Each time I have been to Shymbolak, I have seen a trainer holding a beautiful eagle and have wanted to hold him, but have not wanted to pay the exorbitant rate or wait in a line (not to mention I was slightly terrified of the whole idea). However, the day we went to Shymbolak was a quieter day and the eagle was just sitting on his pedestal waiting to be held. The trainer asked if we would like to hold him. My response in Kazakh surprised him, because I look like I should only speak Russian. After talking for a little while, he gave us a really good deal ($3.50 each), so I chose to overcome my fear and hold this eagle with a very sharp beak. The trainer was especially excited because of my Kazakh and so when I was holding the eagle, he was giving instructions to turn my wrist quickly, which would cause the eagle to spread his wings. He was snapping pictures while I did this and wanted me to keep on going. Here are some thoughts that ran through my head during this fun experience.
- Wow, that beak is really sharp and big!
- Eagles are really heavy ... not sure how long I can hold him up while turning my wrist back and forth.
- I'm glad they kept the hood on him as the trainer says he gets angry without it.
- Boy, he likes to move closer to me ... that beak is practically connecting with my face and every time I move further away he just gets closer.
- The trainer doesn't seem to be concerned at all, so I must be safe. I am counting on the fact that he knows what he is doing.
- I bet this eagle could knock me out with one hard whack to the head with those wings.
Overall, we enjoyed a beautiful, relaxing day on the mountain. It was one of the clearest days I have ever seen (no smog or cloud cover). After a busy couple weeks, it was just what I needed. Katie and I had a great time enjoying the nature around us and getting to meet some new people along the way.