Smells of cooking shashlik and dill filled the air as we strolled through the street market of a Uighur village.
Tomatoes and peppers were for sale by the sack load. At the edge of the village was a Soviet-era war memorial. Rather sadly the eternal flame was no longer burning. Our guide Sveta told us that it had only worked for the opening ceremony.
This was just a brief stop on the way to our main destination of the day: the Charyn Canyon. Described by tour operators as Kazakhstan’s answer to the Grand Canyon, at 80km long and up to 300m deep it is rather smaller than its American cousin. After entering the national park, we stopped at the rim to admire the view, before descending the steps into the ‘Valley of Castles.’ The sandstone rocks above formed interesting sculptural shapes to test the imagination. Is that a face? Or a dog? Bushes covered in pink flowers gave off a honeyed scent as we walked. In September it was a pleasant walk – it must be bakingly hot in summer Further along the rocks turned to grey granite.
Eventually, we reached the Charyn river. Here there was also a small restaurant with eco lodges (huts or yurts) where we stopped for lunch (plov, of the Uzbek variety.) The area around was planted with marigolds, which were very popular with hummingbird hawk moths.
The path which had seemed fairly level in the morning, unaccountably became uphill after lunch.
We visited Kazakhstan in September 2019