Back to delightful Arashan lakes, Uzbekistan
Hello! Today I would like to tell you about a completely spontaneous and unplanned trip to the Arashan lakes. I went there last year and these lakes sunk into my soul. First, its beauty. Secondly, the complexity of the trip - just getting there is already a whole adventure - two hours by minibus and then another three hours by "Niva" off-road (“Niva” – is a model name of very popular Soviet and Russian SUV). And, thirdly, it was very cold there, despite the fact that it was high summer in Uzbekistan and the temperature in Tashkent had already exceeded 40 degrees Celsius. From the hot summer we plunged into the winter - snow lay on the mountain slopes, clouds swirled around and it was drizzling with snow.
Even then, I promised myself to come back here again and take pictures of the lakes in sunny weather. And now, a year later, I am here again. Remembering the last trip, I brought with me a thermos of hot coffee and a jacket. The coffee came in handy but the jacket was in the backpack for the whole trip. Heaven took pity on me and sent excellent clear weather. It was quite warm, but not hot. Wonderful weather for hiking the lakes.
In general, an interesting trek-ascent to the Fergana Valley was planned for that week, and I was going to add the first fourteeners to the list of conquered peaks. And then I have only one Greater Chimgan in my "collection" with its 3309 meters. Some kind of not very solid collection turns out :). Unfortunately, the trip was canceled - a sufficient number of participants had not gathered, plus frosts hit those places and at night the thermometer showed minus 15 degrees. Yes, such temperatures occur in Uzbekistan at the end of August too. I can hardly believe myself :). Therefore, the organizers decided not to risk it and gave everyone a retreat.
Although the ascent was canceled, but my soul still requires adventure, so I urgently signed up for a tour to the Arashan lakes. By the way, we have significantly softened the quarantine and since 5th of September it has been practically canceled. And this means that now we can ride around Uzbekistan at any time of the day and the organizers again began to set the time of departure at the earliest. Since the road itself took almost 5 hours one way, it was decided to leave at 4 a.m. As you maybe know, it is my “favorite” time of day. But the beauty of the Arashan lakes is worth these inconveniences!
We plunged into a minibus and started off. It was still dark and only an hour after we left it began to get a little light. But such early departures are good because I can take pictures of the sunrise.
Let me tell you briefly about the Arashan lakes to those who have not read my previous photo report. Arashan lakes are a group of moraine-type alpine lakes lying at an altitude of about 2800 meters above sea level. In Turkic languages "arashan" is translated as "source" and this name is associated with a geothermal source located nearby. The lakes are located on the Angren plateau, on the border of the Tashkent and Namangan regions as well as Kyrgizstan. There are several ways to get here, but usually tourists reach the village of Ertash, located at the entrance to the Kamchik Gorge (the main transport artery that connects the Fergana Valley with the "mainland"), and then a 3-hour drive on the "Nivas" on complete off-road. The average travel speed is 20 km/h.
Near the geothermal spring is the grave of the so-called Arashan-bobo - a local saint who, allegedly, is the patron saint of these places. And here, by the way, there is a grave. True, it is not known who it belongs to. There is also an altar - a relic of the times of idolatry on which the horns of a mountain goat lie - they are so old that they seem to be made of wood. Therefore, in addition to shepherds and tourists, pilgrims also wander here.
Last year we arrived in mid-June and it was in the midst of spring - green grass, flowers. This time I went at the end of August and the landscape was strikingly different - brown slopes covered with grass partially sunburned, partially eaten by rams.
Only at the height did grass begin to appear. By the way, in recent years, grazing livestock, especially sheep, has become a real disaster. Shepherds drive flocks of many thousands from the Fergana Valley to the Tashkent region on the territory of reserves and the rams trample plants and a fertile soil layer. Recently, a law was passed banning grazing on the slopes of the mountains - hopefully that helps.
Like last time, I never cease to admire the "Niva" - a truly all-pass car! It easily overcame steep descents and ascents, waddling from bump to bump and easily crossing streams. What especially pleased me was the large free space in the back seat - with my dimensions I felt quite comfortable there. True, when I tried to get out I almost got stuck between the reclined front seat and the side stand. But this is not a design flaw, but I just need to lose weight :).
And now, three hours later, we drove up to the first and largest lake. Last time it was deeper and the water flowed there clear. This time I was a little disappointed to see a shallow lake filled with dirty water...
But what can I do? It is impossible to get everything at once – nice weather and clean water. We disembarked in a large meadow near the lake and the guides gave us 15 minutes to stretch our legs and take pictures of the surroundings.
By the way, would you like to play a game of mindfulness? There is a gopher in the photo below. Don't you see? But it is here! Can you find him? :)
There are a lot of gophers here, although they were shy, but curious and let us get quite close before diving into their burrow.
Well, did you find a gopher? And here he is ...
Having finished with the photo-hunting for gophers, we gathered near the guides, underwent a short briefing and went up to the second lake.
After taking some pictures, we went to the third - the most beautiful lake.
On the way, I photographed a nearby mountain and the frame somehow reminded me of the flag of Uzbekistan - blue, white and green. Actually, the grass should be a little greener ...
We climbed to the third lake and decided to make a break. The water was a little chilly, but that did not stop some of our members from taking a dip. Like last time, I didn’t dare to dive.
After swimming and having lunch, we continued our way to the geothermal source. In general, the final part of our trip. It's funny - the hike itself with all the stops and bathing took a maximum of three hours, and the way back and forth - almost 10 :). But as I said, it was worth it.
On the way, I saw dandelions - wow, they faded a long time ago in Tashkent and here they just appeared.
We went down to the first lake, got into the cars and drove to the source. Actually, it's just a stone's throw away but we decided to use cars so as not to wade across the river.
In just a minute we disembarked at a geothermal source.
But it was full of people and I decided not to go there, but to take pictures of the surroundings. Moreover, in clear weather the Angren plateau impresses with its vastness.
While other participants tried to make their way to the geothermal source, I took pictures of the local fauna ...
... and ran to the grave of Arashan-bobo - to photograph the very fossilized horns that I talked about at the beginning of the topic.
Well, everyone who wanted to bathe and we went on a three-hour return journey through the pits and potholes. During the breaks, when our "Niva", jumping on another bump, hovered in the air, I managed to photograph the surroundings. As the guides jokingly told me, I am one of the most photographic clients. Well, I do not take the quality of the photos, but their quantity. :) Perhaps, among hundreds of photographs, a good angle will come across.
Three hours later, we finally drove onto the remains of a road built here back in Soviet times.
We passed the village of Ertash ...
... got into our minibus and drove onto the road leading to Tashkent. What a happiness it is to drive on a flat, asphalt road. :)
A couple of hours later we were already in Tashkent. Despite the unplanned trip, I was very pleased - I finally managed to photograph the Arashan lakes in clear and sunny weather. It is a pity, of course, that the ascent of the fourteener failed. But it not so big problem - I’ll go there next year.
In the meantime, the nearest plans are a trip to the mysterious and mystical Baysun. I was there in this February and just fell in love with this mysterious land.
"Mysterious Uzbekistan" has prepared an excellent and interesting program, but I will not go into details yet - otherwise, if you remember, in March I already announced a trip to Baysun and everything fell apart due to quarantine. I don't want to jinx it. It must be cool :).