Are the words ‘group tour’ and ‘adventure’ mutually exclusive? Kevin Rushby tests the theory in Kyrgyzstan by swimming in a mountain lake, riding a stallion and escaping his travel buddies whenever he gets the chance
The horses had been brought in from the hills and were tethered next to a pile of drying dung. All around were snowcapped peaks and on one side lay a shimmering lake of glacial blue water. The Kyrgyz men were deciding who would ride which horse. Kanybek looked at me, the only man left in our riding party, which had somehow slimmed down from 10 to three at the sight of the stallions. I’d heard about Kanybek, the best ulak player in the area (that’s polo played with a dead headless goat, the same as the Afghan bushkazi).
Kanybek was a man who could pluck a 10 som note from the ground at a full gallop, a man who could mount a steed with a back somersault. He had been born in the shadow of a horse, ridden before he could walk and drunk mare’s milk ever since. I had serious doubts whether Kanybek could begin to comprehend how crap I was at riding horses.