent flame. Our boots and clothes which had gone through so many troubles that day were drying around the fire in all possible versions. And we were sitting near the fire getting warm and drinking the indispensable in the mountains admiral tea (usual sweet tea with a spoon of cognac).


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