Time for some mountains; first stop Arslanbob! This little village in the South-West of Kyrgyzstan is surrounded by the biggest walnut forrest in the world (60.000 Ha) and lies on the foot of a mountain range. Kyrgyzstan is strong on Community Based Tourism so it was very easy (and affordable) to arrange a homestay and a guide for a 4 day trek to the ‘holy lake’.

At the end of the first day we camped below the 3500m mountain pass. There was no water nor firewood there so that had to be carried from the lunch location up to here; further increasing the load of shelter and food for 4 days.
Nisam, my guide and cook; cooking national Kyrgyz cuisine using just a wood burning fire and one pot.
After crossing the pass, which took at some point climbing on hands and feet over very steep rocks, we started the decend on the other side. This was one of the views we got as reward (the little speck in the bottom right is my guide).
After a long descend over loose rocks and yet another pass the holy lake became visible.
The holy lake up close. Since it was holy I was not allowed to swim in it though...
There was a pilgrim settlement on the bank of the lake, with quite a lot of families there. They take a different route to get there, by 'Kyrgyz Jeep' as my guide named it (Donkeys & Horses). The pilgrims bring a sheep or goat as sacrafice and share the food with the other people in the camp. Another group of hikers also arrived and pitched their tents and we were attracting a lot of attention from the Kyrgyz (some had never seen a tent). After I had taken pictures of endless formations of pilgrims in front of the holy lake (they didn't have cameras) we sat down for some light dinner of our own. However with all the pilgrims slaughtering goats and sheep they kept bringing us food...
In the morning the first stop was the smaller lake downstream from the holy lake. Here it was allowed to swim so I did, for a whole 3 minutes; it was so cold...
After one more killing (1.5h climb) mountain pass we had lunch and in the afternoon reached this last pass. As can be seen the path snakes up the mountain making it not too steep; but with the past three days in my knees and ankles it was still quite an effort.
The long way down.