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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

“Milk Bowl” high in the mountains – lake Sut-Khol – one of the treasures of Tuva

“Milk Bowl” high in the mountains – lake Sut-Khol – one of the treasures of TuvaJournalists and co-ordinators of the “Tos Ertine” project continue their travels in Tuva not just to write about  Tuvan treasures, but to personally experience the trails, roads and passes, and so that the tourists would know, while discovering Tuva for the whole world, how to travel, which way to take, and how difficult or easy it may be. The photo and video cameras are focused on the attractions of Tuva.

The residents of Sut-Khol have submitted several objects from their district to the contest. The beautiful lake Sut-Khol is among the many submissions. Our story today is about this lake.

Confident journalists

The Sut-Khol district is in the west of Tuva. Several hours in a car, and you are in Sut-Aksy, the district center. Before entering the village, which is located at the foot of the majestic Kyzyl-Taiga mountain, the journalists noticed some snow-white, moving objects. On closer look, everybody was beside themselves with admiration – they were little goats, jumping up and down around the small ledges.

The straight road to Sut-Aksy calmed the journalists, and the stories of eyewitnesses about the impassable road to lake Sut-Khol seemed to be simply an exaggeration. With great confidence in our strength, we were ready to walk to the lake from the pass on foot. The obstruction seemed to us to be some large mountain, with a straight road through the pass, and the milk lake located behind it. We’ll get through! All the talk at the district administration office, that we will need three “UAZ” vehicles, went right pas our ears. We missed even the warning that according to belief, the taiga lake does not allow just anybody to its shores. And may not let everybody leave again… “Well, so are you ready to go to Sut-Khol? The rain stopped…”, - our guide, the deputy of chairman of the administration, Kirill Oorzhak, asked us with compassion.  “Oh, sure!!” – yelled the city journalists, and piled into the “UAZ” prepared especially for the press-tour. Everybody had full confidence in the driver and his professional abilities, too. Right before the trip to the lake, the journalists visited the village Kodurer-Dash, where the strong men of Sut-Khol lift rocks. Chayan Ondar, our driver, picked up a 75 kg boulder with ease. It is not said in vain that the men of Sut-Khol are the strongest. It turned out to be true. The driver did not disappoint us. But our confidence dissolved like smoke already during the ascent to the pass.

Flying journalists

Anyway, the goal of our journey was lake Sut-Khol. It is similar to Baikal in its composition. It is located close to the roaring Khemchik river, about 1800 meters above sea level. However, no river flows into it. Born in the taiga, the lake is fed by rainwater and snowfall. For about an hour, the “UAZ”, driven recklessly by Chayan Ondar , flew higher and higher. Mountain river, cliff, ledge, bridge, another bridge. Many of us, to be honest, prayed all the way. At the 1800 meter level, a malignant cloud appeared from the direction of Kyzyl-Taiga.  Just as we reached the pass and started to thank our driver for getting us there, suddenly a squall with wet snow swooped down on us.  We could already see the lake like in the palm of the hand, glittering seductively seven kilometers from us. It was six o’clock in the evening. On a straight road, it would take several minutes to get there. It took us another eight hours to get to the lake. The road through the taiga on the other side of the pass turned out not to be steep, but it was marshy and forested. It is not in vain that the Tuvans say that the guardian spirit of Sut-Khol – a beautiful woman in royal robes – does not allow just anybody to the waters of the milk lake.  Our “UAZ” got stuck in the middle of the taiga almost right away. When the driver managed to burst out of there and continue over moss and tree roots, the journalists simply started flying around in the car, trying to catch cameras and sleeping bags. The taiga traffic was completely unexpected. We thought – what could be more difficult than an ascent to 1800 meters? And look… We were being thrown from side to side, until we got stuck again, and for a long time. When the next “UAZ” broke through the taiga, we realized why a colonnade of  vehicles was necessary. And when two of them got stuck and the third one showed up, the journalists thanked Kirill Oorzhak that he found all this transportation for us and that we went one after another. Until one o’clock at night the journalists and the strongmen of Sut-Khol struggled to get to the lake. With their bare hands they dragged the vehicles from the mud.  “It is impossible to build a road from the pass,” -  our guide told us. “It is all taiga, everything sinks in. Horses will be needed for the tourists.”  At one o’clock at night, our rescuers from Sut-Khol brought us to the base, which is already being constructed for tourists. They lit a fire and fed us mutton and hot khan(blood sausage). And only around three in the morning, when the dawn started to form, we finally saw the lake coming out of the night darkness. There is was, whiter than white, with mist above the water and a thin layer of ice rimming the shores.  It looked like something from a fairy-tale.

Grateful journalists

The people of Sut-Khol have a deep respect for their traditions. They obey the commandments of their ancestors. According to them, women are not allowed to bathe in the lake. On the other hand, the lake gives strength and youth to the men who bathe in it. Apparently that is why Sut-Khol guys are so strong. And good, with a magnificent sense of humor. The journalists did not discover just the lake and the nature, but also these astonishing people. They do everything simply and effectively. They not just caught fish for their guests, but also roasted them over the fire. For us, city people, computerized and refined, it was pleasant to hang out with people of the taiga, who are so different from us.  The taiga people, in the larger sense of the word.  The staff of the administration of Sut-Aksy, deputies and aides, the chief zoo-technician and chief culture specialist pulled out the vehicles with ease, started a fire, caught fish, and cooked khan for us.

Regardless of all the difficulties along the way, the Mistress of Sut-Khol accepted us, and presented us with unforgettable impressions of the mysterious lake. Those who sent reports of the lake turned out to be right, the lake does not let you go easily either. It leaves its mark in the heart of anybody who has seen it if only once, with the fantastic peninsulas, wild cliffs, and white clouds, which, reflected in the waters of Sut-Khol, turn it into milk. But the main discovery of our journey were the people, who live in the Sut-Khol land. They are good, strong, and fearless.“Milk Bowl” high in the mountains – lake Sut-Khol – one of the treasures of Tuva

Tatiana Ramazanova, “Plus Inform”, translated by Heda Jindrak
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1) 15.08.2022: DAY OF TUVA REPUBLIC (Tuva)

2) 16.08.2022 - 18.08.2022: IV International Khoomei Festival, devoted to the 60th anniversary of People's Khoomeizhi Kongar-ool Ondar (Kyzyl, Tuva)

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