Monday, June 24, 2013

One last Hurrah: The Kolsai Lakes

 I am leaving Kazakhstan tonight for six weeks in Colorado, England and Scotland (don't worry, I plan to be back in Kazakhstan in August).  So this weekend, was my last chance for a romp in the country-side of southeastern Kazakhstan.  Some friends and I used the opportunity to go camping and hiking at the famed Kolsai lakes in the mountains on the Chilik River.

To reach the Kolsai lakes, you drive east from Almaty turning south just before crossing Charyn Canyon. The landscape shifts from the red rocks of the Charyn Canyon, to rounded green hills somehow reminiscent of hobbiton.  As the road leads into the mountains, it deteriorates drastically, and the last 30 kilometers involve the arduous dodging of dangerous potholes.

By the time we reached the first lake on Friday evening, it was well after dark.  We paid the park fees, camp fees (750 tg per tent)  went about setting up camp in the dark.  Our evening ended with a delicious burrito dinner, and a roaring fire with s'mores beneath the nearly full supermoon.

Saturday morning brought a gorgeous view of the first lake, and droves of tourists prompting us to pack up camp and head up the trail to the second lake.

There are three Kolsai lakes, the first you can reach by car, but the second and third require a hike or a ride on horseback.  The second lake is about eight kilometers from the first and takes around four hours to reach by foot. The trail is well marked and not too difficult but it does get pretty steep in places, most notably the first and last parts.

The first section of the trail climbs the steep hillside above the first lake and cuts across grassy, wildflower dotted hillsides, high above the first lake.  The trail then drops back down to the river and winds through the forested valley following the river.  The constant roar of the water rushing through the boulder strewn river bed accompanies all but a few short sections of the trail.

The last two kilometers leading to the second lake are one long, steep uphill climb and we climbed it with the sound of summer thunder ringing in our ears.  We reached the top and found a sheltered spot only minutes before the first of the afternoon downpours began.

The Second Lake:

the mountains above the second lake

our camp is in this picture somewhere
The third lake is an additional five steep kilometers from the second taking between two and three hours to hike.  We didn't have enough time to hike to the third lake.  Instead we camped at the second and enjoyed a nice morning sleeping-in and swimming in the frigid water.

I wish this picture did justice to the moon on Saturday night

One last picture of the first lake...

Next stop: Durango Colorado

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