After an early breakfast of fried eggs, bread, Baursak, jam, Hvorost (fried dough squares covered in honey and poppy seeds – very similar to the typical Kazakh sweet Chak Chak), and tea of course, we set off in the car to the first Kolsai Lake – altitude 1,818m.
A half hour up a bad road saw us overlooking a gorgeous scene of turquoise water nestled in between pine-covered hills. Unfortunately, it was very overcast again, so the pictures don’t really do it justice.
From there we started the hike up to the second Kolsai Lake. Trust me – the map at the entrance is not to scale!
Of course, I should have looked it up before we left Almaty, but it ended up being a 9km hike one way. It wasn’t particularly strenuous for the first couple of hours and there were some beautiful views of course.
But then we hit the snow. This made it infinitely more challenging – partially just in trying to keep footing and partially because it ended up obscuring the path at a really critical point.
Yes, we “took a detour” which ended us up in thigh-deep snow with absolutely no idea where the path had disappeared to (the National Parks service really needs to put some decent signage up. The sparsely positioned blue arrows weren’t quite enough!)
In the end, after bush-bashing up the river for a bit trying to regain the path, and several shoes-full of snow later, we decided that we had to turn around. Fortunately, it was only about 2 minutes into our retreat that we stumbled upon the trail again – so we resumed our push through the snow and mud for the second lake.
The last hour up to the second lake is steep and, given this was Emil’s first time to the second lake, we had no idea how much further we had to go. In fact, we had no idea if this really was the path to the lake, or a path used by illegal immigrants coming over the border from Kyrgzstan… But eventually it flattened out into a saddle, and then we’d finally made it.
And it was totally worth it!
The second lake is at 2,252m, and was still mostly frozen. And apart from a couple of large ducks/geese, we were the only ones there.
Absolute tranquility surrounded by conifer-covered mountains – perfect place for a well-deserved lunch.
We hung out up there for about half an hour admiring the view, before an increase in wind heralded a turn in the weather, at which point we decided to beat a hasty retreat. We did not want to get lost in cloud coming back down!
Eventually made it back down through the snow without major incident – loving the Salomon hiking boots I bought back in Australia – great grip on some dodgy surfaces! And enjoyed the stroll back once we’d gotten past the snow.
Came across these blokes fishing back at the first Kolsai Lake, which again was just gorgeous in its tranquility.
Then it was back in the van for the slow trip back to Saty village. Dinner was Lagman, an Uighur national dish adopted by the Kazakhs. Noodles, vegetables and a little meat in a broth … with dill of course!
Although I was far more interested in visiting Lake Kaindy, this turned out to be a really awesome hike with some great views, even if a bit hairy at times due to the snow! Really recommend it!