To the Last Sea of ours
Five-day journey of two friends from Balykchy to Tash-Rabat
July14, 2023
photography/videography Renat Akmatov, Malik Alymkulov
We have been friends with Renat since the seemingly distant year of 1998. In August of that year, after graduating from university, I went to work as a school teacher in the village of Toguz-Bulak (previous name Nikolayevka), Tyup district, Issyk-Kul oblast. As it was supposed on such an occasion, I was promised a living space, but the school director, who took the responsibility for my arrangements, could not organize a living space for me, having entrusted another young teacher, who at that time lived in his own apartment in a barrack-type house, to shelter me for a couple of weeks. That young teacher turned out to be Renat. That year, having settled in his house for a couple of weeks, I stayed with him and his younger sister until the completion of my teaching mission in June 1999. From then on our friendship began.
In 2017, Renat and his colleagues traveled around Issyk-Kul on bicycles. This route and the opportunity to cycle it along was my childhood dream, which I was lucky enough to realize a year later in 2018.
And already in 2019 our new journey was overdue. At that time I was preparing to participate in a bikepacking ultra race and not having any experience of bike traveling in the mountains needed such an experience. Thus, Renat and I had a new plan to complete a cycling tour from his hometown of Balykchy to Tash-Rabbat Caravanserai through Son-Kel Lake and Mels Turdaliev Pass. On that trip I had several objectives, considering that it was a preparation trip for the race. First of all, I wanted to explore some parts of the race route, the part that coincided with our trip. Initially I planned the route taking into account the passage of some of its sections. The second task was to test new equipment, bags, tent, etc. The third task was to feel the ride along the line which would be indicated by a navigation device, not a phone, but a dedicated navigation device, which I had to buy specifically for such trips. The fourth task, I certainly wanted to experience driving in the dark. This part we had a lot of fun. Our pace did not go well from the second half of the first day when we, having passed Kochkor, started climbing towards the Zhumgal valley.
We arrived at the Kyzart pass at midnight, and after another hour and a half we reached the village of Zhany-Aryk at the Gate of Kyzart. In the village we were welcomed in a guest house despite the late hour. The whole next day we crawled to the Tuz-Ashuu pass before descending to the Sonkul Lake basin and the whole evening we slowly pedaled along the shoreline where we decided to set up our tents at midnight. The next night we didn't sleep at all, when I say "didn't sleep", it necessarily means that. We were climbing Passo del MELS Turdaliev till dawn. That pass is in the mountains between Ak-Talaa and Atbashi valleys.
I have a video-chronicle of our trip stored on YouTube. I managed to capture it thanks to Renat. I watched him documenting our trip with pleasure on his brand new Samsung phone, providing the footages with valuable comments as a keepsake for himself and his two sons, who, out of curiosity, will definitely revisit these episodes of their father's journey.
Now Renat has been working in a distant country for more than a year. Remembering his family, sons, he will certainly draw pictures of his homeland in his imagination. These episodes of our film are living pieces of his memories. My favorite part of the film is the one where Renat standing on the cliff admires Lake Son-Kul, the unexpected scale of the lake's surface, which for us as people of the continent, who have not seen the seas, is comparable to the scale of the whole sea and even the Sky.
  • Malik Alymkulov
    Founder & Editor
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