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Visiting the blue waters of Lake Kapchagay, a vacation spot today in the Ili River valley, once traveled by caravans on the old Silk Road

Blue oasis of Central AsiaKapchagay, KAZAKHSTAN

Looking across the blue waters of Lake Kapchagay in the Republic of Kazakhstan, we see the Alatau range extending from the Tian Shan Mountains. In the clear blue skies of mid-summer its peaks are still graced with white snow banks. This lake is located some 80 km north of the old capital of Almaty. By car it is a trip of about two hours. Here we spend a holiday on the shores of this lake in the center of Central Asia.

A modern day oasis on the old Silk Road route

The old "Silk Road" trade route connecting China and the Mediterranean was actually made up of a number of routes, including the sea routes. One of the land routes began in Dunhuang at the western edge of China and followed the north side of the Tian Shan Mountains along the valley of the Ili River. The old capital of Almaty in today's Republic of Kazakhstan once prospered as a mid-way point on the Silk Road that was an oasis to the traders plying to old caravan route. On this summer morning the mountains we see from our hotel window are snowcapped. It is a quiet morning in Almaty, one of Central Asia's largest cities situated at the foot of the Aratau range of the Tian Shan Mountains that stretches from China through Kirghiz with peaks reaching elevations of 5,000 meters.

It is about 80 km north from the city to our destination, Lake Kapchagay. Even on the four-lane highway it is a trip that takes nearly two hours by car. There is little variety in the scenery we see from the car window along the way. Once you leave the city Almaty with its verdant greenery, we find ourselves in an arid countryside. After a while we come across roadside stands where farmers sell their watermelons and other fruits and others selling beach mats and fishing gear. The scenery remains flat and arid but we realize that we are approaching the water.

When we arrive at Lake Kapchagay and look across it and see an expanse of blue water. The lake is actually a reservoir created by a dam on the Ili River that flows down from China's Uighur region.

Far across the lake's waters rises the Alatau mountain range, snowcapped even in mid-summer
This restaurant makes use of the traditional tent home construction of the nomadic herders of the region

Cool breezes from the mountains

Exploitation of its rich natural resources has spurred the Kazakhstan economy, and from 2007 the government put into effect a five-year program to develop tourism. Among the first results of this program are the resorts now nearing completion on the shores of Lake Kapchagay and the Caspian Sea.

We put our boat and personal watercraft in the water at the Kapchagay Marine Club. More than a marina proper, you could call this a lakeside village of resort cottages and second homes with a restaurant that looks out over the lake, a swimming pool and beach and a simple facility for launching and mooring boats.

Leaving the Kapchagay Marine Club we round a point and come into another bay area filled with the excited voices of families and groups of young people are enjoying PWC riding and banana boating. They are able to rent the boats and PWCs for a day at the resort hotel back in the bay. The scenes you see here are not much different from those of people enjoying the waterside anywhere in the world, with plastic sheets spread on the beach where children play in the water and parents barbequing lunches of shashlik, a famous dish of Central Asia.

On weekends and holidays many people come here to the lake from Almaty. The area that was once an oasis for the caravan traders and nomadic herdsmen of the region is now a vacation spot where people enjoy sailing, boating and PWC riding. The times may be different but the joyful repose people find by the waterside is the same.

This resort on Lake Kapchagay has a boat mooring facility as well
Here in Central Asia today you will see people enjoying leisure boating, personal watercraft riding and sailing
The cool fresh air on the water doubles the pleasure of boating
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