Kazakhstan – Canyons
Castles in the Desert
My final adventure in this amazing country was a day out to the Sharyn Canyon and its “Valley of Castles”.
It’s not a large one by geological standards but it has gorgeous sandstone formations from a river that has long since changed course (but not far enough to stop us jumping into it).
Our guide, an ancient and leathery Russian who knew all things canyon took us along the “scenic” route reserved for tourists and those still in huggies – climbing up the edge of a ravine and walking along the top of the mystical shapes carved by the elements above the rather sharp-looking riverbed.
He waited until we’d taken our pictures on an especially jaunty outcropping before recounting all of the people who’d died by slipping on the steep, silty slopes where we were doing our best just to stand up and how they had tumbled to their end in the unreachable gullies below. Some of whom he’d witnessed himself. That kept the tension high for the 2 hour hike.
The guide had a walking stick and a tendency to look like he would succumb to the weight of his wrinkles any minute but my fears of having to carry him down the cliffs again were unfounded. He was soon waiting for us to catch up with him, quoting various tit-bits of canyon based trivia with a cheery patter to encourage his panting and coughing audience as they trudged through the unforgiving sun and dust.
“Oh!” he exclaimed cheerfully as we crawled up the vegetation side of a slope rather than the impassible sand-ending-in-death slope, “Watch out for scorpions if you go that way!” Thank you, but no.
It was pretty satisfying to have reached the highest point and it was better jumping in an ice-cold river at the bottom!