Surrounded by Camels in Kazakhstan

IMG_4883Hello Alyeska blog fans!  My name is Chase, and I have spent the past three winters working at the Hotel Alyeska and riding all over the mountain.  This summer my girlfriend, Charla, and I got the crazy idea to participate in the Mongol Rally; that means we’re driving a 1.1-liter Fiat Panda from Bodiam, England, to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to raise money for the Lotus Children’s Centre in Ulaanbaatar.  Alyeska Resort has generously gotten behind us to help raise money for the Lotus Children’s Centre, and we’re grateful for their support.  Our last blog post left us in the middle of the Kazakh desert wondering what we’d do next.

Well, rather than attempt an impassible trail through the desert, we unfortunately turned back the way we came and stuck to the paved road.  Though it was tough to say no to adventure, we had a legal requirement to register our visas in Kazakhstan within five days, and a six-day trail through the desert would’ve done us in.  After finally registering our visas in Actobe, it was finally time to hit the desert!

We had a feeling that our surroundings had changed when we woke up one morning to find our campsite surrounded by camels.  We spent the next day camel spotting throughout the desert, as we cruised to Aralsk.  Aralsk is an interesting place, as it used to be the main fishing port on the Aral Sea; unfortunately, the Aral Sea has been disappearing, and today the town is nowhere near the water.  Today in the middle of the desert with camels walking through town there are monuments commemorating fishermen and murals of ships and anchors.

Unfortunately, after Aralsk the roads really deteriorated.  We spent hours crawling along a sorry excuse for a road, which was composed of sand, dirt, gravel, and even bits of asphalt here and there.  This “road” was actually a major route that connects Almaty and southern Kazakhstan to western Russia, which means we were in surprisingly heavy truck traffic!  All the vehicles on the road were kicking up giant clouds of dust, reducing visibility to near zero.  On this stretch of road we had our first mechanical mishap of the trip, when we tore the exhaust off the car on a particularly bad stretch of road.  Luckily we can still drive without it, but the Panda just sounds mean now!

After making it all the way across Kazakhstan from north to south, we finally found ourselves crossing the border into Kyrgyzstan.  We spent a night in Bishkek, the capitol, visiting a friend and learning about Central Asia.  The next morning we spent running around the Osh Bazaar, one of the largest bazaars in the country, eating every delicious thing we could find (and one accidental glass of what turned out to be a sour coconut milk).  After filling up at the Bazaar, we left the city for Lake Issyk-Kul; in the Soviet Union, when people weren’t allowed to leave the USSR, Lake Issyk-Kul was the tourist destination in the USSR.  It’s a beautiful high mountain lake, with snow-covered peaks overlooking the water (sound familiar, Alyeska?).  We’ve just now ended up on the east end of Lake Issyk-Kul in a town called Karakol, surrounded by mountains with ample hiking, trekking, and camping possibilities.  It feels like we’re back in Girdwood!

Now that we’ve found this mountain paradise, will we ever leave Karakol?  You’ll have to check our next post to see if we actually make it out of the mountains and out of Kyrgyzstan.  If you can’t wait that long, you can check out our blog at <http://www.TeamTurnagain.weebly.com> or our Facebook page at <http://www.facebook.com/TeamTurnagain>!

the car at one of our camping spots in the Kazakhstan desert

The car at one of our camping spots in the Kazakhstan desert.

The mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

The mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

Lake Issyk-Kul

Lake Issyk-Kul

 

 

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