Something that, for me, adds value to anything is enthusiastic and knowledgeable good company. A weekend during a work trip stretched ahead. At short notice I was able to book a walking trip of Bishkek that day and a trip to walk in Ala Archa the next day.
The walking trip of Bishkek brought to life the beauty and tragedy of the city and country in recent centuries. Also the powerful artistic spirit of the place. It was an evening tour (my choice) so the museums weren't open but wondering through the well lit fascinating parts of the city on a cold snowy evening held its own magic. My guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic to share the amazing story that the city has to tell. She told the story well and was engaging in her response to questions. The tour rounded off with a lovely cup of tea and chat in a cafe (all included). I'm really looking forward to repeating the tour in the day time.
The next day was the walk in Ala Achar. We left grey Bishkek and drove to the sun bathed highlands past cattle herders on horseback and all the fascination of ordinary life in an extraordinary place. The views filled my soul. It was snowy and since this was an impromptu decision didn't really have the right gear for any sort of a walk up the sides of the valley so we strolled along its winding enchanting floor. As is to be expected in a dramatic and beautiful winding valley, every bend brought another bend into view that begged to be explored. The simple knowledge of the presence of the glaciers above added to the magical power of the experience. Added to all that was Andrei's company. As his colleague had done the night before, his enthusiasm for and knowledge of the place magnified the experience (he was married under trees in the valley!). He clearly got pleasure from others enjoying the place. We talked and learned from one another the whole way. Did we see snow leopard prints? What we saw were certainly bigger than anything else we could think of. For my next trip to Ala Achar we talked about arranging an overnight camping trip so that we could walk further up the valley. And I'll bring the right boots next time. When the snow clears there will be beautiful flowers and as Autumn comes the dazzling colours of the birch trees which gives the valley its name will burst forth, only to return to these magical snowy scenes. I can't wait to come back.
And if I have thoughts of other things I would like to do, they made it clear they would be delighted to help make it happen; either arranging or advising.