Fly to: Almaty Kazakhstan
Internal Transfer: Almaty (Kazakhstan) to Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) in minibus (9hrs 30mins)
Karakol, Kyrgyzstan - Inylchek (9hrs) in an Ex-Soviet off road Military Truck
Ex-Soviet military helicopter flight up the Inylchek glacier (35mins)
Visa required: Yes if British for both Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan
Currency:Tenge (Kazakhstan) & Som (Kyrgyzstan)
Time Zone:+6hrs GMT
Day 20, 07/08/08: Tien Shan
Up at 6:10am this morning; the weather was overcast & murky so our helicopter pick-up was delayed until 9:00am. We carried all our gear onto the glacier & as the chopper came in we had to lie ontop of it to prevent it being sucked up by the blades. Very scary, you could feel the pull of the rotary blades on your back. We loaded up really quickly & then jump aboard; strangely I felt quite emotional, almost like I needed a cry or something. The helicopter took off doing a 360 degree turn and then sped off quickly down the glacier, due to the poor weather conditions it was a very bumpy & unstable flight.
Just as we landed at the military compound our truck arrived, perfect timing. As we loaded up we noticed that our driver was clearly suffering from some neurological illness or something; not great as a) he'd been on the vodka & b) he had to drive us down those hairpin landslide roads!
For the duration of the journey back the truck (once again) kept overheating; it did prove less traumatic though being that we were mainly heading downhill. We stopped off by some local honey collector's who had their bee boxes laid out amidst the wild flowers; fantastic alpine scenery & a rising backdrop of granite pinnacles. As we emptied our fresh water bottles they filled them straight from the hive; closely above a huge eagle type bird circled, it was amazing. It was also pretty special to see the nomadic yurt farms as we travelled back through.
The journey took approx 6.5hrs in very hot conditions & eventually we arrived back at the Hotel Amir for a lovely long shower. They served us freshly picked salad & stuffed peppers for lunch; it was beautifully prepared; they also presented us with traditional Kyrgyz slippers with our names embroided. We sorted out our kit bags & after a quick siesta headed out for dinner in Karakol. Our guide had obviously overslept his siesta & when he eventually surfaced looked absolutely shattered - the poor guy's face had more creases than his clothes!