Hitchhiker’s Guide to South-East Kazakhstan

Without really knowing what would expect us during the following 4 weeks, we started our journey in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s most important hub (but not capital, since it has been replaced by Astana). Living in decent Almaty Backpackers Hostel, we spent the first day walking through this nice city along modern apartments, Soviet style monuments and avenues, countless water fountains and lots of very green parks, which together with the unobtrusive people give the city a relaxed atmosphere. Additionally, we were quite impressed by the number of Audis, BMWs and Mercedes and realized how wealthy Almaty and its inhabitants are. And most important, I could finally enjoy dry warm weather after Germany’s horrible summer, whereas the dust admittedly prevented a clear view from Kok-Tobe Hill over the whole town.

As Almaty is bordered by the Tian Shan Mountains, we also went for a hike to nearby Medeu and Shymbulak. Although it surely helps Almaty’s large middle-class enjoying their life to the full, this new ski-resort is not the best place for hiking, because unfortunately many recently built modern lifts and ski runs have destroyed big parts of the nature. In fact we had to ascent 1500m straight on steep dry tracks until we eventually reached an area worth trekking. At least we were rewarded with a beautiful view over 4000m snow-covered peals and glaciers and enjoyed climbing additional 500 meters of altitude over stones and rocks to find the best spots. Having to descend all the way again was extremely exhausting but we will take it as good training for further treks ;-) Continue reading