Out in nature, too, there’s just enough infrastructure and traces of trail so you can hike without feeling like you’re the literal first person to ever head up the mountain -- but not much more than that. This might seem unsettling to some, but to me it lent the mountains their atmospheric, untouched quality. The peaks stand tall like unpolished crystals, and the rivers and sharp ridges often require a guide, or a horse, to safely navigate.
My travel companion and I learned this the hard way when we attempted our first trek to a place called Lake Kel-Suu, located near Naryn. We hired a driver to drop us off at the base of a mountain, where, with the help of Maps.Me (the unofficial map app that all travelers we ran into were using), we attempted a climb to an emerald alpine lake that sits miraculously undisturbed at the top of a mountain.
We started by crossing a deep, wide, and quiet valley. It was completely empty of people, but full of light, wild horses, and a river that was a pale blue color I’ve never before seen in water. It was unreal how pristine and romantic the whole place felt, especially so without any markers of human civilization.
This untroubled walk came to a halt when a miles-long river appeared perpendicular to our path. “The current is always stronger than it looks,” an ambiguous voice of reason echoed in my ears. And so, we doubled back and re-attempted the trek on horseback, as the locals had originally suggested we do.
Once we reached the lake, though, it was worth it -- something I’d find myself saying over and over with regards to physically demanding excursions throughout the trip.