I wish Astana looked like this! We were assigned a ranger to hike with us, so we headed out. Our first challenge was needing to cross this stream.
The ranger was helping some people to cross by stepping on a couple of largish rocks. Other people were taking off their socks and shoes and wading across. I surveyed the scene and decided that wading in with my socks and shoes still on was my best bet--I was less likely to fall or cut my foot on something. It wasn't fun getting my shoes and socks wet, but my shoes were mostly mesh and my socks were of some sort of quick-drying material, so it wasn't too bad. Poor Scott took off his socks and shoes only to get his feet muddy and not be able to clean them off easily. On we went.
The climb was pretty steep at times, and I was grateful for all the times I had chosen to walk up to our apartment on the tenth floor. Nonetheless, I was still sore the next day. My main challenge was not falling. There were plenty of opportunities to fall: thick mud, very narrow paths, and loose rocks. With Scott's help, though, I stayed upright and enjoyed the wonderful views.
In addition to the seeing the beautiful mountains, we saw plenty of interesting plant life, including various tulips.
|Wild apple blossoms|
|Close-up of Greig's tulip|
|Hillside of Greig's tulips|
We had been hoping to see ibex, which live in this reserve, but that didn't happen. We saw plenty of evidence of ibex, but it was not of the variety worth photographing, if you catch my drift. One of my friends saw a strange cat-like creature who disappeared before any of the rest of us could get a look. Since we don't know what it was, I choose to believe that my friend saw the extremely rare and elusive snow leopard. On the upside, none of us had a close encounter with a bear, which also live in the reserve!
We ate a picnic lunch here.
Then we continued on to see the waterfall. This was the most challenging part of the hike for me--walking down a steep slope with loose dirt and gravel to slip on. The view was pretty cool, although it may be difficult to see the actual water in these pictures.
The way back down was beautiful, too, although perhaps even harder on my cranky knees.
After our hike, we went to a museum for the nature reserve. It had all sorts of taxidermied critters and an interesting central tree display.
Then we made an ice cream and/or beer run at a small store and went back to where we were staying to relax. Several of us buddied up to a small striped cat, and there were puppies on the premises for the dog people. Some of us took a short walk before dinner.
The funny thing was that there was rain in the forecast, and we were worried that we might not be able to hike or do much of anything. It was actually pretty close to perfect--never too warm or too cold, a pleasant breeze a good part of the time, and no rain. I'm so glad I got to make this beautiful hike, and would happily go back again.