This weekend I took part in an organized trip to Charyn Canyon. With the weather starting to cool, this is most likely one of the last outdoor hiking excursions I’ll be doing during my remaining time here. The canyon is located to the far southeast of Almaty, about 200 km away.
The canyon was formed by the very fast flowing Charyn River and is about 80 km in length. The deepest part of the canyon goes down about 900 feet. It is often referred to in the guide books as a miniature Grand Canyon. While it does look somewhat similar from the top, it doesn’t have the jaw-dropping effect that the Grand Canyon tends to create. Regardless, it was a really nice hike and the weather was perfect.
After a while, we reached the bottom of the canyon and stopped for lunch along the river in an area known as the Valley of Castles. This pic below gives you an idea of why it has this name.
After a relaxing lunch, we packed up and headed back out of the canyon. On our way out, we stopped to talk to two Kazakhs with a golden eagle who were doing a demonstration about eagle hunting. Our tour guide stopped to pose for a picture.
The timing of our visit was perfect. As we hiked back out, we kept passing scores of people heading down towards the Valley of Castles from which we had just come. We joked that someone had opened the floodgates. Turns out, when we got back up to the top of the canyon to our parking area, there were NINE tour buses parked there. No wonder we passed so many people!
On our way back, we stopped at a small eagle hunting museum. While interesting, it looked as if it had seen better days. The eagles and hunting dogs looked very malnourished. When this question was posed to the director, she explained that both the eagles and dogs were fed less just prior to hunting season (starting in two weeks) so their hunger and lighter weight would make them faster. I’m not sure how ethical it seemed, but it was certainly not my place to question their long-held traditions or practices.
After finishing our museum visit, we loaded up and headed back into Alamaty. We did stop at a village market to take a break and check out some local produce, but nothing was really picture worthy there. Till the next update…