Ile-Alatau National Park
Justin (Kiwi Infrastructure Consltant), Elena (Russian HR Consultant), Natasha (Russian Finance Consultant), Turleybek (our Kazak driver) and I headed off on our little adventure just before midday in Turleybeks Tarago van.
The park is about 40 minutes by car from Almaty central and was a very interesting drive, passing through areas of large modern housing and older Soviet style housing. The road that leads into the park itself was a nightmare to drive along, with large potholes for nearly its entire length. The entrance to the park was manned and gated and after paying an entrance fee we followed the bumpy, narrow and windy road to its end. It was not as I expected a national park to be - overgrown vegetation, a lack of parking and no facilities. This along with a large steel water pipe that ran along side the road really was a let down for me.
We parked, unloaded and set up along side the river. It was actually a nice spot, shaded and very relaxing, with the sound of the water running in the background. We built our little BBQ and cooked the shaslicks. It has been a long, long time since I last cooked over an open fire in a national park and it took a while to get used to the fact. We ate and then had a look around down by the river - what a fantastic setting. The water was very cold and very clear and was running at a fair pace, obviously coming from the melt much further up the mountain. The day was fairly warm and the river provided some relief from the heat.
The rest of the afternoon was spent celebrating Justins birthday - we then toasted Justin, a tradition in this part of the world, where everyone present will give a little speech on the person. Even though I could not understand it, I was surprised at the length of Turleybeks toast - it was both very positive and very personal (Elena later translated it for me). Natasha then presented him with a sketch she had completed in just 4 evenings - it was brilliant - along with some old Soviet medals we had picked up from the markets. It really was a different birthday experience to what I am used to, being a lot more personal and genuine than the way we celebrate.
We stayed there until just after 6pm and then headed back home. It was a really enjoyable day.