It was September, there was already snow on the ground, and during the previous night I had experienced moments where I was absolutely sure that I wouldn’t make it to sunrise without a serious case of frostbite (or, more dramatically, dying of hypothermia). It was not ideal weather for stripping down and taking a refreshing dip in the lake.
Not for me, at least. Wrapped in a several layers of flannels and sweaters, I sat on the rocky shore and watched the rest of my group plunge into the clear, shallow waters of Song-Kul. (What is it about large bodies of water that always tempt us to climb in?)
I wasn’t fully participating in this moment, I was too busy laughing at the various shocked and pained expressions everybody made as they attempted to fully submerge themselves, so I interviewed one of the swimmers (my husband, Farrell) about his experience.
Kirstin: Obvious question first, was it cold?
Farrell: From what little I could feel, it seems like yes, it was cold.
K: Why did you do it?
F: Peer pressure. (Seriously?) I went to Song Kul once before and two of my closest male friends were there and had no intention of going in, so I said “fuck it” and sat on the beach with them. But this time, if the wacko dude was gonna do it, there was no way I wasn’t going to. (There was a Couchsurfer staying at a nearby camp who knew some people in our group and joined us at the beach. Umm… let’s just say he had an eccentric personality.)
K: Are you glad that you did it?
K: Do you think you would’ve regretted visiting the lake without swimming in it?
F: I wouldn’t have regretted it, it’s gorgeous up there.
K: So you wouldn’t say swimming in the lake isn’t a ‘must do’ activity?
F: No, but it’s nice.
K: Do you think you could have prepared yourself better (mentally or physically) for swimming in a high-altitude lake, and if so, how?
F: I really wish I had sandals or shoes of some sort, because those rocks were brutal.
K: Would you do it again?
F: Yeah. Now that I’ve done it, I realize it’s not so horrible. It only took me five-minutes after I got out and dried off to warm back up. It was refreshing.
Words of wisdom. Swimming in a freezing cold lake isn’t a necessary activity to partake in unless you need to one-up somebody else in your travel group, but it’s not so bad, especially if there is an abundance of sunshine (in Kyrgyzstan, there always is).
Hmm. People also go into Lake Baikal which is apparently 10C at the warmest, but at least there’s a ‘local legend’ that doing so adds more years to your life!! 😉
Dang 10C!!! I couldn’t do it. Maybe it adds years to your life because of the time it takes for your body to resume its normal functions after being shocked by the water?
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