I can’t decide whether I really like hiking with the Kyrgyzstan Trekking Union or it really annoys me to go do so.
The very first trip I went on with them, up to Bir-Bulak Canyon just outside of Bishkek, illustrates the problem really well. We set out at some silly time of the morning to meet at the TUK office… and then waited for half an hour or more while stragglers showed up and everyone piled into the van. Finally, we got started and drove for an hour or so through backcountry roads to the south and ended up in some small village not really served by public transport. Then, altogether, 15 people poured out of the van and onto a well-defined trail.
Even without knowing the area, I inevitably drifted far ahead of the group to escape the slow plodding pace of the slowest hiker. Because of that, it ended up being something really beautiful! Bir-Bulak is pretty close to Bishkek but just getting into the impressive heights of the Tien-Shan Mountains, and the views from hiking reflected both of these truths.
To the south, snowy peaks and mountain vegetation. To the north, agriculture and villages with Bishkek far off in the distance.
All of a sudden, the whole Trekking Union trip made sense. Some small annoyances, harsh midday lighting, and a defined turnaround time in order to catch the shared bus. But also, easy access via shared transport to new places that I likely wouldn’t have known to explore of my own accord.
So, I’ll still get a bit annoyed when I get *almost* to somewhere really beautiful on TUK trips, and realize I need to start back to catch my ride home. But I’ll also keep going, because it introduces me to places like Bir-Bulak and Kol-Tor and give some a chance to explore for a day and see whether I should start planning a proper multi-day camping trip instead!