Wonderful 3 day trek
Bolshoe Almatinskoe Lake Travel Blog› entry 337 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here who contributed to and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Hannes (Sweden)
Having spent the morning calming our bureaucratic headaches, we didn't arrive at the GES2 Hydroelectric Station until 13.30. This was the beginning for the trek up to Bolshoe Almatinskoe Lake, located in the Zailiysky Alatau Mountain Range. It was a red hot day, with very few clouds in the sky, but this was preferable to any rain.
The first 90 minutes of the journey took us from GES2 to GES1, along a four wheel drive track, that rose steadily upwards for the entire duration. The views were magnificent, with towering mountains, gushing streams and grazing animals.
At the top of the hill, the pipe continued up the mountain, although there was the four wheel drive track to walk along once again. The day was drawing to a close and all of us were feeling shattered and wondering when we would reach our accommodation for the night, when two Kazakh guys in a jeep pulled up and kindly offered us a lift. They seemed genuinely surprised to find people who wanted to come to the country as a tourist and we chatted away for the 15 minute drive. Approaching our destination, we got our first sight of the GAISH station where we would sleep on one side of the road and the stunning Bolshoe Almatinskoe Lake on the other side.
The GAISH station where we would be staying was left by the Soviets and is also known as the Tian Shan Astronomical Observatory. It houses the second biggest telescope in the former Soviet states, although most of what i saw seemed to be rusting trash that could have come off a sci-fi movie set. Having climbed over 1km in height, we were ready for a lie down in our room, which was in a basic wooden domick. The cost of a bed was 1500 Tenge ($12.50), but there was no shower and just an outside squat toilet. The bed was also pretty shocking and it sagged so badly when you sat on it that it created a hammock effect. I still think it was worth every penny to stay here though, as the views over the Lake were unbeatable.
In the evening we sat in our room and ate instant noodles, which we had brought with us, as it cost 3000 Tenge ($25) to get the three meals per day at the GAISH canteen. There was a heater in our room to keep us warm, as we were located at an altitude of 2700m, but this blew up and nearly took Hannes' hand off! We managed to find another heater, put the Beatles on my laptop and settled in to our prison type beds for the evening.
The next day we went for a walk beside the Lake, but the day changed from bright and sunny to overcast in a matter of minutes. Hannes decided to try and go back to GAISH, whilst Julia and I opted to walk around the Lake, which is 1.6km long. When we reached the far end, the heavens opened and we were left scrambling for shelter, which came in the form of a coal bunker in someones garden.
In the evening we sat around chatting, playing Ludo and a name game and nibbling on some snacks that we had with us. In this way we managed to entertain ourselves for several hours, before turning in for the night, with the prospect of the following day been a long one.
At 08.00 we awoke and set off shortly afterwards, up a snaking jeep trail, that led high into the mountains and offered World class views of GAISH and the Lake far down below. Several hours later and having passed un-melted ice and caterpillars on the road, we made it to Kosmostansia, a site of dilapidated buildings that were used for scientific purposes. The surrounding mountains were filled with colourful purple, white and yellow flowers, with green grass, white snow and blue sky adding to the vibrant landscape.
The pass at Kosmostansia was 3681m and would be the highest point of our trek, which meant it was all downhill from here, just literally, thankfully not metaphorically! It was hard to pick up a path on the way down, even with the advice of a German family that we bumped into and we ended up getting thoroughly lost, although the scenery this enabled us to see made it worthwhile.
At 13.00 we had a lunch stop to eat a can of baked beans and a rock hard loaf of bread, before pushing on with the last leg of our journey. The route saw us scrambling over rocks, past giant gopher holes, which we told Julia were giant rat holes (she hates rats), through a jaw dropping valley and across a surging stream, which had swelled due to the non stop drizzle that we were now encountering.
A locked gate and a sign stating that the sanatorium was closed for repairs until 2010 stared us in the face when we arrived at Alma Arasan. It was fast becoming dark and the three of us began to fret somewhat at our options. Should we jump a barbed wire fence, walk nine hours back to GAISH or try and scramble down and along the gorge below us. A few minutes passed by and we were none the wiser, but then a security guard came out to tell us that there was a path by the river at the base of the gorge. We descended down a flight of stairs and made two crossings of the river on rickety bridges, before eventually making it to a car park.
Bad news awaited us in the parking lot, as a family told us there were no buses from there to Almaty and we had many more kilometers to walk.