The Lake Tuzköl
Already the road towards the lake was very beautiful. Side parts of the canyon, green mountains and endless grass land. It was a weird weather situation which I never saw before. It was very hot these days and the snow of the mountains was melting very fast. It seems that there was a big smog cloud over the countryside but there was no town at all. It was just mist from the melting snow. Many wild horses were along the road grassing on the endless grasslands. The bumpy road ended on one of the most peaceful and quiet places on earth: The Lake Tuzköl. Like many lakes in the steppe of Kazakhstan this lake has water entering the lake but no river which takes water of the lake. The water level is regulated through evaporation. The evaporated water let the concentration of minerals in the water increase. Therefore it is a salt lake. Our camp was right next two water sources (I am still using this water now for cooking). And once again: It was so quiet. A nice short walk was leading us to a small mountain range with nice views to the landscape. Without the mist we could see the highest peak of Kazakhstan from here – the Khan Tengri (7010m).
Altyn-Emel National Park
The Altyn-Emel National Park is located in the north of Almaty. According our guide book it was only possible to visit this national park with a guide. The number of visitors is limited and it is suggested to do a reservation before you get there. “Bullshit” was what we thought when we entered the national park. Like on the way to the Tuzköl Lake the landscape was changing every 30 minutes and we were feeling like on a journey to another continent. This journey ended after a while together with the road on a barrier where a nation park guard was sending us back to the last village to get the permit for the park. We were afraid to not get the permit but when we arrived at the office a group of Germans was already waiting in front of it. “Are you really coming from Germany by car?” was what they asked us. Julia & Markus and Kristina & Henning from Munich just came out from the national park office. “We can share a guide if you want” said Julia. They rented a car so they were as flexible as us. We agreed and soon we could pass the barrier where we’ve been stopped before.
One highlight of this park is the “singing dunes”. In the middle of the steppe is a group of dunes. Even with wind and erosion these dunes are not moving. And they are singing! Well singing is maybe not the right word but when we were walking on the top of the dune the sand was sliding down which made the dune vibrate together with a slight humming. The same effect happened when we were sliding down from the peak of the dune.
Our guide was a really funny guy. He couldn’t speak any English but somehow we manage to communicate. He was very lovely and after a joke he liked to hug you. He told me that if I shave my beard my friend and travel mate Lydia would fall in love with me. He couldn’t understand that we are only friends. And he made this joke with the shaving several times so I think it really moved him…
Other highlights of the park are the white mountains of Aktau. The color comes from the gyps. And luckily there are no mines to take the gyps. Together with the red, yellow and green rocks the nature was really showing their colorful side. The beauty of nature was very far away. We had to drive more than 90 KM from the national park entrance on bumpy dirt roads. We saw a big group of camels next to the road and went to a beautiful side valley with red rocks. A pothole filled with mud was giving my jeep the real off-road look. At night we could see million of stars at the sky. What an amazing day!