May 26, 2013
Sunday’s animal market in Karakol is rather famous due to its size, so I was determined to see if stories of sheep being stuffed into the back of cars were true. Four hours of rest seemed to be enough and I got up and walked back to the hotel for breakfast. In a day full of bad decisions, this was the first.
Upon arrival, I didn’t like the expressions the two unpleasant Russian females (the third, nice one was elsewhere) were giving me. Once in the lobby, they descended on me like hell from above with raised voices and in stereo with one on each side. First of all, most places will let you pay when you check out. I had a key to give back to them, after all. Secondly, no one had made a fuss all the other times I had come and gone. Being treated like a common criminal was infuriating, but I paid them for the night before and the coming evening because they insisted (and because I was unwilling to leave and upgrade or downgrade my accommodation). I then texted Sjoerd to let him know that he better have payment ready when he comes back or else.
I went back to the dungeon to have breakfast and asked the Pole and Basque backpackers next to me if they had encountered such charming service as well. They acknowledged their general unpleasantness but had not been treated as poorly. They were headed to the animal market as well, but I decided, based on the guidebook, that by the time I walked the 2-3km there it would be wrapping up. Of course, I could have chosen to get a cab, but I couldn’t justify spending the money when seeing the animal market at its best didn’t seem likely (bad decision #2). So, I went back to the room and took a nap convinced that the other two were wasting their time going to the market (bad decision #3). The Pole and the Basque came back saying that the market went on until about noon (the book said 10AM), and had great photos to show for their effort.
When Sjoerd came back around lunch time, he had made arrangements to stay somewhere else since it was a bit pricey for him and the staff hardly convinced him it was worth the premium. However, he would be meeting Julian, Salima, and Bart at Karakol coffee later, and I would be joining them.
While the hike into a valley from Jeti Öghüz had been scenic, it didn’t challenge us or give us dramatic views. So, with the weather forecast showing significant improvement, Sjoerd, Julian, and I decided that we would be heading off to Altyn Arashan the next day. Salima would be heading back to Almaty and Bart would head towards Mongolia. With that sorted out, it was time to get some food for the excursion. After a street food dinner, I swung back to Karakol Coffee for a night cap. There I ran into Jordan and Laura again. We were the only people left in the shop, so Aikerim, the owner of Karakol Coffee joined us in conversation. After Jordan and Laura left, I stayed a bit longer to talk with Aikerim about her time in America as a child. I left thinking that there may be something to my hunch that she really did like talking to me.