Nadia, Ocean, Oliver and I went on a guided hike with the famous Boris yesterday through the Karakiya Gorge to visit the scenic waterfalls. We met Boris and some other hikers near the “hump-backed” bridge outside of Gazalkent. We drove into the foothills of the Ugam range to the nearby village Saylyk. The 100-kilometer long Ugam mountain chain forms the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and has peaks up to 4000 meters. We didn’t go to the top peaks, but climbed almost 600 meters in elevation and did a loop of just over 13 kilometers.
Outside of the village, the road turns into a trail. The dry foothills reminded me of the canyon country of Los Angeles. We parked the cars, made our final preparations and started walking up the trail into the gorge. The weather was perfect, with blue skies, a cool breeze and the late June flowers of wild sage, hollyhock and tansy brought color and scents to the hike.
We eventually got into the rocky gorge and we ran into several groups of picknickers and university students also enjoying the waterfalls. There are a series of waterfalls and we visited four of them. We had to climb up steep rock walls on a few occasions, but that just increased the adventure for Oliver and Ocean. After lunch, we made it out of the gorge and looped back around on the mountainsides overlooking the narrow canyon. We dropped back down to go swimming at the last waterfall. I took the plunge of a rock ledge into the cold, mountain Karakiya stream. It was very refreshing on a warm, dusty hike. My Eddie Bauer hiking chino pants were perfect; protection from thorny bushes but easy to dry while going through the stream. I highly recommend them!
The views of the Ugam mountains are spectacular and bring me much solace and joy. I would like to go back to climb some of the nearby peaks and during the week, it would be a really nice place to camp. My usual complaint about Uzbekistan wilderness areas is too much grazing of livestock, but in a poor country, that is how people make a living. Thanks to Boris and Vladimir for leading the hike. I would also like to thank my wife and Oliver and Ocean for going on the hike. It was their Father’s Day gift to me. Oliver and Ocean profess not to like hiking, but they always seem to have a good time and they are strong walkers. It was a special day for me!