ISSY KOL SOUTH SOUTH OF THE BEAUTIFUL HIGH altitude lake Issy Kol are forests and hills, home to more nomads, pasture, eagle hunters, bazaars, markets, hiking and riding. Kyrgyztsan's fourth largest town, Karakol, sits just off the south east of Issy Kol (Lake). It was founed in 1869 as a Russian military town.It is a friendly, easy going town, with an OK bazaar, and access to excellent hiking.While the town bazaar is certainly worth a look, it is not the star of the show.The Sunday livestock market is an absolute show stopper, packed with traders and buyers and tyre-kickers.Horses are hooved, taken for test drives, have their teeth checked. Cows, sheep, goats all come here unwilling bound for an uncertain future.The market is set amongst snow capped mountains, 2km from town. Here, men are discussing, the merits of the horses, the state of Kyrgyz politics, or maybe just young people today.....Lively, colourful, traditional, authentic, noisy, fragrant, hustling, bustling.The number of people and animals crammed in for the day is qute remarkable.The PETA crowd would not approve, but the usual way to get a few sheep back to the farm is in the back of a Lada.But for some, it's just another day at the office.Dungan people fled China towards the end of the 19th century. Dungan are Muslim Hui people, who are from China's northwest. Completed in 1910 by famous Beijing architect Chou Seu, the Dungan Mosque is built without nails.Jeti Orghuz (Lit "7 Bulls") is a bus and a taxi away from Karakol, an exellent place to stay in yurts, ride horses and hike the hills.The 7 bulls which give Jeti Orguz its name, and the drop off point for taxis.Aside from hosting the odd tourist, people in the area live a traditional nomadic lifestyle.Scenery like this shouldn't be so easily accessible, and yet it still remains serene.In winter, the yurts are packed up and moved along with their flocks to lower ground.Even more rewarding, and more challenging treks go through Altyn Arashan, also near Karakol. After alighting the bus at Ak Suu, the mountain hut village is a moderate six hour hike away.For a real challenge, you could hike from Jet Orghuz to Altyn Arashan, over several 3800m passes, so you absolutely must know what you are doing.Altyn Arashan itself is 3000m ASL, so expect cold nights and enjoy the sauna. But even the day hikes go through gorgeous scenery of rivers and lakes, with nary a person to be seen.This particular hike took us through a serious of progressively higher passes and creeks and some stunning lakes.Take a packed lunch (did we buy from the huts? I think so) and you will have the whole trek to yourself.A warm fire, hearty meals, and if you are lucky, some tradition nomad singing by the fire cap off a good day. Respect for those that made the 2-3 day trek across those peaks!West of Karakol, Barskoon sits on the south of (Lake) Issy Kul, and was an important trading post of the ancient Silk Road near the 4,284 m (14,055 ft) Bedel Pass into China.This particular plant, cannabis sativa, grows here and there around town. In the main street, on the edge of paddocks. It was growing here and used for ropes and medicine and ceremonies before the great Khans of the steppes.The trekking and riding options from Barskoon are many and varied. Shepherds' Way has been leading the industry for two decades and can take you deep into the mountains.A Muslim cemetry on the hills north of town.Although we took the easy option of day trips, as opposed to overnight camping expedition, the mountain views did not disappoint.Rides take you through pasture and farms, pine forests, up some tricky inclines, through wildflowers.Bus schedule outside Barskoon. It's always worth flagging down a passing car. Expect to pay, but it'll probably be quicker and more comfortable, and is perfectly normal.