The Art of Making Traditional Kyrgyz Bread!

Reflecting on a special day in the Pamir Mountains, Kyrgyzstan 2019

The mid-day sun scorches the green pastures high on the mountainside. Herds of yak graze on a terrace above basecamp. A shepherd sits patiently watching, throwing stones. Dirty brown glacial melt cascades noisily down the valley, and boulders groan as they are rolled downstream. A vulture hangs in the sky as if it's not moving. As we approach, a marmot guards it's home with a loud screech and then ducks inside. I take off my boots, roll up my trousers and test the water. The flow is strong, the cold burns. I brace myself against the strength of the brown sludge. Sitting on a boulder drying my feet, the shepherd looks on. We walk steeply uphill following a dusty narrow cattle track cut into the hillside. As I steadily climb, the noise of the raging river fades. Huge 5000m peaks form an impressive backdrop. Steep ice faces, hanging glaciers and rock ridges highlight the summits. We arrive on a lush grassy terrace high on the west bank of the valley. I see a new born donkey struggling to walk, Mum protecting it, Dad watching. We continue past and on up into this beautiful valley. We cross a smaller stream flowing down from the virgin summit we'd climbed the day before In front, a yurt and kids playing, Dad comes out to greet us. Mum stands at the front door watching. There's a horse tied to a metal stake in the ground. Smoke is gently rising from the battered metal chimney poking out from the yurts domed roof. Cow and yak dung, stacked into neat piles and drying close by. The kids come over and I shake their hands, they stand smiling I look Dad in the face, plated gold teeth fill his mouth, old Russian technology

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Dad tells me his name is Norpidin. They usher us inside we kick off my boots. Mum puts a kettle on the hot stove and feeds more dung into the burner. We sit down on a brightly coloured traditional Kyrgyz rug, Norpidin and kids join me.

Norpidin gestures that his wife’s name is Aichuruk, the kids chuckle together. Aichuruk lays out some tea cups on the rug in front. We sit there and take in their home around me. Aichuruk pours the tea as we all sit in silence smiling. One of the kids continues turning the handle as the milk is separated into curd and whey. Ycon now takes over, he communicated to me that he was 13 using his fingers and wrote his name on the lid of an old cardboard box. I sign my name next to his and show him a photo of my son who is the same age. Aichuruk ladles more milk into the reservoir on top of the separator as Ycon keeps the handle turning. We drink tea and time passes Aichuruk now puts a huge pot of milk on top of the hot stove to warm. She tips a huge bag of flour into a stainless steel basin, sieving as she empties it. Ycon now helps, pouring the warm milk into the flour as Aichuruk kneads. The process is almost a ritual, having made bread like this all her life, as her mother did before her and her mother before that. Flour becomes dough, which in turn become smaller shaped mounds of separated dough. Aichuruk lights the outside stove, feeding in dried dung, as the steel barrel heats up. She sticks the shaped mounds of dough to the inside of the large, now hot, steel basin. The dough rises and turns brown as the up-turned steel basin cooks the bread, we sit outside relaxed, smiling and watching in the heat of the midday sun. Norpidin walks up to the nearest hill, opens a dog eared small black case, pulls out some binoculars and watches his herd. I can smell the fresh bread as Mum prises the now large round loaves from the basin and stacks them on the rock next to us. Norpidin returns and rips them into smaller chucks and we dip them into fresh cream. Ycon and his brother sit outside the yurt watching intently and smiling.

We sit next to rock, gorging ourselves on hot bread and fresh cream, whilst looking up at the peaks around us.

It’s an overwhelming feeling of happiness and moment in time we have together. I reflect on what we've been part of…...unplanned and unscripted. I'm a little emotional as I dunk another chunk of bread in the fresh cream. I look up and the kids are now on their donkeys, racing each other. It's an idyllic setting and such a beautifully simple way of life. We stay a little longer and then say our goodbyes. I look up again at the peaks around me and tell myself that I'll return someday. We head back to BC, contemplating the world around us, wrapped up in our own thoughts. Even back at basecamp life feels busy again.

I take a beer and sit in the heat of the afternoon sun looking back up the valley. We start to pack as we're leaving tomorrow. Kyrgyzstan never ceases to amaze me.

Every year the mountains just keep giving.

ISM explores more of the unexplored.

Adventure and the Kyrgy traditional way of life.

The simplicities of life and friendships made.

'Time Just Passes'

Adrian Nelhams - The Pamir Mountains, Kyrgyzstan 2019

Many thanks as always, to Jason Sheldrake for his amazing images

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