Kazakhstan Part 4 – Altyn Emel National Park
After Tamgaly Tas we drove 260 km north of Almaty to the Altyn Emel National Park. We planned to stay at a local homestay for the night and take two days exploring it. First stop was the visitor’s center to get tickets. Nice faux snow leopard outside.
Then we drove to the gate and we gave our tickets to a guard. His little girl let us in.
Our first stop was a wind-shaped red rock formation.
After the Red Rock formation, we drove through the flat desert towards Aktau Katutau Hills.
We had planned on several hours of hiking along a dry riverbed deeper into the hills, but the sky was gray and threatening to rain. This could have precipitated a flash flood, so we cut our hike short. Not too short, though, so we still saw the area from quite close.
Before we returned to the ‘Homestay’ we stopped at the site of a 700-year-old weeping willow tree. It was a sacred spot used my local shaman. There was even a campsite near, which I wished we had used.
We spent the night at a very suspicious ‘Homestay’! It was much too new and modern and anything but a local’s home to stay in. Several other groups of foreigners were there and it felt ‘off’. The next day I discovered that the place was owned and run by the daughter of the government official in charge of the national park. It was a scam to make the rich richer, and I complained when I returned to the Almaty Backpackers.
The next day we visited the Singing Sands, a series of sand dunes that make sounds when you slide down them. I had previously visited similar sand dunes in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia.
On our way out of the park we stopped at an unusual rock formation, three large ricks had been stood on end, supposedly it marked the site of a large encampment by Genghis Khan and his army when they passed through Kazakhstan on their way to conquering the world.