"I’m going for a swim," says Pelle Bendz, a 52-year-old Swede, as he rummages in the jeep for his bathing trunks. The other tourists look at him, bewildered. What’s left of the Aral Sea is reputed to be a toxic stew, contaminated by pesticides and other chemicals.
It is a tough climb to the weather station: The trail leads across snow-covered boulder fields and steep, icy slopes. But for four researchers from Kyrgyzstan’s Geology and Mineral Resources Agency, the six-hour climb to the Adygene Glacier weather station, perched at 3,600 meters above sea level, is routine. From there, they can monitor 18 growing lakes at the glacier snout in the mountains above Bishkek.
It starts out like any gymnastics class: A teacher guides a roomful of women through stretching and breathing exercises. The yoga, ballet and tai chi moves train pelvic muscles, the stomach and legs.