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main / roads / The Time of Jolly Missions, or Combining Business and Pleasure




Ulytau (great mountains from Kazakh) have always been a special place for the Kazakhs. Even the name of these not really high mountains may obviously illustrate this fact. Perhaps, the backgrounds of this love should be sought of in the history of the people which had been in a certain period of time closely connected with Genghis-Khans eldest son Zhoshy-Khan (Juchi-Khan). Having dropped aside any idea of the Kazakh statehood inculcated by the curriculum, one may with great reserve consider Zhoshy the first Kazakh khan, taking into account his unexplainable love to Sary-Arka which was not characteristic of other Mongols.

Molsem cemetery
Moslem cemetery not far from Zhezdy

Besides, the Ulytau mountains, as is accepted at present, are located in the geographic center of Kazakhstan . And, having traveled a lot around the country, we decided at last to get to its center as well. I set off for this trip with Lena .

Zhezkazgan, as any other industrial city, did not delight us at all with its hundred-percent industrial smell, striking the nose once you come off the train. And it is no surprise for since its foundation it represents a huge plant, and absolutely everything here belongs to the metallurgical company Kazakhmys.

What was worse was the news that the bus had left an hour ago and there would not be any regular transport from Zhezkazgan to Ulytau until the evening. Somebody advised us to go to Satpayev by bus, saying that there we should have more chances to leave. But no progress was to be seen in Satpayev as well. Taxi-drivers demanded dearness for their service; besides, we could not find anyone who was going to leave for Ulytau and who could share this onerous burden with us. At the moments like this it occurs to me (whether my anger or my stubbornness is the reason) that we should go ahead. And we did go ahead for the most important thing is to know the direction you are moving in, and this we knew for sure. Variants should appear themselves, on the way to, because the most important is to step foot on the road.

Waiting for the next car

But for this wonderful trip and the stupid circumstances that deprived us of the opportunity to get to the place by public transport, I should have never known that classic (I mean free) hitchhiking is quite possible in Kazakhstan in reality. I should still consider that the driver stopping hopes to make some profit from giving a lift to someone. As it turned out, its not that bad.

The first driver who stopped and whose name we had not known drove us some one or two kilometers; but even this was a great distance considering it was our first hitchhiking at the territory of Kazakhstan . Our next fellow-travelers, Zhuldyz (who was driving) and two of her friends Bakhtiyar and Serikkhan brought us the whole thirty kilometers closer to the Ulytau mountains, driving us to the Zhezdy village.

Our next helper Nurike, literally drove the car using only one hand, his other hand holding the glass of fire-water that he thought was necessary to drink to our meeting. Lena stuck to her seat every time he manoeuvred his KAMAZ through the awful road, nearly flying away from it. Nurike was carrying some construction materials to the building site of the century of that time, a monument symbolizing the center of the country and unity of the peoples of Kazakhstan, which was erected on the hill some distance before the Ulytau village.

Mountain picnic
Mountain picnic

It turned out that we got to the Ulytau village only after five in the evening. Having said Good-bye to Nurike we immediately set off to the main mountain. It is believed that on the top of the mountain which is more often called Ulytau a famous person had been buried, though the scientists as well as folk legends disagree with each other. There are some who consider the mountain to be the last refuge of Tokhtamysh-Khan, first the ally, and then the great Tamburlaines most serious enemy. The others believe that there lie the remains of the Nogai Khan Yedyge, one of Tokhtamyshs opponents in the struggle for the power in steppe. However that may be, nowadays on the top of the mountain raises a huge pile of stones which obviously is the tombstone in a way.


Of course we arrived at Ulytau much later than it had been planned, that is why we almost did not have any time to climb the mountain. Having decided that mountains do not approve of fuss and hastiness and certainly do not like being moved on at a dark time, we found a suitable place to pitch a camp.

On setting on the tent on a small ground from where it was a stones throw to the Ulytau mountain and which opened a gorgeous view of the valley, we met that warm August night, sitting at the bon-fire and drinking the impressions of our intercourse with nature with the red wine out of a big leather flask.

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