Still with my head full of the dreamy scenery of “Tiramisu Hills”, I get on the jeep and dance at the rhythm of continuous bumps, holes, uneven terrain. Holding on to the passenger’s handle is in itself an adventure.
We stop in front of Bokty Massif, a rocky giant which stands alone in the middle of nowhere, showing off multicolored layers from its bottom to its peak. Its peculiarity is to change shape drastically depending on the angle from which you look at it.
The mountain has exactly trapezoidal shape but if you go around it to admire it from the south, here it turns into a perfect pyramid. Sergey takes out a 1000 tenge note and proudly shows us that the mountain is depicted there as a symbol of Kazakhstan.
We continue to Bozzhira Canyon, where we will spend the night. I decided to take this trip it is thanks to this place. We are in the southwestern part of the Ustyurt plateau, in an area that hundreds of millions of years ago corresponded to Tethys ocean floor. Today the area is a vast white, chalk-colored plain, excavated by time and the progressive change of water level. In this dreamlike and alien setting, the rugged peaks of Bozzhira mountain range stand out.
“Do any of you suffer from vertigo?” Aset asks seriously. “There is no need to frighten them”, interrupts Sergey. “Trekking is easy, it is not dangerous”. Aset doesn’t want to contradict him, but his face tells another story.
Three travelers raise their hands. One of these hands is attached to my arm. Saying that I suffer from vertigo is an understatement. When facing a precipice, I sweat, tremble, get paralyzed. But I came to the Mangystau to see Bozzhira. I can’t back down. ” Exactly how safe is the path?” , I ask. Sergey smiles and gives me a pat on the shoulder. “Photos, Andrea! Think about the photos you will take!”.
We’re on our way.
Sergey chooses a point from which to climb. There is no path, it is the instinct to guide him. Step by step, we climb higher and higher. We proceed for about an hour or so. Sergey enjoys scaring me, pretending to have slipped down the cliff. I’m pretty proud of myself, I thought it would be a lot worse.
Then I catch a glimpse of Aset and Sergey glancing at each other and approaching me with a pulled smile. In front of us there is a strip of land between two overhangs. My legs freeze. ” It’s not that tight, Andrea. It is not dangerous, I am close to you”. Around me a small group of supporters try to give me courage. ” There are only two more like this”, adds Aset. “Nothing to be scared of, you’ll see”. Two more??? Just the thought of the pictures I’m going to take is saving me from a panic attack. They better be beautiful pictures. Pulitzer Prize-winning.
Finally we get close to the famous two peaks of the canyon. A thin strip of land leads to the first. You can look out, or sit right on the cliff. The view is breathtaking. The sun beats relentlessly, but no one complains. We are completely absorbed in the magnificence of nature.
Although I have stiff legs and a tight stomach, I’m glad to be here. Norman Peale, the father of positive thinking, wrote: “Face the obstacles and do something to overcome them. You’ll find they don’t even have half the strength you thought they had”. I think that’s deeply true.
“In the past, hunters pushed animals up to this gut,” explains Sergey. “They built fences to direct their escape here. So they were trapped. Many threw themselves from the precipice in the extreme attempt to escape. This practice was abandoned only in 1930s”. Effective. Bloody.
It’s time to face the descent, which turns out to be equally complicated.
We spend the afternoon visiting other views of Bozshira and at sunset we climb on a chalk formation that Sergey calls “the Ship”, from where we enjoy an extraordinary panorama.
It’s getting dark now, so we get back in the car and stop at a large clearing, right at the foot of the two peaks we climbed this morning. It is here that we will set up tents and spend the night. Around us only space and silence.
At dinner the usual child menu portion. Sergey still asks us if we have plenty and I dare not say no! Despite the fatigue, we stay up late outside the tents, admiring the peaks of Bozzhira under the starry sky. Sergey and I will pull out the tripods and take some pictures. At midnight, Sergey brings up a couple of bottles of sparkling wine. It’s officially August 8th, my birthday. I don’t know who told him I was celebrating, but his gesture is very welcome.
It’s a magical night. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
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