My first big trip outside of Almaty was to Charyn Canyon with a group of KIMEP International Students on September 16th. It took four hours in a bus driving towards China to get there, but we stopped once at a roadside stand to use toilets and get some refreshments.
The bus ride came with a tour guide named Olga, who talked endlessly in Russian about the Canyon, and one of the Kazakh hosts using my shoulder as a pillow for a few hours. We arrived at the West entrance of the park, an parked in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. A quick five minute walk behind Olga led us into the “Valley of Castles,” a pathway that toured through massive sandstone formations to the Charyn River.
We followed the hoards of tourists to the Charyn River, where we tried to scout out both a secluded place to eat, as well as paths to explore more of the river. I ended up sitting with a Finnish friend and an Austrian friend at the furthest point downstream, where we shared some rocks with a group of Russian tourists. A few photos later, and we rejoined some other KIMEP students and made our way back up the Valley.
Rather than completely retrace our steps, we decided to follow a trail to the non-bus parking lot, which gave us some elevation upon the Canyon walls. Dominik and I “walked the plank,” so to speak, on a rather exposed bit of rock, which made for some great photos.
Time was getting close to 4pm, which was when we were supposed to be back at the bus. All of the crew was ready to head back, but I spied some cars further away that looked like they were at a pretty good viewpoint. I left the others in a slight jog to check it out, and sure enough, it was probably the most beautiful views of the entire trip.
A mild jog back to the bus, and another 4 hour ride later, we found ourselves back in Almaty, ready for a another week of work and school. Charyn Canyon is an undoubtedly beautiful place, and it was a fantastic trip with a great group of folks.