Kazakhstan – Almaty and touring

Before hitting Almaty we drove via Turkestan to see the famous Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi

Before hitting Almaty we drove via Turkestan to see the famous Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi

A huge place, covered in mosaic tiles. This is the unfinished back

A huge place, covered in mosaic tiles. This is the unfinished back

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.

The cracked off brackets on our roof cage

The cracked off brackets on our roof cage

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 excellent ARB team removing our shitty Chinese cage

The excellent ARB team removing our shitty Chinese cage

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.

Both the Troopies and their teams

Both the Troopies and their teams

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.

A beautiful vehicle - good on ya Nic and Tim!

A beautiful vehicle – good on ya Nic and Tim!

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.

Roast lamb for dinner with plenty of beer to wash it down

Roast lamb for dinner with plenty of beer to wash it down

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.

Almaty from the mountains

Almaty from the mountains

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.

Pretty cool- from dusty city heat to cool glacier within an hour or so

Pretty cool- from dusty city heat to cool glacier within an hour or so

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.

DSC_1101The 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.

The Valley of Castles, Charyn Canyon

The Valley of Castles, Charyn Canyon

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.

Down in the Canyon

Down in the Canyon

The road into the canyon is amazing particularly in the late afternoon with the sun striking the rocks and drawing the different colors.

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Working our way around the rocks. A tight fit!

Working our way around the rocks. A tight fit!

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.

A welcome sight at the canyon base

A welcome sight at the canyon base

We camped the night here and were invited to dinner by some of the locals.

DSC_1230 It was a great meal with great company and plenty of vodka. It’s amazing how much you can learn about people with hand gestures and maybe a few words of the local lingo.

Dinner and drinks with the Kazakhs living in the Canyon

Dinner and drinks with the Kazakhs living in the Canyon

The next day we spent chilling out by the river and exploring a little more around the canyon.

The road to nowhere

The road to nowhere

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.

Getting out required a few attempts

Getting out required a few attempts

After some mucking around we were off to the Altyn-Emel national park.

We met a crazy Russian cycling from Siberia to Turkey and more

We met a crazy Russian cycling from Siberia to Turkey and more

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.

Hitting a dust storm en-route

Hitting a dust storm en-route

The Altyn-Emel National park is home to the singing sand dune, white mountains and a few other attractions.

Trekking up the dune with a few Czech tourists

Trekking up the dune with a few Czech tourists

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.

Our guide, us copping his dust

Our guide, us copping his dust

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.

DSC_1328Unfortunately for me, being in a wheelchair not everything was accessible. But none the less we got to see some amazing landscapes.

With a little Czech manpower....

With a little Czech manpower….

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.

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A few more camels

A few more camels

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!

https://give.everydayhero.com/au/lost-abound

Categories: Kazakhstan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Kazakhstan – Almaty and touring

  1. Amazing scenery and amazing adventures!! Thanks for sharing guys, we miss you and can’t wait to swap international stories next year!! xoxox

  2. Anonymous

    Looks amazing guys. Great to get a bit more idea of what Kazakhstan is like other than what Borat imparts.

  3. Lindsay

    Who knew that Kazakhastan was such a nice place? I envisioned far more desert! Keep up the great work guys!

  4. Vow, the views are really scenic, and now I too want to go there, eh…

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