But wait a moment, whats this Nomad Games thing?
The historical and political background (in pills)
The idea of the Games first appeared indeed during the 2011 visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Kyrgyzstan (cit), as a way to improve the relationship between the Turkic speaking countries and extend the Turkish political influence in countries which are still strongly influenced by Russia.
Let's go to have breakfast at the cafe across the street. When we get back, we are told everything will begin at 19 tonight!
Nobody knows anything about the program, so we go for a walk around the town and visit all of the guest house looking for a cheaper place and we find it right next to the yesterday one, half the price, has a beautiful garden, kitchen and wi-fi works. We are moving and we also say tell Emile. He will move too.
the opening ceremony
After all the 19 flag and 400 athlets (source CNN) had done their parade, we go back ruefully to the village hoping to see something tomorrow. We have a beer with Misha and Julius (the German giants we met on the ferry to Georgia) that reached us here before going to Karakol.
We get to the hyppodrime around 10 in the morning, from some unconfirmed sources. we undersood that the Kok Boru tournament should begin. Kok Boru is the Kyrgyz version of Afghan Buzkashi. Two teams of 4 horses and 4 horseman get in a struggle trying to conquer a dead goat (the ball) in order to throw it in a big concrete basket and score a point, the team is composed of a total of 10 players who can take over at any time during the match. Each player carries a whip, that is used to flog his own horse, an opponent a fellow rider or even himself. The goat is headless, with the paws cut short, it is disemboweled and filled with sand to made it the regular weight. Easy isn't it?
The game starts of course at one o'clock, with us there are Misha and Julius, with freshly arrived girlfriends from germany, and even Claudia and Bettina (the lesbian cycling couple we met in Bishkek). Today contending the goat and the glory are Uzbeks and Turks, a rip-roaring victory for Turkey.
From the gallery we can't see much because the field is sandy and the horses raise it enveloping the contenders in an impenetrable cloud.
Here our photo gallery of Kok Boru
We go to Kyrchyn Jailoo, nice place in the mountains where the cultural part of the festival is going to be held. A Jailoo is indeed a summer yurt camp usually placed high in the mountains. Today there should be an eagle hunting show and even a concert. We go with Emile, Claudia and Bettina after a long negotiation with taxi drivers. In theory there must have been shuttles but in practice there are not. On thecab: a fashion designer from Narin, another guy who seems to his boyfriend and am unidentified lady, and us. The driver so ends up with 4 gay persons in the car and appears, so to speak, in subjection. He does not say a word the whole trip.
In Kyrchyn there are a hundred yurts, dived into sectors to represent the different regions, the Jal-Alabad ones, the ones from Osh and from Bishkek etc, all of them are beautiful and decorated "to the nines" with colorful shirdak felts. Our fellow couple from Narin invite us for tea in a friend's Yurt and we go, here is chilly. In addition to tea we ger cakes, bread and jams. There are some singing ladies, playing a komuz, the traditional string instrument of Kyrgyzstan. Then came another elderly lady, with traditional clothes and even her she sings and recite some sort of blessing for us, another one show us a wolf skin with fur and head and everything. Mostly women here in the yurt, a women's world.
The lady who was with us in the taxi says, loudly and in English, that "those two girls" (Claudia and Bettina) look like men. Really delicate and classy...
Here our photo gallery from Kyrchyn Jailoo
We run instead in a child who is reciting the Manas epic poem that has been passed down orally. The Manas is an important national treasure in Kyrgyzstan, twenty times longer than the Odyssey an Iliad taken together. The recitation is intense and quite hypnotic, even if we of course don't understand a word.
Then begins a concert bad enough, everyone plays with a backing track. Then there comes a multi-instrumentalist who can't really play an instrument either, and then another band which is literally hunted from the stage in the middle of the song by the announcer and we really don't understand why. He could at least let them finish the song, they were neither worse nor better than the others... also because singing and playing on a base so they had no faults... Finally there comes a guy who plays the komuz and it's really very good! Indeed the audience asks for an encore (we too). The announcer doesn't want, is a bit of a weird guy. But at the end there's a riot in the audience and we win.
Central Asian wrestling
The fighting sports (the one without horses) are held at Ruk Hordo, an open air cultural center on the west side of Cholpon Ata.
First we see some match of Alysh, a Central Asia belt wrestling style. The athletes can't take the hands away from the belt of the opponent, and must try to have him pinned to the ground.
Then comes the Kuros (or Kurash or Kurosh many other names) more similar to Judo. There's a gigantic Mongolian guy that nobody can beat. In practice for five or six fights in a row he remains sticked in the same location and no one can move him, apparently out of an episode of Hokuto no Ken (Fudou of Mountains, for those who remember him).
Here our photo gallery of Central Asia wrestling (Alysh, Kuros)
Rux Hordo cultural day
Again Rux Ordo today, for our joy it's just in front of our guest-house. The program of the day should be demonstrations of crafts and traditional games from other countries, not better defined. There are a lot of stands with crafts from several countries, Uighur musical instruments, Ukranian wood carving, some beautiful Tuvan jews harps and a lutist making stunning carved Komuz.
Everything begins with everybody on the stage singing some nationalistic song, then the Azeri go on stage dressed in strange style, with some sort of colorful pajama pants and some large heavy wooden clubs. They a dreadful dance, for most of the time hopping, sometimes they say "Ale Ale" and also "Allah, Allah." Behind those troglodytes dancers there is an equally primitive drummer with a bronze instrument, he also sings, quite out of tune. Kyrgyz audience is horrified. But the Azeri show is not over Azerbaijani. After the dance begins the demonstration of a game that takes place this way: there are two men sitting on the floor, facing each other. Both are holding a wooden stick, and they must keep their feet sticked on a plank of wood. The purpose of the game is to pull the stick from the opponent hands. Exciting. Given that there isn't a league of this game Azeris defy anyone who wants to try their hand. We are tempted....
The funny thing is that the Kyrgyz challengers from the audience win all the matches!
There is also an Ukrainian folk group of musicians/dancers with an old female singer who we loved, too bad we did not understand a word of what they said, people laughed a lot.
We go home and come back after dinner to see the fashion show during which (or before or after) there should be a concert. It's a display of traditional clothes revised in a modern style, but the show is pretty boring to us (not much into the fashion thing), it's cold and after an hour we go back home. There is no concert.
Here our photo gallery of the other World Nomad Games events
Inside the Hyppodrome - Kok Boru, Er-Enish and Kyz Kuu
We finally got our Press Pass and now we can wander with a more professional look between horses and wrestlers.
In fact, we go immediately to the hyppodrome where we can finally enter the field. Indeed we are really inside the playground a few meters from the horses.
We are quite excited to see the Er-Enish, a sort of wrestling on horseback. It works like this: inside a circle drawn in the sand, there are two horses and two riders, the aim is to beat each other and try to knock your opponent off his horse. The Afghan team consists of dudes with rude and tough faces, probably Pashtun, one gets very upset and says, "I do not play anymore." Of course we do not know why. They go to talk to the referee and then beat around the opposing player with the flagstick of his Afghanistan flag. And they leave. So Kazakhstan, which was the opposing team wins the subsequent matches without playing.
The sport is anyway quite exciting, especially from so close. But the horses doesn't look like having fun, sometimes they bite each other and bleed a lot.
Here our photo gallery of the Er-Enish (or Oodarish)
Last day of the games. At 10 o'clock we are at our beloved hyppodrome to witness the Kok Boru final, this time directly inside the playground. The teams vying the title and dinghy (money in russian) are, guess who: Kyrgyzstan vs Kyrgyzstan! Who knows who will be the winner! To see this game from inside the field it appears to us all, let's say, from another perspective. And this perspective, at times, is a bit 'dangerous. The horses run fast and many times we have to take ourselves so as not to be trampled. A journalist intent on looking into his camera is not aware of the actual proximity of the horses and was brought down. We think he's dead but he got lucky, or more precisely the horses where so smart to not step on him. The match it's tense and quite exciting, it gets to overtime, and after a long struggle the Kyrgystan wins!
After the game there are some youths dancing my favorite dance, the Kara Jorgo. And then another demonstration of another game of the Kyrgyz tradition in which a man and a woman take a race (on horseback, what else?), If the man wins can kiss the woman, but the woman makes him bite the sand then she can whip the man. The name of this game is Kyz Kuu.
So it's over, at least for us, we would not attend the closing ceremony. Back to the Guest House, we take our bikes and hit the road again. The road after Cholpon Ata fortunately is paved in a much more decent way. We do not do many miles, we left at 4pm, we stop to sleep in a nice little beach on our beloved Issyk Kul lake, which we'll abandon tomorrow to reach another lake, the Song-Kul, which is 3000 meters on sea level.
Here our photo gallery of Kyz Kuu