Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan

In the wilderness of south-east Kazakhstan, between the Tien Shan mountains and the steppe, is Charyn Canyon – one of Central Asia’s most spectacular natural wonders.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More from Kazakhstan / Eurasian Echoes home / Get in touch

A meeting with Kazakhstan – for Open Central Asia magazine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“The lady from the whisky company had told me to go to Shymbulak ski resort, in the mountains above Almaty. But I didn’t make it: I got on the wrong marshrutka bus on Al Farabi street and ended up 30km away, in the bedlam of the Altyn Orda bazaar…” 

Read my article ‘A meeting with Kazakhstan’, about my first trip to Almaty, in the spring 2020 edition of Open Central Asia magazine.

***

More from Kazakhstan / Eurasian Echoes home / Get in touch

Kaindy Lake – Kazakhstan’s underwater forest

In the wilderness to the east of Almaty, between the lush Tien Shan mountains and the dry steppe, are some of Kazakhstan’s ethereal natural wonders. The most tranquil of them is Kaindy Lake.

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In 1911 there was an earthquake at Kaindy. A huge landslide created a sunken basin in the forest, and when the snows melted, the water flowed down the Tien Shan mountains and formed a lake. The spruce pines that had sunk in the landslide were submerged underwater, but continued to grow from the bottom of the lake.

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Over a century later, Kaindy lake is a stunning sight, with pine trunks rising out of the bright turquoise water.

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kaindy is only a few hours’ drive from Almaty, and is a popular spot for Kazakh and foreign adventurers, who come to hike or ride horses on the trails between Kaindy and Kolsai lakes, and breathe in the clean forest air.

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The journey into the foothills of the Kazakh Tien Shan, passing the town of Saty, is an adventure in itself.

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More from Kazakhstan / Eurasian Echoes home / Get in touch

Kolsai Lake, Kazakhstan

On the steppe of eastern Kazakhstan, close to the Tien Shan mountains that straddle the border with China and Kyrgyzstan, is the beautiful Kolsai lake.

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kolsai is a lush spot in the wilderness, where Kazakhs come to hike in the surrounding forest, fish, or rest by the water.

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The lake is 300km east of Kazakhstan’s second city, Almaty. A trip to this part of Almaty region could take in hikes to the nearby Kaindy lake and Charyn canyon, with an overnight stay – or two – at a homestay with a Kazakh family in the villages of Saty and Kurmety.

***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More from Kazakhstan / Eurasian Echoes home / Get in touch

A day in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh)

One day in Yerevan, Samvel, my Armenian friend, said:

“Dzhonatan-dzhan, next time you come to Armenia, let me take you to Artsakh…”

Artsakh is the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh – the disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which the two nations have been at war over for more than 30 years. Both feel that this land belongs to them: it became part of Soviet Azerbaijan during Stalin’s era, but most of the people living there are still Armenian. The conflict has killed tens of thousands on both sides, and there is no resolution in sight.

Karabakh is a self-governing republic now. It is peaceful most of the time, and most parts of it are safe. But shooting still breaks out a couple of times a year.

I had spent time in both Azerbaijan and Armenia. I knew how strongly each of the countries feels that Nagorno-Karabakh is theirs. Hatred for the other nation’s people dominates the lives of Armenians and Azerbaijanis.

– “What is there in Artsakh?” – I asked.

“Everything” – said Samvel.

***

A year later, before dawn one morning, Sam met me in Yerevan and drove me to Nagorno-Karabakh.

We drove south, past Khor Virap monastery on Armenia’s closed border with Turkey. We took the mountain road through Sisian province, and entered Artsakh through the Tegh – Berdadzor checkpoint.

That afternoon we stopped at Ghazanchetsots cathedral in the town of Shushi – Karabakh’s second town, and a place that has suffered heavily in the conflict. We drove into Artsakh’s capital, Stepanakert: at the central market, subdued and almost empty on a Saturday afternoon, Samvel bought us Jengalov khats – a soft Karabakhi bread filled with mountain herbs.

Leaving Stepanakert we passed Artsakh’s landmark, the symbol of the republic – a statue called ‘We Are Our Mountains’. The image of an old man and old woman is formed from volcanic tufa, to represent the mountain people of Artsakh. It is also known as Tatik-Papik – ‘Grandma and Grandpa’.

Our last stop was the ninth-century Dadivank monastery. Then the long and difficult road back to Yerevan.

I had seen almost nothing of Artsakh. But a day in its mountains had made me understand better why to Samvel, and to all Armenians and Azerbaijanis, it could mean everything.

Eurasian Echoes home / Get in touch

***

Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh)

***

Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, Shushi

***

Stepanakert

***

Jengalov khats, Stepanakert market

***

Dadivank monastery

***

Dadivank monastery

***

Dadivank monastery

***

Tatik-Papik

***

Eurasian Echoes home / Get in touch