Real Russia Blog

The Kazakhstan Adventure, Day Eight: The End of the Road
14
August
2015

The Kazakhstan Adventure, Day Eight: The End of the Road

Charyn Canyon, There and Back Again

So this is it. The last day in Kazakhstan. It was such a shame that the tour had to end. Even after everything that we had seen it felt like we had barely scratched the surface of what Kazakhstan had to offer.

Setting Out

For our last day we had another early start. Charyn Canyon is around 175km from Almaty along, mostly, tarmac roads. Unfortunately, though the roads are tarmac, they are not in the best state of repair. More than once we hit a pot hole big enough to launch me from my seatbelt-less seat into the roof of our minibus. Luckily there were not a lot of brain cells to damage. And even less now! Thanks, in part, to the road quality, the drive is around four hours each way.

Oh, and as an aside, if you are looking to Google Charyn Canyon, some websites spell it Sharyn rather than Charyn. Just so you know.

On the plus side, the roads are about to get a whole lot better as alongside the current road to Charyn, they are laying a new highway that will stretch from China through to Europe to help make the transport of goods to, and from, China significantly easier; tourism too, probably. This new stretch is due to open in April 2016.

Anyway, enough about roads, what about the view. The incredible view. For most of the journey you have the northern stretches of the Tian Shan mountain range running parallel to the road, and it makes for a stunning companion. Completing the view are lush green fields, many full of poppies in bloom. If you didn’t know any better you could swear than Julie Andrews was about to bound over the nearest hill. I cannot attest to whether the hills were alive with the sound of music though.

Poppy field outside Almaty, Kazakhstan

Glorious

Like most of the travelling we did, I quickly ditched the idea of reading my Kindle to pass the time. Instead I watched the incredible scenery pass by. No book I had downloaded could compare.

Arrival in Charyn Canyon

From the moment we reached the end of the 12km off-road canyon drive way, it was obvious that this was the most tourist-friendly location we had visited. We even saw other foreign tourists! Nuns! Who expects to find nuns at the bottom of a sun baked canyon just a hop, skip and a jump from the Chinese border?

Anyway, it is much more developed than anywhere else we had been. There was a car park, an entrance gate, and even a toll booth. Not only that, there were sign posts in English. We felt spoilt. The level of development really showed what Kazakhstan could be capable of with a little effort and money. Unfortunately, this would probably remove some of the charm of the country.

Once we had parked up, we had an incredible view. The sky was blue, the canyon was incredible and there, in the distance, were snow-capped mountains. In 25+ degree heat there they were, in the distance, snow-capped mountains. Not only that, but they seemed to be working hard to hold back all the cloud that could have ruined our day.

Charyn Canyon with mountains in the distance, Kazakhstan

The canyon with the snow capped mountains off in the distance

The Bottom

From top to bottom the walk took around an hour. It felt like walking into a Road Runner cartoon. There were even precariously sat rocks that looked like they were ready for Wile E. Coyote utilise in his ongoing war with the Road Runner.


A precarious rock in Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan

‘Meep meep’

Under the glorious sun it was a lovely way to finish the week, no one rushing us, just a nice, peaceful stroll through amazing surroundings.

As we closed in on the bottom we could hear a rushing river, and after a minutes more walking, low and behold, there it was. And along the banks was a small ‘outpost’. I can’t think of a better word for it now. It turned out, it is possible to stay here overnight. And to facilitate this were several huts and yurts, as well as a bar and lots of outdoor seating. It is the perfect accommodation for backpackers not wanting to make two four-hour drives in one day. It is a shame we were unable to test out the facilities for ourselves. Particularly as the bar prices were not too bad! There were even signposts advertising horse trekking; though we did not have the opportunity for this either.

Yurts in Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan

Accomodation for those who wish to spend a night under the stars

As I took in the surroundings at the bottom of the canyon, I think I was more relaxed and content then I had been at any other point in the tour. The canyon was a lush green either side of the river, a little oasis in this sun baked canyon. It was the perfect place to rest and have lunch after the walk down.

Let me use photos to do the job of my inadequate words.

Charyn River, Kazakhstan

The Charyn River flowing through Charyn Canyon

Charyn River, Kazakhstan

The Charyn River coming round the bend

The End

If only we could have stayed longer. But, alas, that was not to be. And so after a brief stop for lunch we turned round, and walked back up the canyon. By this point the temperature really had risen, offering a demonstration of what this visit may be like in the middle of summer when the thermometer can read in excess of 40 degrees. Take it from me, you probably wouldn’t want to be hiking down and back up then. It was rather uncomfortable. So try and time your visits for spring or autumn when the temperatures aren’t quite so high.

Once we had reached the top we had a few minutes in which to rest, before we hopped back in our minibus and started the four hour journey back to Almaty.

We made one, brief, stop on the way back at a fascinating roadside market full of people selling, seemingly, everything you could imagine. From fresh produce to toys to tools. It was all bustle and colour. Given the proximity to the busy road, though, I would not have vouched for the taste of the fresh fruit and veg on offer. I don’t imagine car exhaust fumes add to the flavour particularly well.

'Unofficial' toys in a Kazakh market

The market had a line in 'unofficial' toys – if only Batman really was an Avenger!

And that was that. At 3am the following morning I was up and prepping for my transfer to Almaty Airport for my flight home. A journey that was much easier than my journey to Kazakhstan I am pleased to say.

So there you have it. Kazakhstan. Wrapped up in ten blogs. Of course, as I have mentioned, I barely scratched the surface, so hopefully next year I will have the opportunity to return and see everything that I missed, and maybe even hop on a train or two!

See you then!