First day on the overland truck started with a quick overview of the truck itself, where everything goes and how everything works. Then it was loads of photos with the owners of the hostel and off down the tiny backstreets of Almaty in our humungous beast!
Took forever to get out of Almaty, and then several hours to drive the 120km to the Tamgaly Petroglyphs – Kazakhstan’s roads are shockers! We turned off a very bad paved road where the sign indicated, and headed down a very bad dirt road. Which then deteriorated further into a very bad dirt track…
When we finally found the petroglyphs site – it turned out that we had come in the back way!
Tamgaly is a UNESCO Heritage listed site consisting of around 5000 petroglyphs, many of which depict hunting scenes, animals and people.
While others describe “sun-head” deities with a halo consisting of a circle, and many rays and points. These are unlike anything I’ve seen before (very different to the petroglyphs at La Silla Observatory) and very cool.
There is even one riding a bull!
The petroglyphs date from the Bronze Age (13th/14th Century) through to the 20th Century, with the earliest carvings also being the largest and the most deeply drawn – most likely with stone or metal tools.
And while the petroglyphs were the highlight, there were also a burial ground consisting of stone cysts and boxes with adults and children buried on their left sides with their heads facing west.
Unfortunately, we only had an hour to explore the site – I reckon 2hrs minimum for the main site would have been better. But because it had taken us so long to get there, we had to push on for our bush camp near the Kyrgyzstan border.
We managed to get a couple of kilometres up a different road (recommended to us by the park ranger) when disaster struck, and we became seriously and hopelessly bogged.
As the time for our extraction lengthened, our tour leader set out for the main entrance to the petroglyphs to enlist the assistance of the park ranger. Unfortunately, he’d already packed up for the day and gone home. So we then they tried the locals at a farm we had passed on our way in. Apparently they weren’t exactly enthusiastic about helping, but once they were shown the photos of our predicament, they agreed to drive their tractor and try to help pull us out.
But the big beast was not budging! After about 15 minutes of trying and what seemed like almost succeeding getting us out, they signaled that they had to go, and took their tractor and left us still stuck in the mud. Given none of us speak Kazakh or Russian, it is unclear whether they were going to come back in the morning or not… Hmmmmm…
So we resigned ourselves to camping where we were for the night. Luckily we were ready for a bush camp, so we set up the tents, cooked dinner and retired for the evening just as the rain started.
Welcome to Overlanding!
BTW – this link has more information on the petroglyphs.