Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday Tale: Tamgaly Petroglyphs

Short preface:  today's entry is a bit longer than a tidbit, so Tidbit Tuesday seemed an inapropriate title.  If you are heartbroken about this one-time change to the order of things, you'll survive:  there are lots of pictures to distract you.  Besides, the world is filled with change and we will be back to normal next week.

Petroglyphs are a form of ancient rock-art.  They are images scratched onto the surface of large rock faces (kind of like cave paintings, except without the caves...or the paint).  Apparently there are more than fifty sites with ancient petroglyphs in Southeastern Kazakhstan (where I live).  Today I visted the Tamgaly Petroglyphs which are located in a small gully about  two hours to the northwest of Almaty.

The Story...

The main highway west was in excellent condition and we managed to make great time in spite of the heavy fog that blanketed the region.  About 80 km outside of Almaty we turned northward onto a road that was, once upon a time, paved.  Whether by neglect or heavy animal traffic (we had to wait for a large heard of sheep and their horseback shepherds to cross the bridge over the train tracks) the road is now strewn with massive potholes. Entire sections of pavement have simply vanished.  Our driver expertly weaved and bobbed his way through the maze created by the pavement for another 80 km until we reached a small welcome station that consisted of a deserted parking lot, two portapotties, and an official guide with his two very cute dogs.

The official guide led us down the path toward the hills that hide these ancient treasures.  When we reached the valley he began to point out rock faces that were covered in etchings.  There were hundreds of images of horses, bulls, shamen, the sun, women with children, and even a couple of camels.   There was even one image that the guide said was of a female alien.  Apparently several cultures in this region around that time used similar shapes to represent alien life (according to our guide, anyways).  Most images on these rocks were created between three and four thousand years ago, and it is somewhat humbling to be among the expressions of people who lived so long ago.

A burial mound

After stopping briefly for a picnic lunch at a small, covered pagoda, we hiked through the hills ultimately touring three of the seven petroglyph sites and a burial site before returning to the buses.

We then settled in for the long trip back to Almaty, a trip that was punctuated by the sighting of a wild fox, and chasing herds of stray horses off the road in what turned out to be beautiful clear weather.

Tidbit Tuesday:  The Modern Kazakh Cowboy

If you've read this far, you must really like me.  As a reward (because I buy my friends), here is a picture from the back window of our bus (sorry it is so blurry) of a moderd kazakh cowboy and his pony "mercedes".  As the saying goes, there is more than one way to catch a cow.

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