The 2019 Zhetysu Expedition

In just over a month I will be setting out on horseback through Eastern Kazakhstan on the second of three journeys tracing the route taken by Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in the spring of 1849 as they headed from the small Cossack outpost of Kapal back north to the southern Siberian city of Barnaul.

The 2019 Zhetysu Expedition, organised in collaboration with the Kazakh Geographic Society, will follow a route that starts at Lake Zhassyl Kol, close to the small town of Sarcand and ends up at Lake Ala Kol, about 100 miles away. This year’s expedition is the second in a series of three.

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The route of the 2019 Zhetysu Expedition (Lake Ala Kol at the top of the pic)

The first took place last year, when we organised a horseback expedition through the Djungar Alatau Mountains, following almost exactly the same route taken by the Atkinsons on their return journey north to the Altai Mountains in the summer of 1849. You can read about that expedition here. Atkinson’s intention was to visit the valleys of all the rivers that flow from the Djungar Alatau mountains towards Lake Balkhash. In 2018 we visited the valleys of the AcSou, the Bean, the Sarcand and the Lepsu. We also made a separate visit to the archaeological site of the ancient city of Koilyk. This journey ended at Lake Zhassyl Kol.

This year our party will consist of around 10 people, including guides from the Djungar Alatau National Park. The areas we will be traversing are very remote and seldom visited by anyone. Part of the time we will be travelling along river valleys, before ascending the mountains and riding along the ridges. Our endpoint is on the shores of Lake Ala Kol. It promises to be a very exciting trip.

Next year, if all goes to plan, we will ride the third part of this amazing journey, travelling through the Tarbagatai Mountains north of Lake Ala Kol to the former Cossack town of Ayaguz. What this space for further details.

2 thoughts on “The 2019 Zhetysu Expedition

  1. Nick, Looks like a marvelous adventure! Just finished reading Lucy Atkinson’s book as well as your South to the Great Steppe book. Wish I was going with you! I’ve been to Kazakhstan many times, but never that area–and never on horseback!
    All the best to you, and looking forward to reading about this year’s expedition!

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    1. Thanks Timothy,
      This is a particularly interesting route, starting in the apple forests at the foot of the Djungar Alatau and riding to the shores of Ala Kol. Once it would have been full of nomads during the summer months, but there are very few remaining – although I believe that there is still a movement of cattle and horses from the south coast of Lake Balkhash up into these areas. That will be one of the things I will be looking at.
      Nick

      Like

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