The invisible elephant

As a country girl at heart, after a day pounding city streets, I long for a park.  Our second day in Kazakhstan did not disappoint, as we drove out of the city of Nur-Sultan to the Burabay National Park, where lakes nestle in the foothills of the Kokshetau mountains.

Despite the rather misty weather, I climbed up to a viewpoint with Olyssa, whilst my husband Neil decided discretion was the better part of valour and stayed behind to commune with a woodpecker.  The wooden steps that that had been built to help with the climb had only been built this year, according to Olyssa, but already some were missing.  Initially it was so misty at the top that all I could see was the strange granite rock formations around me, one of them resembling a table and chairs.  Fortunately, the mist cleared enough after a while to be able to see Lake Borovoye and a mountain which Olyssa said was shaped like an elephant.  I wasn’t sure I could see any resemblance to a pachyderm, but at least I could see the mountain.

We then drove a little further to Ablai Khan’s clearing. This has been identified as the site where Ablai Khan, an 18th-century Kazakh leader, set up camp.  Today it is a tourist mecca, with modern stone balbals, little souvenir stalls shaped like miniature half-yurts and opportunities to be photographed in Kazakh dress holding a golden eagle. We walked to the rock formation called Ablai Khan’s throne and dutifully walked around it anticlockwise seven times to make a wish.

Then we walked along by Lake Borovoye. Leaving the sound of Chris Rea blaring out from a moored boat behind us, we walked long the shore, admiring the twisted birch trees. Legend has it that they were female courtiers who were turned into trees when a prince observed them dancing, but the contorted shapes are actually caused by the weight of snow in winter.

The sun came out as we reached a sandy beach area, but on the way back to Nur-Sultan the sky turned black and there was a heavy thunderstorm. Flooded roads were not something I had expected to see in the Kazakh capital.   

We visited Kazakhstan in September 2019

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