Expedition to the Ustyurt plateau
This was the first trip taken by the author. The group in addition to the author, while the fourth-year student of geological faculty of Moscow state pedagogical University, was already a well-known traveller in South America, Anatoliy Khizhnyak, mountaineer, conqueror of Dombai Alexander Polyakov, inquisitive student Alex Avilov and erudite biologist Dmitry Usov. We were all ready for the most risky adventures. Decorated with our male friends the girl Tatyana, the employee of the Main Botanical garden of RAS. Learning about the possibility to collect seeds of rare plants on an isolated plateau, brave girl-nerd without hesitation joined our team and passed all three weeks of hard marching.
The shed on the plateau literally
We went in early April when in those places still blowing cold winds and night-time temperatures drop below zero, so we stocked up on warm clothes, which is very useful.
formed once at the bottom of the sea
The plane of the local Kazakh airlines dropped us from Astana to Aktau (Shevchenko), a major city located on the shores of the Caspian sea. Sea when we reached the embankment, it was harsh and inhospitable, the stones broke the heavy,leaden waves, biting wind blew. The environment was not conducive to relaxation and serious mood. Next vehicle in our journey was the bus, which a few hours dropped us to the East, to the urban-type settlement under the name of Uzen. This was the last settlement on the outskirts of the plateau, and it was there that we had to find transport to get to the plateau. Had spent a night in the gym of the local high school, the next morning we went in search of the machine. On the first two depots, when we have stated our intentions, drivers, reverberating laugh. None of the arguments could not convince them that the purported journey seriously. “There are no roads, they said, — and people is not there, why to go there?” The logic was iron, and we, without much hope, went to third base. And there we were unexpectedly lucky. Two drivers, the drivers are a huge carrier of the GAZ-64, agreed to drive us to the Western escarpment, moreover, advised the place where you can come. This place was called Beket-ATA, where, on the assurances of the drivers, the people lived. Had no choice, and in the evening, our group began to master the carrier. Empty the tank it was decided to use as a trunk, however all the participants did not fit into the cab, and we with Alexey Avilova also had to climb into the tank, closer to things. The trip took all night and a good survival school on the outskirts of a severe plateau. The road, as we had been warned, was absent — it was replaced a few dozen of the ruts left in recent years other machines. Gauge these then converged together, we ran in different directions in dozens of ways — complete freedom of choice. If not for the skill of our drivers, several times visited Beket-ATA, would we see the mysterious plateau. Several times we had to overcome steep climbs and descents, toured the stone fields and solitary boulders. Shaking inside the tank mercilessly, and the body cut into different pieces of Luggage, piled in a heap at the bottom and around the edges. I remember once I straightened up and walked over to the hatch, looked outside, in the midst of vastness, lit by the disturbing light of the moon, I saw two grazing camels. An observation I immediately shouted Alex inside tanks in response of iron barrels somehow screams and swear words. The camels here have nothing to do with it — just at the very moment, under the ribs, Alex left the wooden folder for the herbarium from the Arsenal of Tatiana.
Beckett-Atado still visited by pilgrims. Returning to base after three days of forays, we found in some Kazakh families. And these were rare nowadays nomadic Kazakhs, carrying with them the felt of the Yurt and household utensils. In our case, the family arrived on the truck, with them came a few sheep. Having stretched the tent and laid in this place the rites and supplications, Kazakhs invited us to a gala dinner. The rams, appeared sacrificial, were stabbed, and one of them prepared dishes, typical cuisine of the nomadic Kazakhs: the roast meat and stew kaurdak beshbarmak. During the joint drinking an old Kazakh beshbarmak, elder kind was pulled from the boiler rather large mutton bone, and asked us who in the group home. We all pointed at Anatoly. “Swallow it, said Tole elder, holding out a bone, — lift up your head, open your mouth and swallow!” It turned out that in the local tradition is respect for the guests. Follow the ceremony Anatoly did not, yet the risk was not used to choke, but beshbarmak and kaurdak, right from boilers, piping hot — after two weeks of eating canned foods we find most delicious and exquisite dishes in the world.
And following our return to base we found in Beket-ATA guest, this time it was a Kazakh businessman who came from China on a truck with cheap rice vodka poured into a plastic container. His stop in Beket-ATA was forced, his car broke down. Out of desperation Kazakh businessman fell off the wagon, destroying the supplies from his truck. This behavior of Sansabai considered invalid and expelled the hapless merchant outside the fence protecting the Holy place. However, rowdy has violated the prohibitions and constantly loomed in front of us, tempting us with cheap alcohol. Helped him to fix the car and leave the Ustyurt our driver, the driver-carrier arrived, as had been agreed, at us after three weeks.
ancient megalithic structures
By studying the plateau, we literally felt the breath of the sea, which lapped in these places during the beginning and middle of the Cenozoic era. So, performing a stratigraphic description of the section of the cliff (that’s where the use of rope and climbing skills, obtained in Moscow), we went down through a cross section of layers of sedimentary rocks. Limestone has had many inclusions of shells and some layers have been presented the actual limestone. Reminiscent of the sea and a huge stone balls, commonly found on the lower level of relief, as if scattered by giants for some games like Billiards, — iron-manganese nodules. These balls were formed on the bottom of the sea, and then, as more resistant to weathering, was on the surface when the surrounding limestone and dolomite were eroded by water. The balls were subjected to destruction, resembled the partially eaten the apples. Flat desert terrain with stone balls and chink on the horizon thoughts away from Earth, it seemed to us that by some incredible coincidence, we explore a different, unknown planet. I remember one evening, when Anatoly went to investigate in the depths of the chalk canyon (we were hoping to meet at the end of the canyon Parking of primitive people). The campaign dragged on, the canyon narrowed, the chalky white cliffs came closer and closer. Along the way we saw several skeletons of animals, and in the end we saw the mouth of a cave. The entrance to it was located very high pitches at us with itself was not, and we decided to go back to the guys. And then, up on the edge of chalk cliffs, we saw the sunset — it colored wavy white rock in an awesome purple color, I still think that this picture would be the envy of many of the famous national parks of the world! Incidentally, in these deposits Sasha Polyakov the next day found himself under the feet of a fossilized tooth of an ancient shark — again touch the sea.
With regard to economic activities and human settlements at the present time, the plateau is almost uninhabited. Among the reasons should indicate the absence of water (in Beket-ATA, for example, it imports every three or four months the same carrier), the lack of roads and infrastructure, as well as the severity of environmental conditions — cold winters and high summer temperatures. The only economic activity is livestock production — in the spring and in the autumn of the nomadic Kazakhs bring here the flocks of sheep. About how intense this activity is hard to say, for three weeks of trekking on the plateau West of the escarpment, we met just two empty shed, — poleznosti-semidugouts, covered with roofing felt and insulated from the inside tow.