My first road trip in Kazakhstan did not disappoint! After delaying a day due to the intense rain and the concerns of the car rental man about the road conditions we were happy to wake up to sunshine. Spring is finally here in Kazakhstan!
We hired a 4WD having read up on the road conditions in Kazakhstan especially the ‘non road road’ leading to Kaindy. We named our car “Snow Stallion” and he did not disappoint. Hattie was a great driver navigating the different roads and signs and other drivers. Round of applause for Hattie.
Our first stop was Charyn Canyon. I have visited the Canyon before back in October but it does not fail to disappoint a second time. It is a stunning place. We saw lots of birds of prey and had the place almost completely to ourselves which was amazing.
After around 2-3 hours more of driving through stunning landscapes we arrived at the village of Saty. This is the gateway to the lakes but we stayed through the toll booth at Hotel Kolsay Grand. The toll booth cost a random amount of money, possibly 202 tenge each and another amount of money for the car. You have to pay per person per day.
Kolsay Grand is a modern hotel seemingly quite new. It has a few yurts outside but they are only open in season. The owner is very friendly and the rooms are comfortable. Something to note there is no phone signal and very poor WiFi which means you need to take cash because you cannot use Kaspi without the internet and they do not have a card machine. The hotel has a restaurant which is good because there is not much around in terms of food options and no stores.
The next day we woke up to blue skies and decided to go to Kaindy. The road to Kaindy Lake is a dirt track which requires a 4WD. If you do not have one, do not drive there. You can get a UAZ taxi from the petrol station by ringing the phone number on the window. It costs 6000 tenge. We drove to the toll booth, paid again to enter the car park and them were told we could not drive any further because of the road condition due to wet weather. That was fine, I like hiking and I was prepared to walk but the men at the entrance were adament we could not walk it. You can only get there by UAZ or a horse. If you take a UAZ you can only get to the second check point and then you have to walk or take a horse. I didn’t want to ride on a horse for various reasons but felt like we didn’t have a choice. I really did not enjoy this at all. The man was determined the horses would canter on this very narrow mountain path, there were no helmets and it was just not a safe experience. Needless to say we walked back and it was FINE. Not far and not steep. If you like hiking just walk and don’t listen to them. The lake itself is stunning and definitely worth the effort to get there.
Kolsay is an easier lake to get to. The road is tarmac the entire way and you park in a car park and walk down. You can walk around the lake and about 8km away there is a second lake. There is a restaurant next to the lake that does a fab cheese omelette. The owner was really determined to try and speak English and even asked Hattie for her number! There are also some very cute dogs. One was so concerned about me when I slipped on the path that she yelped and jumped up at me to check I was okay. What a babe.
Once again there was no one around and we felt so lucky and slightly emotional to be surrounded by such beauty. It truly was breath taking and can’t really be captured in a.photo. What a stunning and untouched part of the world we live in! We drove through all the seasons, had beautiful blue skies and returned to Almaty with a forecast of 20 plus degrees in the coming days! Goodbye winter… It is about time!
Thank you Snow Stallion for your loyalty.