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Sibyl Kempson and Jody McAuliffe (США)

Тур по Сырдарье

I engaged NOMADIC Travel Kazakhstan for a research trip in the South along the Syr Darya river. I was looking into the life of Queen Tomyris and the death of King Cyrus for a libretto I was writing. I came with a Russian-speaking colleague and we had a really memorable experience, a true adventure. Seeing the landscape where the events of the story actually took place gave me great inspiration for the writing I needed to do. Its vastness of land and sky imprinted itself in my consciousness and my thoughts expanded to match the steppe. The guides and drivers made sure that we were comfortable even in the sometimes-rough-hewn circumstances, making discoveries with a sunny, open attitude right alongside us, and by the end of it we felt as if we had been visiting old friends. They were all very knowledgeable about the history of the fascinating country, and also had questions about us and our own political situation and culture.

I found it particularly moving to have the chance to explore a country where those who are indigenous to the land are back in charge of it once again, having never let go of their culture, mythology, and values through some very tough times. We saw communities of people who are still living very close to the land and to the traditions of their ancestors, and who are reverently invested in both past and future. Our itinerary was pretty much set when we got there, but there was still room for adjustments and we had no trouble reaching agreements easily. We learned so much, yet never felt overwhelmed. Natalya was our first guide and was so lovely and accommodating, and Zhenya our cool and collected driver, who picked us up at the Kyzyl-Orda airport and took us out on the steppe and to the unforgettable City of the Soul, Zhankent, and the magical Korkut Ata Memorial where we were embraced and shown around by the researcher of the museum itself, the incredible Aliyev Maguaya. What an honor! He brought us out back across the railroad tracks to the graves of the 40th Girl who crossed the desert for the music of the kobyz, and that of Korkut Ata himself, on the imposing Syr Darya.

Then we had Rustem and Rinat, another tremendous pair, who met us in Turkestan as we tumbled off of the night train and took us to a merciful breakfast before we tackled the Khoja Ahmad Yasawi mausoleum and mosque, the ruined-by-Ghengis-Khan city of Otrar, and the city of grass: Shymkent, all in one action-packed whirlwind of a day, landing us gently in the Aksu-Zhagbaly Village at Zhenya & Lyuda’s welcoming guest house. We had a rest there through a breathtaking rain storm and then were collected the following day by the noble Yerik, Almas, and Bolat, a mighty threesome who took us into the canyon to see the stunning Aksu, a small herd of ibexes, and an overwhelming series of visits by falcon, golden eagle, and steppe eagle. We were just a week or so short of the tulip explosion, so both Rustem and Yerik were sweet enough to send us pictures after we returned home.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into before we set out on this trip, but I was very much taken with the country and am already plotting a plan to return. And when I do, I will most certainly book my trip with NOMADIC TRAVEL once again!

Margret and Gudehus Ochmann (Германия)

Тур в Дарию

We really enjoyed the tour to Darija.

It was great that we were so flexible with the timing and that we could choose where and when to start. It was also very convenient that we were picked up at home. Our guide was already there when we went downstairs and the driver came a few minutes later.

It was also good that we could say where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. Our guide explained about the historical background and that there was a memorial from the war on the way that we could visit. We stopped there and just walk around as long as we wanted.

We also visited the remains of the village and the gravesite from the Bronze Age where we discussed what to do next. Here, it was good that we could say what we would like to do. However, it would have been great if there were some tours we could choose from or different places we could go to with information how long it would take to walk there.

Another suggestion would be to go to a café around lunch or to plan such a stop after the tour. It would be good to relax and to use the opportunity to talk to the guide and get some information about Kazakhstan and Karaganda.

All in all, it was a good tour and we really enjoyed the day. Nomadic Travel Kazakhstan did a great job!

Eric Luisito (Франция)

Фото-тур по Центральному и Восточному Казахстану

In Autumn 2008 I organized a trip in Kazakhstan and in a region far from the beaten tracks, in places you are not supposed to go (please don’t ask me for details).

I needed an organization with good equipment, people familiar with the difficulties of the country and suited to my project. I have experience in Russia and Mongolia and I knew the choice of my provider will be crucial for the success of the work. So I chose «Nomadic» and it was a good decision. I traveled safely and I am grateful for their assistance and support provided during and after my trip.

Nomadic has answered all my expectations and beyond.

Beate Zietsch and Marion Amode (Германия)

Оазисы казахских степей

Am 6. August werden wir in Karaganda von der temperamentvollen, eloquenten Oksanaam Busbahnhof empfangen. Nach einer Stadtbesichtigung treffen wir auf zwei weitere Mitreisende, Brigitte aus Österreich und Marian aus Astana. Mittagessen in einem hübschen Gartenlokal, dann geht es über zunächst noch manierliche Straßen durch die Steppe. Unser Ziel heißt Schabanbey Bin. Halt machen wir unterwegs an einer Gedenkstätte für Zwangsarbeiter und einem alten Mausoleum, das heute noch Pilger als Aufenthaltsort nutzen. Dann geht es ab in bergige Landschaft, auch die Straße wird holpriger, Schlaglöcher bescheren uns einen Platten, der von den Fahrern aber in Rekordzeit behoben wird —  und das trotz einbrechender Dunkelheit! Nach 22 Uhr kommen wir bei unseren Gastgebern an, werden mit Tee und leckeren Kleinigkeiten bewirtet und bekommen auf bunten Matratzen ein gemütliches Lager bereitet.

Am Samstag, dem 07. 08., genießen wir, vor dem Haus in der gleißenden Sonne sitzend, gemütliche Dorfatmosphäre: Rinder ziehen vorbei, die Henne mit ihren Küken ist geschäftig unterwegs, der Hofhund schläft dekorativ. Ein ausgiebiges Frühstück stärkt uns für unsere Fahrt durch die Steppe zu uralten Felszeichnungen, dann weiter durch Graslandschaft mit weidenden Pferden, weit entfernt sieht man sanfte Hügelketten. Zu Mittag genießen wir die landestypische Spezialität Beschbarmek, eine Art Eintopf mit Nudeln, Pferdefleisch und Gemüse. Man isst mit den Fingern, was uns anfänglich nicht ohne Kleckereien gelingt. Gegen Abend besichtigen wir dann Gräber aus der Bronzezeit. Man fühlt sich durch die im Abendlicht glänzenden Monolithen, die neben den Steinhügeln aufragen, ein wenig an Stonehenge erinnert. Zu Abend serviert uns die überaus freundliche Gastfamilie Plov und aus dem schier unerschöflichen Samowar gibt es Tee.

Der Sonntag eröffnet uns eine neue Welt: Eine Fahrt durch eine wildromantische Berglandschaft mit runden Felsen, blumenübersäten Wiesen, kleinen Bächlein! Wagemutig klettern wir in die Bärenhöhle, die früher ein Zufluchtsort für Frauen war, die sich ein Kind wünschten. Wie das dann funktionierte, wissen wir nicht, bei uns zeigte sich jedenfalls bis heute kein Erfolg. Auf dem Heimweg besucht der Gastgeber mit uns den muslimischen Friedhof seines Dorfes. Wir freuen uns schon auf unser üppiges Mittagsmahl , diesmal Borscht mit Sauerrahm. Nachmittags brechen wir auf in ein waldiges Tal. Eine kleine Wanderung führt uns zu einem malerischen Picknickplatz vor eindrucksvollen Felsterrassen. Hier lässt sich herrlich auf den mitgebrachten Teppichen lagern, strahlende Sonne, ein leichter Wind, absolute Ruhe, die Grashüpfer beobachten, die die übriggebliebenen Gurkenstücke fressen. Zurück in Schabanbey Bin besuchen wir eine ältere Frau, die uns in einer Jurte zeigt, wie man filzt. Wir werden Zeuge, wie sie ruhig und sehr versiert aus einem Strang Wolle mit Hilfe von Wasser und Seife ein hübsches Handy-Täschchen aus Filz herstellt. Brigitte, Marian und Oksana besuchen am Abend die Dorf-Banja und kommen ganz erhitzt, rotwangig und gutgelaunt wieder.

Am Montag, 09.08., heißt es Abschied nehmen von unserer reizenden Gastfamilie. Wir fahren durch eine wunderschöne Steppenlandschaft: grüne Hügel, so weit das Auge reicht, das endlose Band unserer «Straße» vor und hinter uns, nirgends Strommasten oder Gebäude, selten ein anderes Fahrzeug in unserer Nähe. Gegen Mittag erreichen wir Karkaraly, wo wir gleich eine Stadtbesichtigung vornehmen: eine Moschee ganz ungewöhnlich im russischen Kosakenstil, ein etwas skurriler «Platz des Sieges» mit Heldenallee und aufgestelltem Jagdbomber. Nach etlichen Tagen dörflicher Idylle erscheint uns das Hotel, in dem wir nahe bei Karkaraly einquartiert werden, etwas mietskasernenhaft. Es ist Teil einer Ferienanlage mit Seen, Hotelanlagen, einem Wäldchen mit Klettergarten, Spielplätzen und insgesamt touristischem Ambiente. Unser Favorit ist ein pompös ausgestatteter Speisesaal: grandiose Kristalllüster, krachbunte, riesige Wandgemälde, Stühle mit lila-goldenen Hussen. Nach dem recht ordentlichen Essen vergnügen wir uns bei Wein und flotter Discomusik in der Billardbar.

Dienstag, 10.08.: Nach dem Frühstück fahren wir in die Berge bei Karkaraly, wir wollen zum sagenumwobenen Teufels-See wandern. Das Wetter ist wechselhaft, zwischendurch regnet es. Der teilweise schweißtreibende Aufstieg durch einen fast bayerisch anmutenden Bergwald will kein Ende nehmen, der «teuflische» See ist auch nach zwei Stunden noch nicht in Sicht, so dass wir umkehren müssen, ohne ihn erreicht zu haben. Um rechtzeitig zum Essen in unsere Anlage zu kommen, müssen wir flott den Rückweg antreten, was aufgrund des nassen Weges nicht ohne «Ausrutscher» abgeht, die aber alle glimpflich verlaufen. Und wir schaffen es noch, ein Mittagessen zu ergattern, obwohl es schon nach 15 Uhr ist. Den Rest des Tages verbringen wir mit Lesen und Ausruhen.

Der Mittwoch präsentiert sich grau und kühl. Wir spazieren vom Hotel aus zum kleinen Naturkundemuseum, füttern die sehr aufgeweckten Wildschweine, bewundern die mächtigen Yaks und Bisons im weitläufigen Gehege. Am Nachmittag fahren wir in Richtung der Kent-Berge. Es geht durch ein Tal mit üppigen Blumenwiesen, wo wir die Ruinen eines buddhistischen Klosters anschauen. Ein zauberhafter Platz, besonders, wenn man sich mit einem gut funktionierenden Anti-Mücken-Mittel eingerieben hat. Zurück fahren wir an einer Hügelkette entlang durch Bilderbuchsteppe, vorbei an Reitern, die ihre Herden treiben, so stellt man sich Kasachstan vor!

Am Donnerstag, 12.08., nehmen wir alle voneinander Abschied. Am Busbahnhof von Karkaraly trennen sich unsere Wege. Marian, Brigitte und Oksana kehren nach Karaganda zurück, wir beide werden von den Fahrern nach Semej gebracht. Danke, Oksana, für die schönen und ereignisreichen Tage, die gute Organisation, die vielen interessanten Informationen, für gute Stimmung und viel Spaß!!!!

Tom Gale (Великобритания)

Кызыларай — высота и древность

What better way to begin our trip with Nomadic to the hidden away felt making the village of Shabanbai Bi than began with a speedy and spectacular rush across a slice of Kazakhstan’s remote and dramatic steppe? With not a fencepost, stone wall or building to be seen in any direction, only such a journey can offer one an idea of the vastness of the Central Asia grasslands. We were fortunate to witness this expanse against the backdrop of a rare summer thunderstorm, which served only to further add to the majesty of a landscape that already seemed intriguingly alien to our European eyes.

Arriving at the homestay we were treated to sumptuous portions of the local dish beshbarmak, a hearty stew cooked to a centuries-old recipe, but one which could also have been tailor-made for hungry 21st-century travelers. The feast was all washed down, of course, with strong tea from the samovar and lashings of hospitality from the host family.

Shabanbai Bi is a felt-making village and its slow pace of life offers a glimpse of times past. Herds of semi-wild horses playfully roam amongst the scattering of farmsteads and ramshackle homes. A town hall, mausoleum, mosque and the village’s isolation itself all add to the cozy community feel.

Though much of Kazakhstan’s steppe is flat, Shabanbai Bi is set amongst an unusual bluff of arid craggy hills. This makes the village a great base for hikes to nearby lofty viewpoints and to the numerous shaded ravines carved by streams that gush down from the peaks. We took a stroll up one such valley and were greeted by a group of curious locals who invited us into their portable yurta (tent). Amongst the insistent offerings here was kurt, a kind of rock hard fermented cheese who’s pungent taste defied description and is certainly not for the faint-hearted!

With only a fledgling tourist industry in Kazakhstan as yet, we knew it would have been logistically difficult to explore its wilderness independently. But thanks to Nomadic’s efficient organization and charming polylingual staff we had the chance to experience the Kazakh steppe first hand and gain an insight into a culture one hears little about in the West.

Carl Willis (США)

Казахстан — сделано в СССР

Thank you, Nomadic, for a wonderful five-day adventure centered on the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site!

Our group of six Americans has returned home with a new perspective on this place, and a travel experience to remember for the rest of our lives. I’m impressed with your abilities to coordinate such a plan — the van, our amazing driver Oleg, luxurious accommodations, food, government permissions, the whole thing.

Special thanks to our guide, Roman Skvortsov, who was a most enjoyable and knowledgeable companion throughout.

I wish I were still on vacation in Kazakhstan!

Christopher R Scharf (США)

Сайга — фотосафари

I was stunned by the beauty of a country that is under traveled and mysterious to most of the world.

In just one short week with an excellent guide, Kazakhstan offered some of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve ever had. The wildlife was fascinating and the scenery breathtaking.

For those who appreciate a journey off the beaten track to hidden touristic gems, Kazakhstan is definitely worth the time and effort.

Wander Rooijackers (Нидерланды)

Кызыларай — высота и древность

The Kyzylarai tour is really great if you want to experience the true magnificent desolateness of Kazakhstan. After arriving in Karaganda I arranged the trip at the office of Nomadic Kazakhstan and I was really surprised by the friendliness and enthusiasm of the young staff.

At day 1 of the tour, the 4×4 minibus picked me up by the hotel. That’s when I met the sweet and charming Oxana, the guide for the tour. She is an international orientated girl, speaks English fluently and has much traveling experience. One of the nicest guides I met during traveling. The driver Kolya is a silent guy but a very skilled driver, and that’s important because not all roads would turn out to be so good and smooth. There were also two very nice french people in the group: Guillaume and Aline. The first day the destination was Shabanbai-bi, a very small village in the so-called «middle of nowhere». The drive took around 5 hours I think and took us through the endlessness of the vast steppe. After arrival, we met the family of the homestay. Never met more hospitable people, and the lunch was nothing less than enormous and delicious. Especially when you think everything is made from scratch, no supermarkets here… after the introduction to the family, lunch and a little rest we went for a walk through the village. There is nothing spectacular to see, and that makes it so interesting to me. Just a simple life, tough but honest. After a great dinner, we spent the evening drinking and talking.

For day 2 there was a hike planned. I figured we would take a nice trail into the mountains, stroll around and admire the surroundings etc. But it was very different I found out soon. The company had this idea to make the usual hike a bit more ‘adventurous’. Well, they sure succeeded. With a GPS we just walked into the mountains, climbed rocks, went up and down hills, I fell down a couple of times. Just right trough the wilderness, no strolling whatsoever. An intense experience, intense heat. The destination was a cave on the shape of them, ah well that doesn’t matter does it. We were in for a nice experience when Kolya wasn’t at the place he should have been. So totally exhausted we walked back, no water, no cars to take us to the village. Guillaume ran to the village in the end and got the car. That evening we enjoyed a nice hot banya, never felt better after.

The 3rd and last day we got up, packed our stuff and head on back to Karaganda after breakfast. Still exhausted from the hike everybody just slept or looked outside the van. Concluding, a great trip with a really nice guide and driver! If you happen to be around Karaganda, do yourself a favor and drop by Nomadic!

Annah Trunik (США)

Кызыларай — высота и древность

Kyzylarai was the second trip I arranged through Nomadic Travel Kazakhstan. These were two of the most worthwhile, enriching days I have experienced in Kazakhstan, giving me the opportunity to take quality, exotic photographs that I plan to exhibit in the Unites States. What impressed me most was experiencing the authentic Kazakh culture, including their amazing cuisine and hospitality. Several of the most touching moments include socializing with the locals, who were very interesting to observe. The hosts at the guesthouses were welcoming and allowed me wander around their homes and village. The people I encountered at the Kokpar sporting event, a traditional competition between two villages, were extremely genuine and friendly, allowing us to take turns riding their horses and taking photos.

The knowledgeable, English-speaking staff went far out of their way to ensure that everyone on our tour was having a great time and that everything went smoothly. The fearless drivers took us through rough and tumble roads, streams and rocky terrain, adding to the sense of adventure. The beautiful landscapes and endless dirt roads through the steppe of Central Kazakhstan creates a scenic memory that will last for years to come.

It was truly an amazing experience that would have been impossible to arrange without the help of Nomadic Travel Kazakhstan. If you are looking to get off the beaten path and experience village life in Kazakhstan, I highly recommend booking this tour. I eagerly await more trip opportunities through Nomadic Travel Kazakhstan.

Vera Scherr (Германия)

Коргалжынский Заповедник и Кызыларай

This was a great tour: exclusive, extravagant, full of off-the-track surprises, lovely people, and grandiose nature, countryside, birds, and flowers! Well, that is really in a nutshell what this tour means now for me.

The first part with wonderful ornithologist Alexej was utter to my liking. Passionate to help preserve nature, he has a most impressive personality. Maybe you can pass on to him my greetings and thanks. So many birds he showed me in a great surrounding. He succeeded not only showing us the birds but also the famous Saigas, including the Baby-Saiga which you can see on a foot. Very nice accommodation with a lovely hosting family, good food in a comfortable and clean house.

Though I was not at all pleased that there was no more ornithologist, the second part was highly rewarding, and I recovered from my anger very quickly. Long drives in the incredible step, including getting stuck in the muddy ground, are unforgettable. Yet, by the help of two horsemen, we got out of it. I saw more birds, and most of them I managed to find in my book if I did not know them. That was good for me!

Really, Nikola is a first class driver, very calm and considerate — only in ShabanbabaiBi, where he really felt absolutely at home with the extremely nice couple, he became quite talkative. Azar as interpreter was excellent. Sometimes he took over the driving and very efficient too!  I am not sure, maybe he got us into the mud?

Food and house also great. Just one little thing that I found difficult, yet not unexpected in the far away countryside, was the special toilet-situation. My arthritis in the knees did not like it. Here, at home, we are ever so civilized, you do not come across those little huts anywhere anymore. However, the luxury of the tour was not 5-Star-Hotels (the one in Ka. was very pleasant), but to be an individual, all on myself, on tour with Nikola as a super driver and Azar as a very interesting interpreter. He is really a great character!

I had very much insisted, not to see much of Karlag, yet Nikola on the waý back to Karaganda took that little turn off the road to the Spassky-Memorial. It was very, very moving, and — as I had been afraid — it moved me emotionally very much. I could not help crying. I know why I did not want to do Gulag-sightseeing. In Karaghandy he showed me the memorial for the II World War. It is grand, but for me not really moving, though I lost my (to me unknown father) in the Second World War.

I want to point out that in the end, I was glad not to have a second participant. I am grateful that you did not put up the reduced prize again. It was a lot of money, I paid. Now I think, it was worth every Tenge of it!

Everything was well organized. I congratulate and thank Nomadic Travel!

Werner Breuer (Германия)

Кызыларай

Now it’s about 3 months ago that I left Kazakhstan and flew home, but still, think a lot about that trip. Not only because I have some of the photos as the background on my computer.

In Shabanbai Bi I got a real authentic and permanent impression of the hard life in a village and the Kazakhstan hospitality. The host were really nice an friendly people. The nature in the  Kyzylarai mountains and step, the experience of loneliness during the horse trip was awesome and terrific.

On the other hand, the places like the grave of Alikhan Bukeykhanov over the ruins of the mausoleums of the period of the Kazakh-Jungar wars were of minor interest and not worth visiting, regarding the long tour in the car to that places. Perhaps you could focus more on nature and nomadic tradition. (Maybe something with yurts?)

I have to thank Kolya the driver who did his job very carefully and Oxana the guide, with whom I had interesting talks about life in Kazakhstan.

Maurits Ter Kuile (Нидерланды)

Велосипедный тур в Дарию

This biking trip on the steppes near Karaganda is not for the faint-hearted! We spent three days on the steppes for a biking trip. Unfortunately, our trailing bus was not able to cope with the terrain and after pushing it out of the mud several times, on the first day, it got so stuck on the second day that we could not continue our trip. Mosquitoes were abundant and the chosen campsite rather soggy.  

However, if you’re not afraid of a little hardship, you will be rewarded with beautiful sights of a landscape very few people get to see, as well as the warm companionship of the wonderful people at Nomadic travel. 

 

Gerrit Meerman and Sonja de Lange (Нидерланды)

Бронзовое кольцо Сарыарки

We made a 4-week trip to different parts of Kazakhstan This was our second time in this country, we visited the southeast of Almaty in 2001. This time we were interested in the Soviet history in central Kazakhstan, the landscapes of the east, Baikonur and the Aral sea. (Too much to tell everything). We started in Astana with our young and beautiful guide Oxana. She spoke very well Englisch and knew a lot of everything. With Oxana and our good driver Kolya we went to Shabanbai-bi, a little village in the countryside. Sleeping on the ground and the toilet outside between cows, it was a very nice experience. Climbing the mountain Aksoran peak was not a good experience. We didn’t have the right local guide there. He didn’t know where to go and we had to struggle through the bushes for a long time. After about 10 hours and out of drinking water, we arrived at our car. The Banja afterwards was like heaven!

Visiting the Semipalatinsk, we had Sasha as driver and Roman as Englisch speaking guide. Both of them very nice people, trying to do everything for us. The Semipalatinsk ( or Polygon) is not really a beautiful place but very interesting because of the past. The Soviets did many tests with nuclear bombs and there still is radiation in the whole area. We had to enter the place with mouth masks, special shoes, and a Geiger teller. Very spooky!!! Also being on the aerodrome of Chagan was quite an experience for us. Absolutely not beautiful, but knowing that from here the secret long distance flights were leaving for so many years, was for me as a photographer a must to be.

Visiting the Black Irtysh River was not really pleasant because of the many, many, many mosquitos! Don’t do that in the summertime. The Zaisanlake and cape Chikelmes was a very good and quiet place to stay with good fish. Our driver/guide Andrey didn’t speak Englisch ( just a few words) but with his very good car ( Mitsubishi Pajero) he drove us to every place we wanted to go.

Visiting Baikonur was like a boys dream. Being on the launch place of Yuri Gagarin, sitting in the cockpit of the Buran and visiting the assembly halls of the rockets, that’s a different experience. Not many people do visit this place. Our guide Elena wasn’t good at all. Always too late and not speaking English very well, she couldn’t translate our questions and give the right answers.
At the Aral sea, it wasn’t quite what we expected. Only a few ( three) shipwrecks were left ( just parts of it) and next year maybe they will be all gone. Also, the dam is not really special. Is it worth the long drive? We liked the harbor in Aralsk the most. Traveling by train to and from Aralsk was also a nice experience. Sleeping in one cabin with local people gives plenty possibilities to speak with them.

Resuming we will say that this trip was very interesting. We visited a lot of different places and we would like to go again to Kazakhstan to visit the west.
It is not a country for a beginning tourist. You must be experienced to handle all the different impressions. Making long drives by car and train, and often almost no luxury. But all the people were very nice and we were feeling safe everywhere.