Learning how to milk a cow in backcountry Kyrgyzstan

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Rebecca Mayoll wins £200 for describing her attempts to milk a temperamental cow while relishing the solitude of rural Kyrgyzstan

The five-and-a-half-foot woman hit me as if I had run into a brick wall. Caught completely unawares I crumpled over to my side but I had barely reached the floor before a gush of water and a hot stench hit my senses. The cow was obviously relieving itself and Sabura, my elderly host, while I was backpacking in rural Kyrgyzstan, had saved me from a nasty fate.

Her small frame was misleading; tending to a handful of cows, dismantling and reassembling your home and ushering goats obviously made you quite the athlete. But until that moment she had been so gentle, even stirring her kazan pot with careful strokes. Sabura was kind to her animals but none more so than her youngest, a tiny kitten.

Last night, before she had tied the doorway to my yurt, instead of waving goodbye, Sabura’s swinging arm had sent that ball of fur screeching toward me. Her designated companion had decided to sleep right by my ear, mingling the gurgling of a local stream with its roaring purr until dawn.

I woke early that morning determined to help with the milking. Despite the Terskey Ala-Too Mountain engulfing us, I could easily see several curves in the valley, slicing back and forth for miles before closing us off from the rest of Kyrgyzstan. Sabura and her husband lived a day’s hike from the nearest road but that didn’t matter, they had everything they could possibly need, and carry, right here.

When I’d first gripped the teat it sprayed awkwardly, leaving a thick stain across my thigh. Sabura had laughed in glee, wrapping her small arms across her body, which was swollen by her woollen layers. Even after displaying her technique again, my progress remained slow and I was lucky that the cow was so patient – until now.

Sabura rescued her bucket, whispered a few endearments to the beast and made two hand motions that suggested “You can look, it is better.”

Our friendship may have been wordless but her gestures always reminded me how welcome I was to share this day in her life, a life certainly much purer than my own.

When the herds returned from grazing, trickling off the summit before cascading down the slopes, I jumped to my feet. Shielding my eyes from the sun I gasped at their speed and the horseman’s skill, commanding them from behind. It was a momentous event in a day of solitude and I was tickled to think of this as rush hour.

Suddenly my giggles took over, bursting with gratitude at watching this beautiful connection between humans and the Earth.

Enter the Just Back writing competition for your chance to win £200

Email your entry, in 500 words (with the text in the body of the email), to justback@telegraph.co.uk. For terms and conditions, see telegraph.co.uk/tt-justback.

The winner will receive £200 in the currency of their choice from the Post Office.

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/kyrgyzstan/articles/just-back-kyrgyzstan-milking-cows/

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