I undertook an expedition to Kyrgyzstan in 1997 to collect walnut seeds from the wild walnut-fruit forests.

Walnut journal entry – Monday 29th September 1997

I woke up with a terrible stomach and I knew when we left Mamajan’s home at 0900 for another day collecting walnut seeds in the forest, that I was in for a bad day!  Frequent trips to the bushes during the morning soon confirmed this and I felt increasingly tired and lethargic.  After struggling around the first few trees the others decided that I should be abandoned!  So I lay down on a small terrace on the hillside; underneath the spreading crowns of the walnut trees.  Luckily some tablets I had taken calmed my aching stomach and I quickly fell asleep.

Rest day - bagging sunflower seed in the apple orchard at Mamajan's home

I slept for three hours – woken only once by an inquisitive feral cow breathing in my ear.  The ‘crash-thud-crunch’ of walnuts falling through the canopy of leaves, hitting the ground and bouncing in the thick leaf litter, soon soothed me back to sleep.

When I woke for good I felt much better but still rather delicate.  The others had worked splendidly without me!

Later back at Mamajan’s home, where the rest of the  family had been busy bagging sunflower seeds, we decided that tomorrow should be a rest day.  The day after we may travel the furthest yet to collect walnut seed; that’s bound to be a tiring day.

I found out today that the maps we had bought in Bishkek – the ones where I felt like a spy buying them – had ‘SECRET‘ stamped on each of them!  I was right after all (more here).

Gabriel Hemery

Read more from my Kyrgyzstan walnut journal

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