So on to Almaty.
Almaty is a very interesting city: Tidy, leafy and super relaxed. Not to mention it is full of friendly people.
The poor Russian roads and some of the long stretches of roadworks had taken their toll on our cheap Chinese alloy roof cage. Probably the biggest mistake that we made building up the troopy was buying that. Looking back we don’t know what we were thinking, maybe it was the AUD $2000 price tag of an ARB one. Or the fact the steel Chinese one I had on my patrol was still going strong after 25,000km of punishing km on Aussie roads.
We found an ARB dealership here in Almaty. They have a massive 4×4 culture here, with predominant Japanese 4x4s sporting all the Aussie goodies. They love it, half the fourbies either have ARB, tough dog or Ironman stickers covering them. This worked well for us because ARB had a steel full length roof cage suitable for our troopy in stock and ready to go.
The guys there were absolutely awesome Victor and Anna were the two English speaking employees that we dealt with. Our roof cage had all sorts bolted, strapped and wired to it so it was far from a straight forward job. Turned out after two days of labour with up to 6 blokes helping out they only charged us about $200. This included looking over the car and welding up a busted exhaust bracket. We tried to pay them more but they wouldn’t accept any more. They told us they charge the locals more but for us overlanders they do a special price.
We also met Tim and Nic, father and son from Leura in the blue mountains. They were travelling from Vladivostok to England in their 1980’s troopy.
ARB were going above and beyond what was necessary to help them sort a few small issues their troopy. We had them over for dinner at an apartment we were renting in Almaty.
From Almaty we headed up to Shymbulak – a ski resort in mountains that provide the backdrop to Almaty. It’s only a 30km drive and you’re in the snow capped mountains. The final ascent sees you climbing to 2500m and is really steep.
From here we got a cable car to the top of the mountains and within a few hundred meters you could see a glacier slowly working it’s way down one of the peaks.
You get an incredible panoramic view of Almaty from here. We camped in the mountains that evening so we could get an early start because after the cable car we were off to the Charyn Canyon. It’s the ‘Grand Canyon of Kazakhstan’ and only a 200km drive.
The last 20km of the drive is down a rough badly corrugated track before you enter the National Park. There were bugger all people around and some spectacular views of the canyon and surrounding mountains to be had.
There is a proper 4×4 track into the base of the canyon where we planned to camp that night. We hit it and were finally able to crank low range for the first time in our trip.
The road into the canyon is amazing particularly in the late afternoon with the sun striking the rocks and drawing the different colors.
At the base of the canyon there was a pristine river flowing surrounded by Prehistoric Sodgian Ash trees. It was a welcome sight after driving around in the dusty desert from most of the day.
We camped the night here and were invited to dinner by some of the locals.
The next day we spent chilling out by the river and exploring a little more around the canyon.
Getting out of the canyon proved challenging, even with low tire pressures, locked Diffs the troopy struggled right at the peak. So much weight in it, we are pushing easily 3.5t.
After some mucking around we were off to the Altyn-Emel national park.
This route took us with in 50km of the Chinese border, which is as Far East as we will be travelling and a bit of a detour on the way to Cape Town from London.
The Altyn-Emel National park is home to the singing sand dune, white mountains and a few other attractions.
You need a guide to escort you because of the distances between the sites and remoteness, most peoples vehicles are not suitable for the trail either.
We spent the next few days camping and following the guide in his old Russian 4×4 van through the park while checking out the sites.
Particularly the singing sand dune which must be 70 odd meters tall and emits a humming comparable to a jet engine when the wind hits it. Scientist are still unable to explain the phenomenon.
If you are enjoying following our blog and what we get up to please donate to our cause. There are many people back home with a spinal cord injury who would only dream of doing such a trip. They silently struggle to get by day to day, financially, physiologically and emotionally. Every donation, no matter how small counts!