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Every year we travel to Central Asia to organise an outdoor pride event for LGBTIQ communities and allies in Kyrgyzstan. In 2022 we gave lessons how to rock climb on real rocks in Chunkurchak near Bishkek. In 2021 we went on a hike to Belogorka. This year we decided to go hiking to the wonderful alpine lake Kol-Tor (2725 meters above sea level).

We flew to Kyrgyzstan specifically for this event. Unlike previous years, we had to fully cover the logistics and expenses by ourselves: transport, food, drinks for 30 invited people from communities and allies. Thanks a lot to everyone who donated and made this event possible. You can also support our future community events with your small donation here. Thanks also to the individuals who helped with gathering participants, announcing and logistics.

Early in the morning on one sunny weekend, people began to gather near two minivans. I distributed food, drinks, gifts from Osprey (many thanks to them too!) and from our campaign. Everyone could also take trash bags and gloves to pick up trash along the way on our hiking tour. At the very end, those who collect garbage will receive valuable gifts for their hikes: backpacks, hiking bottles, etc.

When we were already on the way, Emilie called me, who received a scholarship from us to visit the nature of Kyrgyzstan: I completely forgot that she ran to the toilet and asked me to wait, but it slipped my mind. There were two other girls with her. Having taken a taxi, they caught up with our minibuses within the city limits.

Arriving in the Kegeti gorge, we all got to know each other by playing games. There were 28 of us and many of us didn’t know each other. We hold these events not only for LGBTIQ people and allies to have a free opportunity to get out into the nature, but also so for people to connect, to be themselves, and to celebrate our existence, our resilience, and the pride we have in our diverse communities.

The road to the lake turned out to be difficult: the day before it even snowed here. The path was narrow and in places slippery and dangerous. The climb was also not easy for beginners, but despite all the difficulties, together, helping each other, we were able to reach the goal.

In the clearing before the last climb, we took a long break, laid out rainbow flags, took pictures, chatted, joked and laughed. We knew each other for just a couple of hours, but there was already a feeling that we were all good friends. I was a little worried about two people who were relatives and did not know how to react to the fact that they were together at this event. I hope this event helped them not only to stengthen their family ties, but also their queer friendship.

Some complained that the road was difficult and long and that they did not expect such hard conditions. I tried to encourage them: “After all, it’s very close to the lake!” One hill after another, one climb after another and suddenly a stunning view of a turquoise lake opens up against a backdrop of dazzling white mountains and a deep blue sky. People immediately forgot how difficult it was for them to walk: “It’s worth it! What a beauty!” You could immediately see the sparkle and joy in their eyes, and their smiles grew wider when we greeted each one at the finish line with applause or high-fives.

We sat near the lake for quite a long time, definitely for a couple of hours: we talked, had lunch, took photographs, relaxed, and even some managed to swim in the icy waters of the lake. It was so beautiful here, we enjoyed the views and warm weather. I wish I could stay here for a couple more hours! However, we had to return on time: it was getting dark quickly in the gorge, it would become dark and cold soon.

The road back turned out to be even more difficult for many of us; at the very end I even had to take two backpacks and help one person. I was so proud that everyone was able to get back safely and not only that, but also to pick up tons of trash along the way. We made our small contribution to the ecology of this gorge, while gaining so many impressions, meeting so many interesting people, and even receiving a gift for collecting garbage. The day was a success!

We arrived in Bishkek very late in the evening. Everyone was tired, but there was still some energy to talk and joke. Tomorrow three of us initially wanted to go to Vladimir Putin Peak again to protest, but decided to postpone. We wouldn’t be able to sleep enough otherwise: we were planning to leave Bishkek at 2-3 am.

In 2024, we will most likely organize a hiking trip to the Altyn-Emel National Park or Charyn Canyon near the city of Almaty on April 7. April is not the best month for hiking in the mountains, so we will most likely go to one of these national parks instead.

In Kyrgyzstan, it has unfortunately become more difficult to organize such an event due to recent laws, including a discriminatory law banning information about LGBTIQ among children. Because of this law, a local LGBTIQ organization already refused to publicly partner with us. Kyrgyzstan now wants to pass another law on foreign agents that comes with criminal liability for those who work in NGOs. All these laws are copies of similar laws of the totalitarian Putin regime.

As a protest against these laws, we held a kissing rally right in front of the Jogorku Kenesh, the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan. However, right after that street cameras followed us and even took a photo of us with flash. Hello to the guards of the Jogorku Kenesh! I hope the photo turned out to be great!

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