I undertook an expedition to Kyrgyzstan in 1997 to collect walnut seeds from the wild walnut-fruit forests.
Walnut journal entry – Tuesday 7th October 1997
We were up at 6am and started collecting seeds in the forest just after 7am. We were welcomed to the day by a beautiful dawn, the sun rising above the high mountainsides as we collected from our last ten trees of the three week expedition. It was quite an emotional moment collecting the last walnut seeds from our last selected tree. A total of 2349 seeds from 253 mother trees.
Afterwards we returned to our ‘guesthouse’ for a second breakfast; this time the usual mutton and vegetable stew. Then we set off for the lake. It was a dramatic drive lasting over one half hour of climbing steep and dusty mountain tracks. When we arrived we were stunned by the scale, beauty and isolation of the lake.
Sary-Chelek Lake is apparently over 5km long and is situated at just under 2000 metres altitude. It is closed to tourists, and theoretically the local people too. The five of us were completely alone and the silence was deafening. The strangest aspect was the lack of wildlife, except for a large fish that jumped out of the water nearby, and a mountain goat on one of the distant cliffs that caused a thundering rockfall that echoed across the lake. The rocky slopes were covered with pines, mostly along the ridges. It is a local species – Picea schrenkiana.