Day 6 in Kazakhstan – visiting the rivers and mountains of the Djungar Alatau

After the exhilaration of yesterday’s events in Kapal, the 10-strong group of descendants of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson moved on to Sarcand, just outside the Djungar Alatau National Park. The route took them over unmade roads across the Hasford Pass from Arasan to Zhansugarov – a spectacular journey from which they could see the vast extent of the Djungar Alatau chain of mountains. It was exactly the route taken by Thomas and Lucy, along with their six-month-old baby Alatau in the late spring of 1849.

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Looking back from the Hasford Pass towards Arasan and the Djungar Alatau

In Sarcand, officials from the national park led the party into the foothills of the mountains, and after crossing the Great and Little Bascan Rivers, they divided into a horseriding group and another group of non-riders who travelled over the rough tracks in vehicles. Their starting point was a section of the Terekte River – known in Thomas and Lucy’s day as the Terric Sou. A picture of this river, painted by Thomas, now hangs in the dining room at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Source of the Terric Sou, Actou Mountains, Chinese Tartary (2)
Thomas Atkinson’s painting of the source of the Terric Sou (courtesy of RGS)

For those on horseback, a two-hour ride brought them to a cabin high in the apple forests that cover this part of the Djungar Alatau, including the famous wild Sivers apple (Malus siversii), from which all apples are believed to have descended.

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On horseback in the Djungar Alatau (images below by David O’Neill)

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In a cabin amongst the apple forests of the Djungar Alatau

Having returned to their starting point, the Atkinson descendants were taken first to an exhibition of local natural products from the park and then on to a celebratory meal. They then left Sarcand for the four-hour drive to Lake Alakool to the north.

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