We arrived at Lake Alakol late on Saturday evening. The following morning, as the bad weather set in, with constant rain and cloud, we headed for the beach.
Alakol was an important place for Thomas and Lucy. They arrived there after spending around three months exploring the valleys of the seven rivers of the Semirechye region in the summer of 1849. It was the last point at which they would have been able to see the Djungar Alatau mountains before they made their way north towards Barnaul in the Altai region. The German nineteenth century geologist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt had always believed that an island in the middle of the 1,020 square-mile lake, Ul’kun-Aral-Tyube, suggested the lake’s origins had been volcanic. Thomas was able to show that this was not the case.
With little prospect of the weather lifting, the decision was taken to return south to Taldykorgan that evening. The Atkinson descendants had now seen most of the range visited by Thomas and Lucy, and although they had not been able to get high into the mountains, they had at least got a flavour of the terrain and the beauty of this remarkable area.