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Eagle Hunting and Goat Polo

jun_7_2012-1

When putting down our camp this morning we had a nice clear view at the surrounding mountains and the Issyk-Kul Lake. What looked like clouds above the lake yesterday evening turned out to be snow covered mountains. I really enjoy being out in nature and on mornings like this one I wouldn’t exchange my tent against any fancy five star hotel.

Today I want to discuss two sports I came across during my travel in Kyrgyzstan. They are kind of special since we don’t have them back home in Germany. The first one is eagle hunting and the second one goat polo.

Our local guide Erkin had arranged a meeting with a guy who’s into eagle hunting and who was willing to demonstrate it to us. We met him on a wide open space where he waited for us with his son and his eagle. Both, the son and the eagle, had roughly the same age of nine years or so. When the boy is a bit older the eagle will become his and the father will raise another one. The eagle itself was quite large and had an amazing wing span. I also had the chance to hold the eagle on my arm which was only possible with a big leather glove since the claws of the eagle are pretty sharp. The eagle is also kind of heavy and I needed to rest my elbow on my hip to not accidently drop the bird and cause trouble. While I was holding the eagle on my arm it tried to take off for flight twice which was a bit scary. On the other side it was really fascinating to hold that big bird and experience its size and power. It’s these simple moments which make me very much happy.

For the hunting demonstration the guy got a rabbit out of his car and placed it in the open space area. He then climbed on a small hill with the eagle and removed the piece of leather over the bird’s eyes. The eagle took off and was circling over the area and it didn’t take long until the eagle spotted the rabbit, grabbed it and called his owner with a loud and shrill sound. After the owner arrived the eagle started to take the rabbit apart and eating parts of it. It was kind of bloody and guess who was in the first row to see it, Alistair our vegetarian. You might also ask if it’s morally acceptable to kill animals for a sport, so basically kill for entertainment?

The same moral question can be applied for the second sport which is practiced in Kyrgyzstan. It’s goat polo and said to be the most popular national sport of Kyrgyzstan. It’s played like regular polo by guys on horseback but instead of a ball goat polo is played with a headless goat carcass. While being in Kyrgyzstan we tried to watch a goat polo match twice but both times weren’t successful since no goat was available. From a moral standpoint I would have watched the match if it would have been a regular play by the locals and we just join watching it. I probably wouldn’t have watched it when the play was only facilitated for us and we were the direct cause of the goat getting killed.

After the eagle hunting demonstration we stopped in a small village so Alistair and I could go shopping for tonight’s dinner. Alistair has a different shopping style as I do. While I want to first see what’s available on the market, than decide what to cook and buy the stuff, Alistair wants to buy whatever is available and afterwards decide what to cook. Probably both methods will lead to a good result.

We set up camp at another spot at Issyk-Kul Lake and spent a lazy afternoon there. Everybody was just chilling and enjoying the heath of the sun. Only Lauren was brave enough to jump into the lake for an ice-cold bath. In the late afternoon I started to prepare dinner with the help of Martina and Jason since Alistair was on a hike along the lake. While doing so we had an amazing view at the lake which is certainly better than the view from my kitchen back home. We prepared what I called a German dish consisting of sausages, mashed potatoes with onions and stir-fried vegetables.

While we were cooking Alistair came back from his hike. He has met two Germans on a bicycle tour around Kyrgyzstan who are in trouble because one of their bicycles just broke down and they are unable to fix it. We spontaneously invited them for dinner and our driver / mechanic Sam had a look at their bicycle seeing if he can somehow help fixing it. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to do so since the required spare part was missing. So the German couple will need to travel back to Bishkek and try to get the part there.

After dinner we were sitting on the beach where we had some vodka with apple and grape juice. Sam played the guitar for us and Paul gave us an impressive singing performance of Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic”.

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