Day 125: Big Almaty Lake

Bolshoe Almatinskoe Lake Travel Blog

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Approaching Big Almaty Lake

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Aselya, Bek (Kazakhstan), Nicolas (France)

Oof, that is the second Sunday in a row that I wake up with a hangover. I have forgotten what Sunday hangovers are like... The idea was to do some hiking at the Bolshoe Almatinskoe, or Big Almaty lake. However, something must have gone wrong in the planning department, because in the end it was just me, Aselya and her dog Mathilde who made the trip to the lake. Well, dog, sausage with legs is a better description, to be honest.

The Bolshoe Almatinskoe lake lies just outside Almaty, inside the Ile-Alatau national park. The 1.6 kilometre long lake is an artificial lake, created in Soviet times to power a single (!!) turbine which generates just enough watts to power a couple of street lights.

Big Almaty Lake
Efficiency never was the strongest point of the Soviets.

The lake lies beautifully at an altitude of 2500 metres, surrounded by several snow-capped peaks. The lake is fed by glacial melt water, giving it a milky colour. We crossed the dam to walk to the lake, but were stopped by a guard. Apparently it is not allowed to walk down to the lake, because, well, no idea because of what. Probably security reasons since it is a hydro-electrical dam. Instead we could walk around the lake via steep, barely visible paths.
We descended down to the water front on the other side of the lake, assuming that the guard had chased us off because the dam had been restricted area, but within minutes another guard appeared telling us to leave.

It didn't make any sense. There are hundreds of people here, which I assume is the same every weekend.
Big Almaty Lake
All these people come to visit the lake and all these people are told off, one by one, by the guards. Just why do you allow people to visit a recreational area only to deny them access to the actual recreational part? If you don't want people to visit the lake, then put a fence around it and tell people not to visit the lake. Then I realised that perhaps this was exactly what is done. When we entered the park we had to pay an entrance fee to one of the guards, who pocketed the money without giving us a ticket or receipt. What if this is just a big scam and this is in fact a large protected area, but the people guarding the area have created a nice little business for themselves by charging people an 'entrance' fee. Hmm, maybe I am starting to imagine things after having travelled through former Soviet republics for so long, but somehow it wouldn't surprise me if this area was never supposed to be open for public at all!

In the evening I went out for dinner with Nicolas.
Snowcapped mountains surround the lake
During dinner we received a call from Aselya, asking if we'd come to her impromptu birthday party. Nicolas had to work early tomorrow, so he declined, so I went over by myself. I met them at a karaoke bar.
Aselya had hired a private room where she and Bek and a few more friends were belting out Russian crooners.

I looked what kind of English language music the karaoke machine had to offer and was surprised at the sheer variety to choose from, including quite a few of my favourite songs.
I never really been to a proper karaoke place before. I once sang a few drunken tunes in a bar in Bolivia, but in being a private room, surrounded by just friends (none of whom could sing either) significantly lowered the threshold. It didn't take many drinks for me to join in with the fun, starting with a half-decent (or at least it felt half-decent) performance of Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run. God I love that song. As the night progressed I had loads of fun singing tons of tunes by Queen, Radiohead, Muse (golly those songs are hard), Dream Theater and lots more.
We continued until 4 AM - I didn't have much of a voice left by then.

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Approaching Big Almaty Lake
Approaching Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake
Snowcapped mountains surround the …
Snowcapped mountains surround the…
Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake
Bolshoe Almatinskoe Lake
photo by: Deats