Day trip to Big Almaty Lake

Took part in an organized trip to Big Almaty Lake yesterday with some work colleagues.  The lake sits high atop the mountains in a large national park.  Despite being overcast and a bit rainy, it was great to get up into the mountains and see some of the area surrounding Almaty.

Big Almaty Lake

Big Almaty Lake

The lake serves as a reservoir for the city of Almaty and is comprised of glacial melt from the Big Almaty River (seen in the distance in the above photo).  The lake sits about 7,500 feet above sea level and took about two hours to reach.  The pavement ended about halfway up so the latter half of the trip was a bit slow going.  Here’s our vehicle:

Our chariot!

Our chariot!

Below are some more pictures of the area surrounding the lake.  Further up the road we stopped and took a tour of the GAISH observatory.  It was orginally built by the East Germans in the early 1980’s.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, it fell into disrepair.  The Kazakhstan government is in the slow process of refurbishing.  We had a nice tour of the facility by one of the staff astrophysicists.  The place has a surreal quality about it, and looks like it could be a movie set.

Mountains around Big Almaty Lake

Road up to the GAISH observatory

One of two visual telescopes at the facility

Inside the dome

Brief view of snow-capped peak from GAISH observatory

GAISH facility grounds

GAISH Radio Telescope

After this, we traveled back down the mountain to just outside the park entrance for a bird of prey show at the Sunkar Falcon Center.  It was pretty amazing to see these large birds up close and personal.  It was also thrilling to see the birds swoop down over the crowd with their huge wingspan.  By this time of the day, however, my camera battery died since I had forgotten to charge it.  I was able to snap a few pics though!

Sunkar Falcon Center

Buzzards...big and scary!

Golden Eagle used in traditional Kazakh hunting on the northern steppes

Our funny and informative host with a huge owl

Well, that wraps up the trip!  It was a long day but I felt fortunate to get out and see some of the local countryside.  Work is going to be very busy here so breaks like these are going to be crucial.  I also can’t promise how regularly I’ll update this blog but I’ll do my best.  More to come!

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