Sunday was going my way. I had gotten up early to hitch into Talas, participated in the English radio show, hung out with some of the other Volunteers, and got some shopping done at the bazaar. I was making my way back home walking to the house from the highway when Nurkalyi pulled up next to me in the StepWagon.
“Cole, I’m going to the mountain to pick up topoz, do you want to come?”
Now, I didn’t know what a topoz was, but using my mad observational skills I noticed that hooked to the back of the StepWagon was the animal trailer.
“Ok, so a topoz is an animal.”
But that was weird. My animal vocabulary is really pretty decent. If we were picking up sheep, cows, or horses I would know. (Not that I think it would come up, but if we were picking up elephants I would know that too).
In any case I hopped in and, after a short pit stop to pick up Nurkalyi’s friend Pamir, we took off for the mountains.
We drove up a road that I previously labelled as “minivan inappropriate” but at this point I’m not as sure about that description. After about an hour of driving we pulled off at a site with a few buildings, stables, and pens clumped around one another. Then we waited. And waited. And eventually after maybe another hour passed Nurklayi stood up and pointed down the road. I looked to where he was pointing and saw a guy on horseback driving a small herd of… something. They were pretty far off, but they sure weren’t goats.
“What the hell are those things? Are they… oh. Hmm. Yaks.”
Kalibek, who I would get to know later, drove the yaks into one of the pens and Nurkalyi handed me a rope motioning for me to “go get ’em.”
So, drawing on my wealth of yak wrangling experience, I approached one of the much-larger-than-me, angry animals holding the looped rope out in front of me. She snorted at me and backed up against the fence as I got close, but then with surprising ease, I reached out and slipped the loop over it’s horns.
“Ha! Almost like I know what I’m doing.”
I cinched the rope tight and with a jerk of it’s head the yak just about pulled me over. The battle was on.
If I had been an observer I would probably have appreciated the scrawny kid cursing at a yak in English while trying to pull it into a trailer as much as the others did. They were having a pretty grand time.
Sometime in the mix of things a couple other yaks got roped and tugged toward the trailer. We got three of them in and the others followed in obediently. To finish up we got the horse in the trailer too and set off back toward Kara Suu.
The StepWagon in all it’s glory.
One particularly unhappy yak.