Stunning scenery and an angry dog

Zhabaghly Travel Blog

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People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip: Juliana (Russia), Hannes (Sweden), Danny (USA)

From Shymkent we took a minivan as far as Vanovka (250 Tengge / $2) and then changed into a shared taxi (200 Tengge / $1.65) to Zhabaghly. The taxi ride was fun as we crammed 6 into the car, with 4 of us in the back. It felt like we had gone back to Cambodia! In total the journey took around 90 minutes, with the Talassky Alatau Mountain Range looming ever closer.

David had put us in contact with an American Peace Corps worker called Danny, who had been living in Kazakhstan for 9 months and had been posted to Zhabaghly 6 months ago. He kindly offered to let us stay in his home, which David told us had 8 rooms, but had the wash room outside.

In my own mind i imagined a big, but thoroughly run down place, so i kind of expected the worse.

When we arrived into the town of 2500 people, we saw a friendly looking Western face approaching the taxi and it wasn't hard to guess who it was! It had begun to rain, so we hot footed it to Danny's house, which was about a 5 minute walk away. From the outside it looked pretty nice, but the biggest surprise would be when we entered.

The rooms were huge, with carpets on the walls, a nice black bureau in one room, large TV with satellite, stereo system, dial up internet and a kitchen which even had a washing machine in it! The incredible thing was that for this beautiful house that was located at the foot of a stunning mountain range, he paid only 5000 Tengge ($41.
50) per MONTH! Surely one of the best deals in the entire World! To put it into perspective, hotels in Shymkent were asking for this much, for just one night in a single room.

Once we had dropped our stuff down, he gave us a quick tour of the town, and left us with his house key at the grocery store, as he had to go back to work. Sometimes the kindness and trust that total strangers can show still leaves me a little bit astounded. I wish that everyone could be a little bit more like this, but i just can't see it happening. Certainly the more i travel on this trip, the more i know that i want to repay some of the hospitality that people have shown to me. Hopefully what goes around comes around.

Back at the house, Julia began Dinner, whilst i wrote my blog and Hannes read a book.
Danny came home around 19.00 and made a tomato sauce to accompany the food. We started with a soup and finished with spaghetti, both of which were very good. After Dinner we sat around and chatted about a range of things, often centered around the Kazakh culture and traditions.

The only problem that the house had was the outside bathroom, which in itself wasn't a big issue, but the guard dog on the path leading to it was! On my first trip out there, Danny forgot to tell me about the dog. The first thing i knew about it was when its snarling teeth and barking mouth were coming hurtling for me. I screamed and began to run and was ever so thankful to see its choke lead, which was tied to a rope, yank the beast away from me! When i returned to the house, i thought that as i knew it was tied, it wasn't scary.
I stepped boldly from the outhouse, full of confidence, but as it jumped and barked, i could just envisage the lead breaking free, so made a hasty retreat to the comfort of the house.

An early start had been discussed for Tuesday, but after i stayed up until 3am trying to upload my blogs, this idea kind of petered out and we ended up getting up around 10.00. After some scrambled eggs and tomato for breakfast, we left Danny to go to work and went for a walk in the beautiful fields and mountains that surround Zhabaghly.

Much of the area is Aksu-Zhabaghly National Park, and to enter you must pay 1500 Tengge ($12.50) for admission and another 1500 Tengge for a guide, which could have been split between us. $17 each sounded like quite a lot to go for a walk, but as we knew Danny, he told us which areas didn't fall under the parks jurisdiction and he mapped out a route for us to take.


We set off through the village and passed lots of curious children, all of whom shouted hello. A small river runs between the houses and fields, which we crossed to reach plenty of horses, that were grazing on the lush green grass. I wasn't sure how near we should get to them, so we stayed a fair distance apart and took some great photos of them, with the snow capped peaks making for a stunning backdrop.

In the end we didn't have to approach the horses, as their curiosity got the better of them. One juvenile clearly didn't know what to make of these strange creatures laying in the grass and came to inspect us. Hannes was the first to undergo a personal once over, before it moved on to me. My shoe laces must have looked tasty, as it began to nibble on them, before moving up and beginning on my leg.
This made me jump, not because it hurt me, but i just didn't expect a horse would start chewing on me. I began to think that maybe it was payback for eating one of its relatives in Urumqi!

30 minutes and a hundred photos later, it as decided that we had to leave this little peace of paradise behind and search for a new one. Walking through such a beautiful landscape was invigorating, with streams bisecting the colourful fields that had many flowers in bloom. After 90 minutes we reached the start of a canyon, located at the foot of the mountains. We stopped here to munch on a snickers and observe a pretty little spider, which kept vibrating its red and black body when we got too near.

Once we had set off up the gentle slope, I was pleased to be wearing my trousers and boots, as the path was often covered with thorny plants.
Julia hadn't been so wise and ended up with a leg that looked like it had been in a war with a razor blade! My major problem was my hayfever, as my eyes began to itch and water, my throat became sore and i started to sneeze.

Half way up we stopped to admire the beauty and just relax for a while. Hannes and Julia weren't too keen on trying to get all the way to the top, whilst i was eager, as i believed the best views would be from there. In the end we compromised that we would reach the end of the canyon and then make our descent.

Another 5 minutes along the path and they were both tired again, but it was already gone 15.00 and i was starting to get worried about making it back before dark, so i carried on to where we agreed to meet. The views from the top were magnificent, with Zhabaghly far down below, smack in the middle of where the canyon opened.
Me in the mountains, with Zhabaghly below
To the right were snow capped mountains and it felt like been up in the clouds. I sat at the top for some time waiting for them to arrive, but there was no sign. The wind was whipping in, making it chilly, as i only had a t-shirt on. I wanted to descend down the opposite side of the canyon, but didn't want to just disappear on them, so made a move back down the path, figuring that they had decided to just sit it out down below.

I reached the point where i had left them and there was no sign, i could only think that they had begun their descent, so continued down. By the time i reached the base of the mountain and still hadn't encountered either of them, i was beginning to get a bit worried. I made my mind up to push on home and hope that they had just carried on back without me, as i didn't want to try and ascend the mountain a second time and find they were not there.
Butterfly on flower


I got back around 17.00, pretty tired, as i went quite quickly in an attempt to catch up with them. It had all been pointless, as only Danny was at the house when i arrived. I went out to buy some beers and wait it out, in the hope they would be home shortly. It was over an hour before they turned up. Rather than stick to the plan, they had decided it would be nice to go to the place i had wanted to go, higher up on the mountain. This was where i hadn't gone, as they said they didn't want to go. At altitudes where snow never melts, this kind of behaviour is selfish, dangerous and worrying.

I spent the remainder of the evening skulking around, in a bit of a rage. They'd ruined my afternoon and completely destroyed my happy mood. What made it worse is that they didn't even bother to apologise, or acknowledge what they had done.
Dragonfly
These type of things really bug me, i wish they didn't, but they do.

The following day we were going to go for a walk along the mountains, but i really didn't feel like it any more. I'd lost some trust in them both and preferred to just hang out around Danny's. The previous day we had all got pretty sun burnt too, so this was another reason not to go out. At 13.00 we caught the bus back to Shymkent, i was sad to be leaving as the area is beautiful, but i just wasn't in any frame of mind to enjoy it anymore.

Deats says:
A really stunning place and totally untouched, i love Kazakhstan!
Posted on: Aug 07, 2009
almond72 says:
Lovely views ! The green colours are just so vibrant.
Posted on: Aug 05, 2009
James1985 says:
couchsurfing puts your faith back in humanity doesnt it!
Posted on: Nov 01, 2008
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Me in the mountains, with Zhabaghl…
Me in the mountains, with Zhabagh…
Butterfly on flower
Butterfly on flower
Dragonfly
Dragonfly
A view from Dannys window
A view from Dannys window
Goats grazing in the fields
Goats grazing in the fields
Zhabaghly village
Zhabaghly village
Zhabaghly village
Zhabaghly village
Grass cutter at Zhabaghly village
Grass cutter at Zhabaghly village
Colourful flowers at  Aksu Zhabagh…
Colourful flowers at Aksu Zhabag…
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
Up in the mountains at Aksu Zhabag…
Up in the mountains at Aksu Zhaba…
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
Climbing into the valley
Climbing into the valley
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
Julia in the mountains
Julia in the mountains
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
Pretty flowers in the mountains
Pretty flowers in the mountains
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
A view from the mountains at Aksu …
A view from the mountains at Aksu…
Pretty Flowers
Pretty Flowers
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Views at the top of the valley
Looking down on Zhabaghly
Looking down on Zhabaghly
Sheep grazing at the base of the v…
Sheep grazing at the base of the …
At the bottom of the valley
At the bottom of the valley
Walking across the fields, back to…
Walking across the fields, back t…
Walking across the fields, back to…
Walking across the fields, back t…
Cows in the fields, on the walk ba…
Cows in the fields, on the walk b…
Walking across the fields, back to…
Walking across the fields, back t…
Walking across the fields, back to…
Walking across the fields, back t…
Walking across the fields, back to…
Walking across the fields, back t…
Dragonfly
Dragonfly
Dragonfly
Dragonfly
Zhabaghly
photo by: Deats