From Caravanistan we took some ideas on what to do and see in those 7 days while waiting for the Chinese visa.
We head for the lake Esik, about 60 kilometers from Almaty, at 1800 on sea level.
Before reaching the town of Esik, about ten kilometers from the lake, we stop to visit the history museum (500 tenge per person) that is on the road. It 's a small but nice museum, there is a reproduction of the Golden Warrior found in one of the many Schytian tombs scattered everywhere around here, looking like simple mounds of earth. After the village, which is quite large with a big bazaar, we face the last kilometers to the lake, after paying the park entrance fee (350 tenge). Beautiful road that follows a river that flows between the mountains, finally some trees! But quite tough and steep indeed, the last 5 kilometers we must push and this takes us almost two hours.
The question is of course rhetorical. Quite some people there, all Kazakhs, and all of them left their garbage behind. What is most disturbing is that they teach to children, there was a class field trip and the teachers explained the children to clear the table and then made him throw everything on the floor. Sometimes in the streets are seen employees who collect bottles thrown from cars, make piles and set fire.
Lake Esik is still gorgeous, the water is crystal clear and very cold so unfortunately no bath. It was formed 10,000 years ago, and until the '60s was a popular tourist destination, then a landslide destroyed the natural dam that allowed the existence of the lake, there have been several deaths and the dropping of water has greatly reduced the size of the lake.
Here you can camp freely, there are bathrooms (the usual hole in the ground) and gazebos with tables and benches. The night is cold and we sleep very little because there's 4 or 5 wild boars spilling all the garbage a couple of meters from the tent. At least they are not bears. And then, it's not the boar's fault if humans have left them a banquet for free.
With donkeys we get up and we head towards the Charyn Canyon, downhill!
We find a nice alternative route to the main road, along the Almaty Grand Canal, is a very pleasant way through the fields, there are some of ups and downs in the hills but worth it. Very few cars, seems to have a bike path to ourselves.
In a few days we get to the Canyon. The last 11km are on gravel washboard, but not as tough as Song Kul.
Wonderful, unbelievable natural wonder. I have not seen any others like this so I can not make comparisons but it is astounding.
This place is more visited by foreign tourists so obviously they are more careful. Following the route at the end we arrive at the Charyn river. Here too unfortunately the water is ice cold and no bath.
Here you can camp freely. There are a dozen tents and they have recently planted small trees that one day will be used for shade. The campers are all Russians. Near the free camping there is a restaurant that has normal prices despite being inside the canyon. But the Russians have boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, lots of chives and the inevitable raw tins of patè. They are very friendly and share everything with us.
They say that any open flame has the power to purify for 10 kilometers from the radiation and from all that is harmful. What can I say, the big powers of cow poop.
They really believe, they say it is an ancient Indian ritual, and seem very satisfied by the newly occurred purification. We sleep in the peace of the canyon, there are unfortunately a bit of clouds and we can not see the stars.
We get up early, at 7 Muktar is already up, he is waiting for the brother who will come with his son by bus from Taraz to buy an apartment in the city. His brother is a teacher of geography. He does not know if his brother will stay here again tonight so we do not know if he could host this evening. We go to Serik where we expect our deserved Chinese visa!
We take a room here, we spend the evening with David, Steven from Caravanistan and his wife came here and we have good times together playing ping pong and chatting.
Finally enlighten us as to why this city is called Apple city, it seems that the apple tree is a native of this area and there are huge apples here. Alma, in Kazak, means apple.
hitchhiking day 1:
- Empty van, perfect, fast
- Half empty van, too fast, the driver prepares us also a sign that says our destination
- We take a bus to Shelik
We make about ten kilometers on the bike and go back to sleep in the same place of a few days ago, under our tree. hitchhiking day 2:
- Half load van of laundry soap
- A truck, truck drivers are two, a Russian and a Kazakh. make us sit on the bed behind the seat and tell us that if we see the police have to draw the curtains. Now we know how it works. But however most of the police just want her bribe. We are a few kilometers from the border of Kargos, we stop to sleep in a small field, and tomorrow we go to China.