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THE TIME OF JOLLY MISSIONS,
OR COMBINING BUSINESS AND PLEASURE


KARKARALINSK ECOTOUR

(Karkaraly mountains)

Karkaralinsk seems to be as usual and routine for a resident of Karaganda as Kapshagai for an Almaty dweller or Borovoye for an Astana citizen. Indeed, it is difficult to find a person here who has never been in the Karkaraly Mountains . Surely, such an enormous popularity of the place and a great number of ecologically ignorant tourists could not but have influenced its cleanness. That is why various ecological moves are held there during the last years. Thanks to participating in one of the moves I came to the Karkaraly Mountains for another time.

At the entrance to the national park I got the next blow to my conviction in the fact that the tourism is somehow being developed in the country: at the forestry cordon the group of ecologists who were going to clean the forest were demanded to pay for passage, and no assurances and reasons could help us. The forest-guards stood their ground: no money no passage. Thus, those who potentially dirty the forest were given equal rights and duties with those who only clean it. At these moments the idea that only mass shooting can save the motherland most often comes to mind.

Pashennoye Lake
Pashennoye Lake

The dirtying-leaders in the Karkaraly Mountains are, as perhaps in any other place, plastic bottles and glass vodka-vessels. Alcohol and soft drinks are everything overwhelming majority of the tourists need so that their pastime had full authority to be called rest. Only how people in such a condition are capable of climbing or descending rather steep slopes remains a mystery. They definitely tell the truth, had he been sober, he should have certainly killed himself.

After cleaning the forest of the traces of tourists presence we decided to diversify our trip by having a rest. Everyone, of course, relaxed in his own way. Somebody wanted just to rest in the cottage, others spent their time fishing, and the most numerous company set off for the hike to Devils Lake Shaitankol.

Shaitankol
Lakeside of Shaitankol

Probably, no other place in the Karkaraly Mountains can rival in popularity with Devils Lake, which has actually become their visiting card. I cannot say that it is distinguishable for peculiar beauty. The clue to the secret of its popularity lies, most likely, in the legends ascribed to the lake, in a mystical aura surrounding the lake and its environs. Everyone recalls at once the legend about Sulushash and Altai who perished in these lands while hiding from the girls evil father. But this is only one of the numerous stories connected with the lake. What is interesting is that animals feel especially acutely something unusual in the entourage. I remember how Norda began whimpering and did not even want to plunge into its dark waters. The tourists, who (I should note) very rarely stop for a night here, usually relate afterwards the frightful stories about what happens there in the dark part of the day. The notoriety of the lake was the reason why it was deliberately consecrated in the early 20th century. The cross was placed on the lakeside, and a table was installed into one of the slopes to testify the consecration. However, the cross and the table soon disappeared. Where they are now is a mystery. The depth of the lake is also a mystery. Many people consider that Shaitankol formed in the crater of an extinct volcano and is therefore tremendously deep.

The most popular path to Devils Lake begins at Shakhter Rest Home, which is the most popular (and therefore the most expensive) place to have a rest in the Karkaraly Mountains. The path is well marked with red arrows, tissue rags and other distinctive signs. However, they say that it easy to lose ones way here, explaining that by otherworldly forces which would lead travelers astray. I would not claim anything, but our group got to the place successfully with no problems.

I engaged myself in examining the rocks surrounding the lake and faced a rectangular hollow in the stone. As I was told later, it was there that the table was installed, which mysteriously disappeared together with the cross.

Bezymyanniy Peak
At the top of
Bezymyanniy Peak

After Devils Lake our way stretched higher, to the peak bearing plenty of names. Someone calls this mountain Medved (Bear), others name it Bugyly, but most often it is simply referred to as Bezymyanniy Peak (Nameless Peak). The last dozens of meters of rather a steep ascend we literally made on all fours. But at the end of our path we were rewarded for all our efforts. Small lake-pools with the comfortable grounds near them situated near the very peak are the reason for creative (and not indeed very creative) folk to stop there from time to time for long terms. It seemed that one could actually live there, like in a fortress with no fear that somebody will come to steal something or attack.

Right at the peak we found a geodetic control point, on which we laid our hands and took a photograph of the whole company. They say that last century a Cossack viewing tower was located there (and its wooden remnants are alleged to lie at the bottom of the upper lake). It is obviously not for nothing, because the view which opens hence gives almost complete representation of the whole mountain oasis. If I decided to make a film about the Karkaraly Mountains I would end it in the sunset by the panoramic shooting from the Bezymyanniy Peak.

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