Monday, 27 September 2010

The Ying and the Yang

I have just been to yet another glorious place in the extraordinary country that is Kazakhstan. This place is absolutely amazing in so many ways: one day you may find yourself exploring the stunning country, gazing upon, or hiking through, huge, panoramic unspoilt vistas of untold beauty; another day you will face rotten corruption and attitudes that can make you want to explode with frustration. This weekend's trip to Altyn Emel National Park was a pretty good example of both of these. 

This is a photo of the main attraction that we visited during our weekend: The White Mountains, piles of gypsum and other rocks (note to self, must buy encyclopedia of geology so can stop referring to mountains as lumpy or pointy, and small rocks by their colour alone!). You are hard-pressed to find a more geologically-dramatic landscape. To add to the drama, the mountains are approached by a track across 50 kilometres of a desert plain, ringed by slightly less spectacular hills, until you start to drive straight towards this huge range of noticeably white mounds of rock. But they are not just white! There are also very red rocks, and very black ones too (stop me if I am sounding too technical here ha ha ha).

This picture below was a fairly typical  back drop to the weekend.

I am sure you will agree that the natural wonders were pretty spectacular. However, with the Ying comes the Yang. To get to this spot takes some considerable effort and time, and being natural phenomena ourselves, the call of nature is also a factor. And if Ying here is the great scenery, then the Yangy bit of this trip relates to the tourist facilities. We are all used to them, but for faint-hearted Westerners straight off the plane or train, they might be a bit too much to handle!

This is the outside loo at the first attraction we went to see, a large barchan sand dune in another area of the park, of which I will post photos in another post. It doesn't look much, but in fact, it is a lot better than many of the loos I have visited in Central Asia. Crucially, it is well-aerated (this is VERY important), there were no errant-flight, dried poos in sight, and the hole in which to do your business is not so terrifyingly large that you fear for your life if you put a foot wrong (as you can see from the second photo here).

But disappointingly, the park rangers had forgotten to replace the loo roll on the day we were there! Goodness me, how sloppy! ha ha ha

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