After a good night of rest, we headed off to the lake I’ve been dreaming to see: Kayindy, located to the east of Kolsai lakes. The reason why this place is so special and surreal is due to the narrow trunks of spruce trees that crawl out of unnaturally blue water and make the whole sight extraterrestrial. The lake itself is not very old, it came around the 19th century due to the landslide, and many of the trees haven’t decayed yet. So if you haven’t, you MUST get there while they’re still standing! Apparently, some people even go diving in this lake, but I wouldn’t dare. Imagine a forest of spruce trees under the water? A horror movie in my book!
Our ride in the morning already made my day, literally. I swore to the driver if I ever moved back to Kazakhstan, I’d have to hit him up to see where I can get this nice ride (no pun intended). I really haven’t seen this kind of a car since I was a little kid. Even in a machine, the animal and carpet touch can’t be avoided 🙂
As the car stopped, we were greeted by a sea of horse riders waiting to take us to the lake. We paid 1000 tenge (now that’s about 3USD). We thought we came all the way here, so we might as well enjoy a short ride over and chat with the locals. The local cowboys it seems…
On the way, the horse owner and I chatted about the life around the area, if this is their primary bread-making job, and how they like it. The guy seemed to be in his twenties, with two kids already (not unusual in Kazakhstan, but still surprises me every time). He told me during the peak seasons he can make quite a bit of money, to even buy a nice car. It was fun to listen to his story, and then to randomly meet his two little boys with their friends on their personal donkey at the “base camp” where we arrived to hike over to the lake. The way his son could control and ride that donkey was seriously impressive! And he did it all over the national park, as I kept hearing him and his friends giggling and enjoying their cool days having a ride on that friend of theirs. Here is a snapshot of these little cuties.
And another Kazakh cowboy…
This next part of the trip stuck in my mind as the best imagery of peace and beauty of nature, human as one with the beautiful landscape.
To top this image, Kayindy lake appeared…
We headed over for a closer look, where the lake was full of horses.
After having properly admired Kayindy, we went back up to the “base camp” area to find our host families making tea and plov for us outside! What a treat! Everyone chilling under the tents, mingling, playing with the kids from the aul (the girl from our host family caught a few fishes), and enjoying the delicious meal. As you can see, Kazakhs tend to be quite serious about their tea and eating a lot in the nature. Having a “picnic” oftentimes equates to having a “toi” (feast). So if you’re invited for a picnic by a bunch of people, don’t bring 2 tomatoes and a bag of chips. Be serious about that stuff! 🙂
After chatting and eating, we finally have to go back to Satti for an impromptu sauna session that our hosts kindly prepared for us, with tea waiting afterward!
As the day was coming to a quick end, we had to finally say goodbye to our host families and get on the bus headed to Almaty… The weekend flew by too fast! And the local residents of the aul were so welcoming and open.
We hop on a bus, where I have more fun friends to make and chat with…
On the way back to Almaty, we stopped for a brief look at the “black canyons”, which are quite pretty and soothing in their shapes and slopes. Not a bad stopover during a six hour bus ride. We have ‘qurt’ (Kazakh salty cheese balls) and other treats in the nearby town, after which we head over to the mountains of Almaty…
Overall, it’s been a really fun and exciting weekend! I would advise for future visitors:
- to stay with a host family (and in a yurt!). It’s cheap and affordable. I think at the time it came to be around 15USD per person that were paid to the family, and that included the accommodation, food, and transportation to the lakes (not from/to Almaty). Not bad! That way you get to promote local tourism and can potentially “customize” your trip a bit more, while going to places others might not know about near the Kolsai area;
- to stay for longer than 2 days (bring a book, hang out with the family and in the nature);
- if you’re aiming for a warmer season, visit in July; but I’d really like to go back in winter to see the wonderland that it becomes with the snow;
- try the qymyz!
- try to learn a few Kazakh words to impress your hosts;
- be conscientious at the parks, respect wildlife, do not leave trash behind, collect plants or walk all over the fields. Let’s remember to leave minimum impact in the nature;
- have a positive attitude! These kinds of trips are not for those who have a problem with having toilets outside, where you have to leave the house/yurt premises to go to the bathroom, which usually comprises a hole in the ground inside a handmade “cabin”. That’s the fun of the experience. If you leave these worries behind, you can really enjoy the wonderful nature, fresh air, the lack of digital reliance, and get to meet people, taste local food, and maybe even learn something new about yourself!