Travel to Kazakhstan, Central Asia. In the centre of Eurasia there is a mountain land that is still unexplored and virginal and this is the reason why it attracts experienced travelers. We are making our way to Altai – the land of rivers and lakes full of fish, fir and birch woods, snowy mountains and green valleys. We begin our acquaintance with the national park Katon Karagai and river Berel one of the biggest rivers of Altai. For a long time the old believers of Altai were looking for a mysterious whitewater land until they understood they actually lived in this fertile land that is full of animals and fish. There is a mountain Belukha where the white river starts. In fact the water in the river Berel is milky white. It’s the reason why it’s called the white Berel.
On our way we can see 19th century villages: houses and bathhouses built of logs. Comfortable cottages were built for tourists. Now we are on the lake Yasevoe – an amazingly clean mountain lake full of fish. Belukha seems to rise out of the lake, it is the highest peak of Altai and Siberia - 4506 meters above sea level.We were lucky to see it in all its beauty. Watching the beautiful twin-peaked mountain covered with glaciers you start recalling the legends created by the people who were attracted to these mysterious lands. We are moving ahead along the river Yaseva, a quite wild river with picturesque rapids and waterfalls. Not far from here there is the biggest waterfall in Kazakhstan Kok-Kol, which is 80m high. The wildlife is everywhere around here: a female maral deer is walking freely, ducks are having a swim, squirrels are jumping around, there is also a brown bear, a wolverine, a sable, a roe-deer, a fox, a hare and a wolf. There are a great number of birds including the ones from the Red Book – ospreys and black storks. Altogether there are 263 species of birds. Truly it’s a land of animals, which are quite unafraid. The wind battered fir and cedar forests with an abundance of mushrooms and berries are changing to the hill valleys covered by forests of pines and birch. Now we are in the Tsar or Chilik valley where the oldest grave of the ancient saks was found. It was here where they found the grave of the sak tsar with 358 gold artifacts. Our jeeps are stubbornly moving ahead along the “Austrian” road that was built in 1913 but is still quite good nowadays. This road shortens the distance 10 times between Katon Karagai and the lake Markakol. In 1902 a hydroelectric station was built on the river Turgusun by a French engineering project. It successfully worked for two months until the rapid waters destroyed it. It was restored in soviet times and it produced electricity until 1957. Bearing in mind the unpredictable character of Altai Rivers we are crossing the next one by the suspension bridge with high levels of adrenalin in our blood. But our sufferings were not for nothing. Here it is, the famous Markakol, the biggest mountain lake in Kazakhstan, 38 km long and 25m deep. 50 rivers flow into it and only one flow out. The immigrants founded the picturesque villages on its shores at the beginning of the 19th century. For example there is Estonian village Urunhaika. In the village Orlovka a weather station that was constructed in the tsar’s time still functions. It registered the lowest temperature on the Kazakhstan territory -62 C. The silent and hospitable local people welcome those who like the olden times and the unusual. You can see the way of life that people led in the 19th century. There are few things that have changed in the villages since then. And of course you’ll have a chance to enjoy all the benefits of the lake: - fishing, motorboat rides, fish soup cooked over an open fire. On the way back you can ride to the Zaisan Lake, which was marked on the old maps. You’ll enjoy the sight of multicolor clay mountains and watching the desert animals. Our journey has come to its end, but this mysterious and unexplored land has so many new discoveries to offer!