Two Lakes: One Ride and One "Ride"

Saty Village Guest House

Kungey Alatau Mountain Range

Near the Border of Kyrgyzstan

Saty, Kazakhstan

October 13, 2018

Hello Fellow Travelers,

The trip from the Guest House to Kolsai Lake is an easy thirty-minute drive over a lovely paved road.

Kolsai Lake lies about 1700m above sea level (5577 ft).  It has an odd shape and the surrounding Kungey mountains provide a diversity of shadows and an attractive background.

Several young Kazakh visitors join me at the viewpoint above the lake.  The more adventurous and energetic travelers hike up from the lakeshore below.  (At 1700m - more than a mile high - I think I’ll just admire the view.)

As elsewhere in Kazakhstan, I like the colorful. sparkling clean footwear.  Here, one of the young women is sporting a pair of pink shoes.  I can’t resist: “I love your shoes.  And they are not pink.   They are hot pink!”  The girl loves my comment and she immediately translates it into Russian. (I understand her because I have learned the Russian word for hot, as in hot water.)  We all have a good laugh.

Not so laughable is to the road to Lake Kaindy.  We start out on a paved road, but the route soon diverges on to a dirt track through the mountains.  The track continues to deteriorate, and at times vanishes completely beneath a few inches of a rushing stream.

At a clearing at the end of the road I must decide to take a hike through the mountains to see the lake or to ride a horse. I opt for the horse. 

Mind you I haven’t been on a horse in many years.  And after a while the ride becomes uncomfortable.  The stirrups are set too high and I develop cramps.  The guide helps me down and I continue to walk, and walk, and walk.*

Finally, the lake appears.

Kaindy Lake Is a young lake that formed in the late 19th Century following a landslide.  The submerged spruce trees have not yet decayed.  They rise up from the waters like an apparition.

Was the agony of the trip worth the ecstasy of the site?

Check out the photos.  What do you think?


*. The Kazakhs have a peculiar habit of what I call “positive exaggeration.”  So for example if I ask my driver “how far?” he responds “we will soon be there.”  After thirty minutes we have still not arrived. The guide leading the horse insists that the lake is very close.  So as we hike up a hill I expect to see the lake.  Nope.  More hills to climb and more disappointing results.

This habit seems to be a cultural trait.  Are they being polite?  Or encouraging?  Or are these “exaggerations” the reasonable “estimates” of time and distance from folks who live in a vast and boundless territory?

In any case, I have learned to be skeptical of any estimates in Kazakhstan and to adjust my expectations accordingly.

By the way, hot tea is served hot.  Soup? Not so much.






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