Karakol is another one of those places that strikes me as being “must-see” in Kyrgyzstan. It’s one of the bigger and fairly well-known sites, especially by those who have experienced a Kyrgyzstan winter. Why? Because although Karakol doesn’t seem like much in the warmer months (maybe some good hiking? I’m a terrible tour guide), but it’s home to one of the best ski bases in the country. Therefore, for winter fanciness, you go to Karakol.
Unless you’re not a skier, like me. I went skiing exactly two times before moving to Kyrgyzstan, when I was still in high school. Last year, I went skiing with some friends at Orlovka, another ski base located a bit closer to Bishkek, assuming I knew how to ski. (It turns out I don’t. I discovered this after falling on my face several times.)
Karakol is located on the eastern tip of Issyk Kul, but it’s not quite right on the lake. It’s at least a six-hour drive from Bishkek, longer if traffic is bad, weather is bad, or your driver is bad.
I didn’t want to get stuck at home for a whole three-day weekend, so I decided I would hang out at the resort’s cafe while the rest of the group skied during the day. This plan worked out pretty well, one day Farrell stayed with me in the cafe (which was so much nicer than the one at Zil), one day we skipped the resort all together and explored the town, and one day I hung out at the cafe on my own (visited pretty regularly by other friends taking a break from skiing). At night, Farrell and I swapped babysitting duties while the other hung out in the sauna.
When a friend called the guesthouse to book rooms for the group, she mentioned there would be a baby in the group. A baby? She repeated it several times, in Russian and English. Really, a baby? A small child? Yes, apparently it’s strange for tourists to tote along infants on a ski trip.
So how was traveling with Win? He was excellent on the ride there, sleeping for most of it. I mostly held him in an Ergo carrier, which earned me plenty of strange looks. (I don’t think baby carriers are extremely popular here, but I’d rather be stared at than have a sore back and full arms.) He’s still in the delightful stage of being about as inconvenient as an extra piece of luggage, since he doesn’t crawl or walk yet and doesn’t require extra food other than what I provide for him myself.
I think we did a pretty good job of integrating a baby into our social life, although I suspect that by the end of the trip, Win was feeling a bit overstimulated. Hanging out in a cafe all day threw him off of his normal nap schedule, and even though he clocked in the necessary hours of sleep, the constant background noise of music and conversations probably didn’t make for the most restful environment. And waking him up at 6am to go to the Karakol animal market (What?!), umm… I’ll save that story for later. But yeah, he was pretty(/very) fussy by the last day, needing constant attention and rocking to stay calm (and even that didn’t always work).
My biggest lesson learned from this trip, as far as traveling with an infant goes, is to plan some downtime. I totally accept the fact that I can’t have exactly the same social life now as I had before I had Win (or even before I was pregnant), and I had that in mind before we left to Karakol, but even the low-key weekend I spent there was a bit much for him. Obviously there is no lasting damage, but things could’ve been slightly less stressful/more quiet if we had given him a bit more time to unwind in a quiet space.
Oh yeah, and the other big lesson: People kept track of every moment he made a sound during the night and made sure to report it to me the next day. In general, people seem to ask a lot about how Win sleeps (it’s a common conversation topic with an infant around), and I’d respond that he sleeps fine, usually wakes up two times during the night. On this trip, someone was always around to respond, “I heard him cry three times around 4:25am and then again at 6:50am.” “I only heard him for four minutes around midnight.” Uhh, yup. I was there too. *Pet peeve rant over*