One of my favorite things about living in Almaty thus far has been the easy access to some great hiking. Hiking was one of the things I was most looking forward to about going to Kazakhstan and it has not disappointed me. The first hike I went on was to Big Almaty Lake or BAO which was gorgeous! This was an official excursion with the whole program so naturally the border guards were quite curious about the sudden appearance of 25 Americans. Luckily, not too curious to give us any issues though. This lake was so beautiful because it was a shade of blue I’d never seen before: almost a seafoam color it was so light.
The next hike I went on was also an American Councils’ excursion and a little bit further away from Almaty than a day trip. This was the excursion to Charyn Canyon, Kolsai Lake and Kaindy Lake. I had heard a lot about all three of these places before arriving in Kazakhstan and they did not disappoint. In Charyn Canyon we saw lots of really interesting rocks and rock formation along the canyon walls. Kolsai was much cooler (temperature-wise, which was a welcome relief after Charyn) and we hiked around the lake, pick-nicked and went out on the lake in rowboats. While I enjoyed both of the first two stops, Kaindy lake was the lake that really blew me away because I’ve never seen anything like it before. The trees growing out of the middle of the lake were so beautiful in their eerie way. However, the best part of this trip was probably going to the banya after two days of hiking. We all really needed the shower and the heat took away all of the aches and pains we’d gathered while hiking.
Back closer to Almaty, I next explored a riverside hike in the Alma-Arasan area with some local friends that I had met while volunteering at the American Corners club. This hike was one of the more challenging hikes I’ve been on because we were scrambling on all fours up and down the sides of hills. Each ungraceful ascent or descent however revealed a new view of the river that made the mud entirely worth it. In addition, after our hike, we sat down to a dastarkhan and practiced our Kazakh, Russian and English, as all of us are language learners.
Finally, the most recent hike I took was to Furmontov peak. We started at the Medeu skating rink and then wound our way up to the top of a mountain. This was, by far, the most challenging hike I’ve done in Kazakhstan (and probably ever) not only because of the altitude but also because we had to avoid some rather fearless and belligerent wild horses that were very interested in our food and not afraid to bite if we didn’t hand it over. But all in all, it was worth it because it’s hard to beat the feeling you get standing on top of a mountain high above the city and the rest of the surrounding landscape.
By: Hannah Foster
Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program
Term: Summer 2017