With the beautiful backdrop of the mountains, canyons, and Issyk-Kul Lake that surround the village of Bokonbaevo, my friends and I set out on a hunt. What made this hunt unusual is that we would not be hunting with weapons but an Eagle. Trained to find its prey (wolves and jackals on this hunt) and attack from the air, Central Asia has a long history of hunting with these birds. Taken from the nest before they are even hatched, the eagles are raised in captivity and held until they are 20 years old. After they reach this age, they are released into the wild to hunt for themselves.
Our guide and Eagle master was teaching other locals how to handle the birds (he is also teaching his daughter but she did not hunt with us). It is difficult because despite being in captivity, the eagle never fully domesticated. If someone unfamiliar to the eagle attempted to hold it, the eagle would likely attack the holder. Eagle trainers are also careful to make sure the eagle stays hungry, so that it will not become complacent when on a hunt and the eagle retains its hunting instincts.
The day was long and I spent much of it on horseback. I have ridden a horse a handful of times in my life, but I enjoyed this experience more than any other. The views of the lake, mountains, canyons, and villages were amazing and the surefooted horses easily traversed narrow trails and climbed the mountains with ease.
My horse was mild mannered at the beginning of the trip but became more difficult as time went on. At one point she refused to go down a steep slope to join the others. Instead, I had to wait for the others to return. In all, we were in the mountains for 6-7 hours, but did not kill any animals.
The following day we hiked in an area called Fairytale Canyon. Despite the snow, the hike was not terribly difficult and offered a great view of the lake. On the drive back to Bishkek we stopped to see a mural of the 2010 Revolution and to play on a patch of ice with some locals (pictures are included below). Overall, it was a great weekend and I highly recommend Aibek’s tour company to anyone who is interested in traveling in Kyrgyzstan.
Below is a video Aibek created for his tour company, Tenti. It shows our horseback ride, our hiking, and us doing doughnuts and pulling locals on the ice.