Bike trader, We Buy Any Bike would like to say a huge thank you to Jenny of RideUnlimited for once again sharing this exciting update of her latest adventures! In this post, she’ll be sharing stories of her visit’s to the Caryn Canyon, Lake Kaindy, Almaty, and Kurchatov.
My last update was from Lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan, which was an amazing place to spend a few days catching up on work and relaxing. Although, it usually only takes us about 4 days in the same place until we become restless and are ready to ride to the next new place.
Lake Issyk Kul was the last stop we had planned in Kyrgyzstan, so after this, it was time to start making our way further North and back into Kazakhstan which was our second entry into the country. The border crossing was extremely quick, it only took about 45 minutes to leave Kyrgyzstan and enter Kazakhstan. The process is mostly the same at each border crossing:
- Kyrgyzstan Customs check
- Kyrgyzstan Passport control
- Kazakhstan Passport control
- Kazakhstan Customs check
Once through the border from Kyrgyzstan we headed straight to Charyn Canyon, somewhere we have been excited to see for a couple of years. It is part of the Charyn National Park and is around 90 -56 miles in length. It’s full of colourful formations of different shapes and sizes; the canyon is tiny compared to the Grand Canyon, although travellers from all over say its equality as impressive.
We arrived at the canyon around 5pm after following an off road track through the desert to find it. The landscape on that ride was stunning, miles and miles of golden sand with rolling mountains in the background. We reached the perfect camping spot just as the sun was setting, although we were trying to get our tent up in the last of the sunlight I think that was the most beautiful time to see the canyon. We camped just at the edge, looking into the canyon and did some night photography. The night was actually fairly cold, waking up to sweltering heat. We couldn’t stay long the next morning because it was getting so hot that we couldn’t think! We packed up as quick as we could without passing out and got back on our bikes, onto the next place which we couldn’t wait to reach!
From Kyrgyzstan to Lake Kaindy
Following the Caryn Canyon, we reached Lake Kaindy. Located in the south of Kazakhstan, not too far from the canyon. It’s a 400 meters long lake sitting within Kolsai Lakes National Park, at 2,000 meters above sea level. Many adventure riders go between these two places in Kazakhstan, they are both considered natural landmarks and must-dos.
It took us around two hours to reach the Lake from the canyon; we went by road to reach the start of the trail to get the Lake. You never know what you’re going to get with the Kazak roads, one minute they can be in perfect condition and the next the “motorway” has become a huge gravel track and we are on our toes trying to dodge the Lorries navigating the potholes. At first, we were really shocked by how quickly the surface changed on these main roads, but after a few days we got into the swing of it and actually found it quite fun. One minute you’re on a boring motorway and the next you’re in full rally mode!
After the road section, we arrived at the start of the Lake trail, it was great fun. There were large mountain climbs, river crossings and massive boulders. It reminded me of riding in the Yorkshire Dales, just with nice weather! The track was about 2 hours long and we arrived at a lovely little camp spot in front of the Lake, we set up, cooked our noodles and watched some films before passing out.
The next morning we set off to Almaty Kazakhstan’s largest metropolis. The city is located in the mountainous area of southern Kazakhstan, about 5 hours away from the Lake. Again, it was boiling hot in the tent when we woke up, so we packed up and got moving as soon as possible. In weather as hot as that, we just need to get on our bikes for the air flow!
We got to Almaty about 6 hours later after our petrol and lunch stop and were taken back by the traffic. We were used to riding on tracks with no one around for miles, so riding into the city was a shock to the system. Almaty is a crazy busy place, people in the city have a different way of driving, which is very fast and everything is allowed. Undertaking at high speeds is very usual and no real lane order.
We met a rider from Almaty just before entering the city and he said “good luck, you’ll need it” so Dave and I already had an idea of what was coming for us! We have ridden through so many cities now, and everyone is completely different. The styles of driving change, as do the rules of the roads so we have become quite good at watching what others do and trying to blend in. Although riding in busy cities isn’t our favourite thing to do, it’s necessary to see the things we’re interested in.
We loved Almaty straight away (well, after parking!).
It’s a very green place, trees everywhere and huge walking areas. Great shops and little cafes all around. It was the perfect mini-break, it gave us time to relax but also gather things we needed for both us and the bikes. Parts were easy to find, we also got some new tyres from KTM Almaty who were really welcoming and helpful. We had about 5 days in Almaty, which is longer than we usually stay at places but we were both pretty tired, as we’d been on the move every other day so it was good to take this time to get ourselves back together.
Then that time came again, bike pack up! We left Almaty early in the morning to avoid most of the traffic and got out of the city easily. This day, we decided we were going to ride as long as we possibly could to get up to North Kazakhstan, there wasn’t anything we were partially interested in seeing in the middle area so wanted to make up time. We managed 800km that day, and the next we did 600 more which meant we had reached somewhere we have wanted to see for a while, Kurchatov.
Kurchatov is in northeast, the town was once the centre of operations for the adjoining Semipalatinsk Test Site. Due to the nuclear testing and the decommissioning of the test site. Kurchatov’s population has fallen from over 20,000 to around 8,000.
This town is extremely close to The Polygon, which was the primary nuclear test site of the Soviet Union. These nuclear tests were done disregarding the health effects on the residents. Most people have now moved anyway from this area. However, considering its terrible past the little town of Kurchatov is still bustling. When first entering the town we saw buildings completely destroyed, signs of Soviet times everywhere, even clasped bunkers. Then we noticed that people were living in some of these derelict buildings. Actually, there were a few quiet little shops and cafes. The town is alive and is full of people getting on with their lives there. This is one of our favourite places from the whole trip so far. It was remarkable to see the strong community that is still there even after such horrible times.
We stayed in Kurchatov two nights and rode out to the Polygon on one of the days. Just looking around the edges and being careful not to get too close. It was then time to leave, another border day! We were about to enter Russia for the second time… Little did we know this was to be the worse border crossing so far.
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