Corner of Kazakhstan
The first day in Kazakhstan brought rain, cloud and mist and to head to the Kazakh ‘Grand Canyon’ in these conditions would have been a waste, so instead we took a ride to Almaty and sat out the low pressure front there for a few days. Almaty is a functional city and has hundreds of bars, cafes and restaurants. It is by far the most developed and cleanest of all the Stan cities so far and has a mix of Kazakhs and Russians along with a few expats mainly working in oil and gas. To the south is the Ile Alatau National Park where there is some limited hiking and skiing in winter.
We left Almaty and headed on some long flat roads back to the east of the country and descended down to Charyn Canyon. It is indeed just like a smaller version of the Grand Canyon but has far less tourists and a much less developed infrastructure. We camped at the bottom with some locals from Almaty and awoke to the glowing canyon walls in the morning sun.
After some porridge for breakfast, we climbed back up out of the canyon and headed north on a gravel road through the desert landscape. It was fairly empty other than some desert squirrels which would whistle in warning to each other on our approach and then scuttle off into their holes.
The rest of the day brought a mix of scenic nature north along the canyon and then a wicked headwind to test our mettel before dusk.