27.06.2019: Altyn Emel National Park – Lake North of Almaty

We woke up relatively early in the morning and packed up our tent. Even though it was still relatively early, we could already feel the sun burning onto our skin while we were standing in the sun. To reach the “Singing Dune”, we took the only road which led us further into the national park. Starting from the ranger station, it was a ride of around 40km to reach the dune. Almost the entirety of these 40km consisted of the harshest washboards we had ridden on so far, only interrupted by occasional sandy sections. While we were riding along this uncomfortable section, the sun slowly climbed further up into the sky and slowly started to roast us in our gear . We could not see a single tree so we just continued until we finally arrived at the dune.

At the bottom of the dune, several cars (the usual combination of driver + a group of tourists) were parked and the passengers had fled into the shade – at least some of them. Several others were in the process of climbing this enormously tall dune standing in the middle of nowhere! Guess, that’s a sacrifice you have to make in order to hear it singing. So, while Fabi had a rest among the shades, Chris began ascending, hoping to hear the dune sing without having to climb to the top. After reaching about 50% of its height, he was convinced that surely, the dune was broken because he still could not hear anything, so there was no point in climbing further up. Even though he had not reached the top, the view you had on the surroundings were already impressive. As the steppe was mainly flat you could see far into the distance.

After descending and returning to Fabi, we drove out of the park with the intention to refuel and also to buy some groceries. After refueling, Chris had to repair the headlights of both bikes – they had unsnapped during this 2x40km torture ride. While his headlight could just be popped back into place, one of the connectors of the bike of Fabi was finally completely broken, so a bodger fix was everything that could be done until we could get a replacement part back in Germany. The question now was: drive back into the park to look at an ancient willow which was once touched by Genghis Khan or continue on the road to Almaty and have an overall shorter day today. After some discussion we opted for the short day and checked on iOverlander for some place to stay.

We found campspot which was situated right next to a big lake and decided to set it as our target. Driving westwards was pretty uneventfuly, the roads were mostly straight with no major villages or other things to speak of – at least the road was in a good condition and we could ride at a proper speed. About halfway to our target we rode through a bigger city were greeted by an enormous, modern motorway access leading onto a two way highway. Kazakhstan is currently investing a lot of time into its road network – as we had already experienced during our first short ride through the country, right after our ferry ride. As the construction project is far from finished, there is a mix between freshly built, modern roads in excellent conditions and verying states of other roads. After all kinds of “other roads” during the last days, we were pleastly surprised by the comfortable ride provided by the smooth tarmac and were covering kilometer after kilometer with ease.

At around 4pm we arrived at our destination: a quiet, hidden spot directly at the rocky beach of the lake – definitely recommended but impossible to find if you don’t know what you are looking for. As it was still pretty early, we opted to use our tarp to create some shadow and hopped into the lake for a quick bath. Compared to our experience with other streams and lakes during the last days, the water temperature of this lake was very comfortable so we “soaked” a little to make sure we’d get rid of all the dirt and sweat of the last days.