Saimaluu Tash

Saimaluu Tash (or Saimaly Tash, 'decorated stones' in Kyrgyz) is a petroglyph site in Jalal-Abad Province, Kyrgyzstan, south of Kazarman. It is on the Ferghana Range at about 3,200 meters in two high valleys, separated by a low mountain ridge. Over 10,000 carved pictures have so far been identified, making the site a worldwide important rock-art collection. The petroglyphs are thought to date from 2000BC up into the middle ages. The reason for a concentration in this place does not seem to be known. The site was first recognised by Europeans in 1902, but was largely forgotten until 1950 when an excavation was conducted. It is now under sporadic investigation by the Institute of Archeology in Bishkek. The site can be reached in about a day on foot or horseback, but only around the month of August. At other times, snow conditions make it impractical to reach.

This unique repository of the ancient painting is situated a little bit far from the main routes of the Great Silk Road. Saimaluu-Tash keeps many certain discoveries for biologist, ethnographers and even specialists in stone’s processing. There can be met "portraits" of elephants and lions – animals that are not quite typical for Tien-Shan mountains. It means that ancient artists saw them somewhere, or maybe they lived in those regions where these representatives of the fauna existed. What is the sense and the purpose of these paintings – secret, sacral, intended for the worshiping to the tribal totems? Or – domestic, hunting, having a hidden entreaty about gifting luck and rescuing from claws, fangs and hooves?

In some petroglyphs (stone drawings) modern scientists saw the ancient calendars, turning back to the darkness of centuries of the priests and cultivators, and even star maps as well. Who made them and what they were made for? Who left here paintings, where you can easily recognize the symbolism of the refined Kamasutra? How much stratification of the different branches of the world culture is gathered in this deserted corner of the mountains frothed in clouds? Not everyone is destined to see the unique stone gallery with his own eyes. The ascent to the height of more than 3000 m is difficult and it’s not everyone who can stand it.

Only about a hundred people a year make the trip to Saimaluu Tash. The 9 hour strenuous foot trek is going from the Jalalabad side. The 2 hours by 4WD plus 4 strenuous hours on foot or by horse is going from the Kazarman side, which is the way I went. Only about two hours walking back down. Faster, if you've got something to slide on down the glacier.

So one day for the five to six hour jeep trip to Kazarman.
One day to Saimaluu Tash and back.
One day back to Kazarman, or taking the 10-12 hour bus trip to Naryn.
(There is a shorter road that jeeps can take between Kazarman and Naryn, but there are no regular shared-taxis going that route, so one takes the bus, which goes the long way around.)

It might seem to make sense to stay overnight on top. But it's always freezing at the top, even if the snow is mostly gone, so one would have to take a tent, winter sleeping bag, and all related supplies. This wouldn't be so hard with horses, but one can't always count on getting the horses. But, in any case, when it's high summer and sizzling in the rest of Central Asia, it's a big hassle to bring a whole set of cold weather gear just for the trip to Saimaluu Tash. Alternatively you can rent a gear from local travel companies.

The recommended season is only one month -- mid-July to mid-August. Before that, snow is still covering the stones. After that, the horse owners are concerned that the glaciers are thinning and their horses might break a leg, so they sent them to the far pasture. Then it starts snowing again in September, sometimes quite early in September.

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