Day 180 - Burabay National Park to Petropavlovsk - Thur 22 Aug
Woke to overcast and strong winds. GirlRob had another swollen shut eye from mosquito bite on eyelid, left eye this time. Webasto stove not working to make a cuppa, BoyRob braved the mozzies outdoors. Headed back towards National Park, found a metal barrier bar in position across road we need to get out, but our policeman had been kind, we could lift it along and were not locked in! Stopped beside dam and washed much of the mud from yesterday’s boggy field. Light rain started. Drove back to NP to explore, found barrier splintered since yesterday, guess someone didn't want to stop and pay! The dense pine woods, boulders, rock formations and scattered lakes were quite a contrast to the surrounding flat steppe. Many people had stopped in woods picking mushrooms. We pulled up in the Glade of Abylai Khan “great leader, clever diplomat and wise politician”, to look in museum (a shop really), the eagle monument, and to look up at rocks in shape of ship. We declined to have our photo taken with the wolf.
Pancake rocks were impressive, but some spoiled by graffiti. Stopped at lake to look at Okzhetpes (a striking 380m-tall rock pile) and Zhumbaktas (Sphinx-like rock that pokes out of the water in front of it). Legend says that while Abylai Khan’s army was fighting the Zhungars, a beautiful princess was captured, brought to Burabay, and decreed she marry a Kazakh. The princess agreed, saying whoever could shoot an arrow to the top of Okzhetpes could have her hand. All her potential suitors failed the first time (hence Okzhetpes means ‘Unreachable-by-Arrows’). But on a second attempt her true love hit the target. However his rivals were so angry they killed him. The distraught princess flung herself into the lake, thus creating Zhumbaktas (‘Mysterious Stone’). Sad story, and still raining…
Drove into town to small zoo housing Przewalski’s horses and a pair of huge maral deer/ Asiatic elk, but ‘twas very sad, small enclosures, no running spaces or streams, bears and wolves in pitifully small concrete cells with heavy bars. Cruel. The museum was airy but seemed intent on having a stuffed specimen of as many animals and birds as possible (although we did find a pink flamingo!) including pinned insects and rock specimens - all behind highly lit and reflective glass. Quite forbidding really.
Took a quick look through winding enclosed markets with their narrow aisles. Found a leather yurt key ring to add to our stockpile of one Xmas ornament per country. Also a lunch of stuffed peppers, and rock bread (my name not theirs). Exited NP a final time, to find a tractor ripping up the tracks we had followed to our campsite last night, and those down to dam where we’d washed vehicle. Barrier was firmly locked in place - definitely a no go zone now!
We have decided to cross border tomorrow to avoid weekend issues eg gate closure. Good highway for next two hours – no matter the bumpy muddy detours for next 75km – it was still a relief to get back on bitumen. Marvelled at banners, pennants and bauble strings hanging on front windscreens of trucks – how on earth do they see/ concentrate?? A pretty sunset north of Petropavlovsk ended a long day….