Alpine lake of Sary-Chelek, is considered to be the most beautiful place in the west of Kyrgyzstan. It lies at an altitude of 1940 meters above sea level in the foothills of the Chatkal range, 500 kilometers from the capital city of Bishkek and 300 ki meters from the city of Osh.
The lake’s extension from the south-west to north-east is 7.5 kilometers, water surface area is 50.7 square kilometers and a depth in some places reaches 234 meters. It was formed as a result of the earthquake that occurred many centuries ago, when on an incredible scale landslide blocked one of the Kara-Suu — Kojo-Ata river tributary, and the river flooded the whole valley.
By the way, by the depth Sary-Chelek is the third in Central Asia and the second in Kyrgyzstan.
Due to the great depth, water temperature, even in summer does not exceed 18 C and in winter it is at around 4 C-0C. The lake is a freshwater river and gives a start to the Kojo-Ata.
The northern coast of Sary-Chelek is almost completely overgrown with spruce and fir forests. Thus, their density is such deep that, even in the sunniest day it is always half-dark and cool. The air of that place is filled with the smell of pine needles and flowering herbs. Nepuganaya marinka(species of trout) swims in creeks and all the hills are overgrown by raspberries and blackberries – that is a real paradise on earth.
Of course, somebody might think this way, but only in case he has not visited the south bank of the Sary-Chelek.
Here, from the southern shore, the lands belonged to the Sary Chelek Biosphere Reserve start. The territory covered by it is relatively small – at about 23 900 hectares.
It occupies a small mountain valley of Arkyt basin with elevation of altitudes from 1200 to 4247 meters. It was created in order to save the walnut-fruit lands, as well as alpine landscapes, with their endemic flora and fauna.
A landscape here is really of a remarkable beauty. The grasslands and steppes of foothills, wild rivers and pristine lakes make a lasting impression, but the main wealth of the Preserve –used to be walnut-fruit forests — a unique phenomenon, which almost anywhere in the world can not be found in this volume.
The main objects of these forests are the walnut trees, apples and pears.
Fauna of the Reserve is diverse and colorful. Here, under the vigilant protection of human bears, martens, porcupines, leopards, lynx, deer, argali, wild boar, as well as 157 species of birds freely live.
Dozens of mountain creek happily flock to the lake, almost vertical cliffs, steeply down to unprecedented depths. The azure of the water reflects the traveling clouds so that it does not clear whether they are floating in the sky, or on the water. Coastal gray rocky hills, covered with pine and walnut-fruit forests, bring the effect the patina into landscape and the lake seems to be a precious sapphire in a setting of old greenish silver.
The name of the lake, literally translated as «yellow barrel», there is even the option of «yellow bucket.» All this is justified with respect to the shape of the reservoir, which, with a stretch, really looks like a deep vessel. However, of the yellow color it can be only in the autumn, when the surrounding woods are dressed into such a sunny color, and reflected in the clear water make it a happy yellow — the color of freshly honey sloshing in a bucket of a hospitable bee-keeper.
Like every self-respecting tourist attraction, Sarah Chelek, for many centuries, overgrew with many beautiful legends and myths. But I would like to tell you a «fairy tale», which took place just recently…
In May 1936, a scientific expedition arrived at the lake of Sary-Chelek, it was sparse and consisted of only 4 people. One evening, when it was getting dark, all team members were sitting around the campfire, drinking tea and had an unhurried conversation about local enigmatic beauty. Suddenly the figure of an old bent man came from the darkness into the circle of light, who leaned on a wooden, polished over the years staff. How and which part the old man approached, no one noticed, but according to the laws of hospitality he was immediately given space closer to the fire and was presented a bowl of fragrant drink.
Yielding to persistent questioning, the old man began to tell that he was the last of the once numerous people here, was all alone, to do the rituals of the tribe sunk into oblivion, so as not to interrupt the holy family.
«When, long long time ago — the old man began his story – one human race lived in these places, being high, the mighty and the golden-haired. No one remembered where they came from, but they lived peacefully and engaged in farming, fishing, went hunting, praying to their god -» Ho. » Once every hundred years the priest of the tribe was to die. While others choose the most beautiful girl and brought her to the temple pond, from which the god floated slowly in the guise of a handsome man in a gold scaly robe and the fish head. He kissed the girl on the lips and in due time she gave birth to a boy, with a golden skin, which became the new priest.
But one day, because of the mountain pass hordes of nomads came down. Thus, this peaceful city was plundered and its inhabitants were slaughtered.
In the living there was only a priest. In all haste he rushed into the temple and began to pray to God, «Ho» for protection. He was heard by the mighty god, who came to the surface, and then terrifying of force the whistle came over the half-ruined city. The sound was so powerful that the ridges rattled and collapsed, opening the way into the valley to the mountain water. All spilt water flooded everything — and the ruined city and the temple, and greedy invaders. Since, the lake of «Sary-Chelek» was formed, and God «Ho», from that time lives in this lake. »
The old man finished his story, said goodbye and left. Everybody was sitting thoughtfully and reverently silent and only the conductor of the expedition, the guy from the local, was quietly cursing angrily frowning.
In the morning a young intern Lyuba, went to the lake to wash, being still under the impression of the evening’s story. She lathered her face and fell to the water. Suddenly she felt a gentle touch on the face of large lips. Recoiling in horror, she saw on the shore a huge fish with almost human, sad eyes. The fish turned in the water and swam away. The last things the distraught intern saw that the fish had a pair of muscular male legs shot up a little fountain of spray in the water.
Lyuba was ill for a long time. The expedition went further to the Tien Shan, and the girl was left at the hospital in the city of Namangan. She returned back home only after a year and answered all questions, that she remembered nothing.
However, local herdsmen say that since then on the shores of the Sary-Chelek an old priest is often seen, who relied on his staff holding the hand of a golden-haired boy…
I must say that Sarah Chelek is not the only lake in the area, due to the duct it is connected with the lake of Kyla-Cole. And just a little to the north of the lake, Iri-Kol lake is situated, which lasts as an entire chain of smaller lakes. And even though these lakes are not as big as Sarah Chelek, their beauty is truly unique. And the tourism potential is limitless just like endless the legends and mysteries surrounding them are.