Lake Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan, September 2015
Hell with it. I had a good day. I'll announce now.
Ladies and gents, I hereby announce my attempt at swimming across lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan, sometime between 24-28 September.
Lake Issyk Kul is the second largest alpine lake (defined as a lake at an elevation of 5000 feet or higher) in the world. The lake is approximately 103 miles long by 36 miles wide, and sits at 5,253 feet elevation.
Now before you get impressed: I'm not swimming the length or width of the lake. No no no. I really should post this in the thread "Non-superhuman marathon swimmers." I am swimming a short, 8 mile section at the western end. I'll swim either to or from the village of Toru-Aygyr.
There is a reason for my choice of crossing. The Kyrgyz have a myth about a famous horse who crossed the lake at that end. The story is too long to tell here, but if you're interested, I retold the myth at my blog here. Anyway, I thought the distance would be a nice challenge for me at this point in my training (swimming on tethers in a 12m long pool!) and it would mean a lot to the Kyrgyz volunteers I've gathered.
The logistics for this thing have been a bear, language issues aside. I just spent the weekend with the only guy who has crossed the lake (as far as anyone can find), and he crossed it at the eastern end, doing 36K. I told him of my plans and hoped for his help procuring a boat, with no luck. (His crossings, yes, plural, were state-sponsored and the Russians provided him two coast guard cutters!) I have a tentative okay from him to be my observer though!
I spent the weekend searching the resort town of Cholpon-Ata for boat rentals. I found a scuba diving company that was willing to let me use their 50-person boat for a little over a thousand dollars (for a short time, price to go up). More than I needed. So I changed my plan to a "test swim" between two points around Cholpon-Ata, a distance of about 10 miles. I figured all I needed was a kayaker, as we'd be close to the shore, and someone to drive the truck to pick us up at the other end.
Well guess what you can't rent here in Bishkek? I called the four "outdoor" companies in the city. I can get skis and snowboards, but no kayaks or canoes. And I had a volunteer with a kayak, but they got a last minute assignment and flew out of Kyrgyzstan today. I was distraught. What the hell?
Today, with the help of a local Kyrgyz company that specializes in creating Yurt trips for folks, I found a boat rental place in Cholpon-Ata. And their prices are reasonable. So the crossing plan is back on!
So, bottom line: I will follow MSF rules with this one caveat: I can wear water shoes from the beach to the kayak (if I can find one) or boat, at which point I must take them off and give them to the crew. On the finish, I can have the water shoes thrown to me for my walk up the beach. I'm doing this because the "beaches" here are just pebbles, shaped so as to inflict the most pain on your feet. (It really is torture.)
I have all the paperwork in my Google if anyone would like to see it. I do not have a Spot Gen thingy, but I will have my Garmin on the boat and hope to have one of my sons on the boat with his portable internet router to do updates to my FB, which I'll pass on when the day comes. Also, once the observer is done with the notes and I get them translated, I'll upload both the Russian and English versions on here for everyone to see.
Again, it's just a small little crossing attempt, and I may not make it (water this weekend was 20C and it can only get colder, and I'm a wimp), but I at least want to try to cross this beautiful lake while I'm here. Our first trip to the lake as a family, my wife looked at me and said, "Mike, you have to try crossing this lake. There's something magical about it." I agree with her.
We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams