(First post on my Issyk Kul swim here. Second post here.)
So, the swim was done and I was back on the boat. I had my daughter’s bag of chips, and some other bag of diabetes I was stuffing into my pie-hole at an alarming rate. Never did chips and crackers taste so good.
Me explaining some detail of my swim
I was warm and happy and ready for the hour-or-so trip back to Balykchy. But when you’ve got a chiropractor-massage therapist on board, there’s no rest. Against my protestations, I was ordered to lie down and accept my fate.
Let the torture begin
Pain! But later that pain turned to comfort, especially in the legs. When I was coming into the beach to finish the swim, and popped a squat to take care of Mother Nature’s call, my calves cramped up something fierce. Once Olesya started working on my legs, I fell asleep. Next thing I know we are at the pier and the weather had turned. Clouds and heavy winds. Perfect timing on my part!
Hard to tell in that picture, but the wind started picking up, clouds came rolling in and it looked like rain to the north by the mountains. We got back to the pier where a bunch of Kyrgyz kids were swimming and enjoying themselves, the embassy folks were taking pictures, and a gaggle of Kyrgyz men came to congratulate me.
Arriving back in Balykchy
L-R: Boat captain Kurbat; his son Bakyt; me; hotel owner; no idea
After all the pictures, we headed back up to the hotel. At this point, the wonderful embassy folks who came all the way out to see me had to return to Bishkek. 5 hours (minimum) there and back just to hang out for a few minutes to congratulate me. How awesome is that? I’ve got the best co-workers.
While still on the boat, someone asked me if I wanted the sauna turned on back at the hotel. Hells yeah, I responded. They have a wonderful sauna right on the beach, actually on a pier over the water. You can heat yourself up and then jump into the lake, then repeat. By the time we got back to the hotel, however, I was ready to eat.
You can just see the roof of the sauna at the bottom of this picture
Two of my crew had to depart immediately with the rest of the folks going back to Bishkek. Talas had a soccer game that night to get to, and Olesya had to get home as she was scheduled to run with the famous American ultramarathoner, Dean Karnazes, who is running 525k through Central Asia. So that meant a late lunch/early dinner (linner? dunch?) with my family and Chris and Sarah.
Food was great. We found a nice place by the hotel with outside seating and had some wonderful local Kyrgyz food. Good for the body to replace the calories lost. (My Garmin says I worked off 790 calories during my six-hour swim…how in God’s name can that even be right?) Dinner took a while, but no one was in a hurry. While we were in the restaurant, the winds and clouds died down and it got back to being beautifully sunny. Upon return to the hotel, the owners asked us again if we wanted the sauna. My family and I said yes!
The sauna felt great, especially jumping back into the cool lake water. There were a few Kyrgyz boys jumping off the sauna-pier, enjoying the lake. From inside the sauna they sounded like elephants. In reality, they were 10-year olds barely hitting 70 pounds on the scale. Great kids. I asked them how deep the lake was there and they decided the best way to tell me was to show me. A couple of them jumped into the lake, yelling at me to watch them as they went under with their arms above their heads. (“Байке, Байке, посмотрите!”) About an hour later when my wife and I were ready to go back to the hotel (our kids having since returned), all the Kyrgyz boys were gone except for one little guy. I asked him how he enjoyed his swimming, and he said he had to leave because they saw a shark in the water. I guffawed and told him that’s impossible, there are no sharks in the lake. He insisted there were, and I tried to explain to him that it wasn’t possible. Finally I saw a sneaky little smile on his face and knew he was trying to josh the foreigner.
We all got cleaned up and had some tea and fruit in the hotel (the fruit here is so incredibly fresh and plentiful, I’m really going to miss it). Chris was already in his room sacked out and I was not long from that state of being as well. We had a little emergency which kept me (and everyone else) up a bit longer though.
Right before sleepy time, a huge storm came through, complete with pouring rain and lightning. Just as our son Sam was giving us the “I’m going to bed” call, a dripping of water started out of one of the ceiling lights in the kids’ room. Off I went to get a bucket. (Slowly…by this point I had a cramp in my calf that was forcing me to walk with a limp.) The owner came up to the room with her maintenance guy and they talked a bit in Kyrgyz about what’s to be done. The bucket did the job, but the dripping turned into a steady stream a few minutes later. And then to top it off, as my son (and daughters) were resigned to sleeping in the room complete with Chinese water torture, another dripping started right onto my son’s bed. This time it was coming from one of the fire suppression thingys in the ceiling. Nope, this wasn’t going to work.
The owner got my kids another room down the hall, complete with a better bathroom than mom and dad had in the “family room.” With the kids safely tucked into bed I was now ready to lie down. Sleep came quickly. In the morning, it was sunny again and I felt great. The cramp had gone (I ate a banana before bed) and the soreness in my shoulders and upper body reminded me of how awesome I am. (snort) We had a wonderful breakfast with Sarah and Chris, who departed right after, and then the family and I headed on home to Bishkek. But not before taking a picture of the hotel crew, who gifted my kids with Hotel Aliya hats.
Hotel Aliya owners, my family and I
Swim done, thank goodness. Next up in the blog, lessons learned and my hopes for the future of swimming in Kyrgyzstan and the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation.