The Alaiku valley is a stunning region with stark contrasts between bright green grass and shifting hues of red and black stone. The drive up to the valley, a long drive over gravel roads through some of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen, added to the drama.

The journey from Osh to Alaiku started with a flat stretch of road through Uzgen and several other small towns, all of which hold interesting stories from the Basmachi uprisings of the early 20th century to the more ancient past of Kyrgyzstan. As we began the ascent into the mountains, the atmosphere changed, becoming calmer and quieter. The road wound through many narrow passes, over mountains, and alongside rivers, finally opening onto the Alaiku valley. In the valley are several small villages which, according to the owner of Alaiku Guesthouse, have only had electricity since the 1970s. Askar, the owner of the guesthouse, is originally from one of theses villages and is passionate about bringing opportunity to the people who live in this remote place. His guesthouse sits in the middle of the valley, surrounded on all sides by mountains. The guesthouse itself is modest but cozy, with comfortable rooms and a well-equipped kitchen. Attached the the guesthouse is a dairy production facility that makes qurut. When I stayed there, Askar took me on a tour of the facilities and it was exciting to see his vision for the future of the operation. The qurut factory adds to its own dairy supply by purchasing milk and other raw materials from the people living in the surrounding villages and actively involves local farmers in the entire production process, offering trainings and employment that would otherwise be unavailable to them. In the future, the owners of Alaiku plan to increase their operation by opening a workshop to train local women to produce traditional crafts, keeping cattle on the grounds to further increase milk production, and using solar panels and biofuel to make their facilities eco-friendly. The highlight of my trip to Alaiku was driving around the valley with Askar in an old soviet UAZ. As I said before, the valley is incredible.

The stone of the mountains changes color every few hundred meters and contrasts with the green of the grass and the white of the snow on the peaks. We drove through several villages and then up a viewpoint of the Chinese border. In one of the villages we stopped at a school, where we were greeted by a small group of villagers and given a tour of a small museum inside. This museum was founded to preserve the traditional material culture of the Alaiku region and occupied the back corner of one of the classrooms. I love museums and I was excited to see such a well rounded display local material culture integrated into the classroom. The drive out to the Chinese border was equally enjoyable. Every corner of the Alaiku valley has its own story and it was fascinating to hear about the history of the valley through local legends. Once we got to the Chinese border we met some more of Askar’s friends and switched from UAZ to horseback so that we could go even further into the steep mountains. Again, the mountains were breathtaking - covered in snow and completely still save the low bubble of frozen-over streams. All in all, my trip to Alaiku was an unforgettable experience. It felt really special to see a part of Kyrgyzstan that is so off the beaten path, and my host’s energy and dedication to the Alaiku region was inspiring.

Written by: 
Emma Claire Jones, Product Tester at Tenti.

P.S. Alaiku is hosting a festival June 7th - 8th (click here for the event programme)


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