Many people in Kazakhstan know about such mountains as Kokshe, or Sinyukha in Russian (it means ‘of blue colour’) and their pearl, Lake Borovoye. But, if you are interested in self-discovery and if you want to get to know Borovoye as it really is, try to visit it in low season, during fall or winter, when you can have a holiday here tête-a-tête with nature.
A couple of lonely woodpeckers.
Fall and winter periods in Kokshe Mountains are notable for their incredible silence. Only wind or woodpeckers is something that ever dares break it. This bird species is the only representative of the feathery fauna, which live on account of its head. Woodpeckers work with their heads, this is what they do. Their drumming in local forests resembles the sound of African tom-toms. But this untroubled calmness may often be broken by a sudden gust of wind. Right away it fills the whole atmosphere with the whistle of pines, hissing of grasses, and measured roar of waves in fall or sharp rustle of blizzard against the ice in winter.
‘Dead season’ in Borovoye is the time ideal for meditation. But it is not a cup of tea that you should concentrate on, but local air. You should breathe Borovoye in. You can find air like here nowhere else in the world. It was not without reason that long since weak, exhausted and consumptive patients came here. And they were cured by the local air only.
In Borovoye in autumn season everything is saturated with the odor of mushrooms. Local mushrooms, full of force and stature, are in keeping with the glory of this place. As a matter of fact, the coolness of autumn disposes to long walks around neighbouring forests. In this season it is a real pleasure to ascend Sinyukha-Kokshe (947 m high), and you are going to always remember picturesque scenery that you will see from its top.
As for winter season, it also has a mass of its advantages. For instance, you can walk straight across the lakes, from one shore to the other. Come up and pat in a chummy manner the granite side of the cliff island called Zhumbaktas, or Sphynx. Or go skiing around outskirts for a day. Or on the contrary, dress warmly, wrap yourself up in the polyethylene cover, sit down near a hole in ice with the spoon bait, and fish out some sleepy and supple Siberian roach.
About the fish, by the way
Long since Borovoye was famous for its air, koumiss, mushrooms, and fish. You’d better carry out your ichthyological studies at the local market, where out of season there are only five sellers, but there are still much more of them than buyers. According to the data given by the local Museum of Nature, local lakes are inhabited by more than dozen of fish species: two species of stickleback, pike, mirror carp, bream, tench, Siberian roach, pikeperch, and European carp.
What came from where
(Explanation 1: not scientific at all)
People wondered about such big concentration of tourist attractions on the tiny spot around Borovoye long ago. A witty Kazakh legend about the way this miraculous phenomenon appeared in the middle of the Steppe appeals to me very much.
Allah while creating the Earth neglected Kazakhs for some reason. Judge for yourselves: He gave mountains, and seas, and forests to others, and only steppes to Kazakhs. And people did know for sure that the Maker has a plenty of earth miracles left in his sack. The reason was that the Lord did not want to part with his innermost secrets at all. Steppe inhabitants were very sad.
But at that moment, as it always happens (in fairy-tales), out of the blue Aldar-Kosse himself appeared astride his lop-eared and wise donkey, Khassan by name. Aldar, a mocker, swindler, and troublemaker, but anyway an OK guy! When Aldar-Kosse found out the reason why people were so depressed, he offered to give them a helping hand. To set it right. And so he suggested that Allah and he should warm up a little, play hide-and-seek, catch-up, and tag.
And, to have something to hide behind, the restless Aldar asked the artless Maker to scatter in the midst of the steppe small mountains to begin with. This way there appeared the blue range of Kokshetau. And when our two characters became frolicsome till their total self-abandonment, Aldar-Kosse did manage to make a little hole in Allah’s sack. And all the earth miracles kept in there (which steppe inhabitants were so sad about) were poured out of it onto this land. Lakes, and cliffs, and rivers, and fish, and wild beasts for forests…
(Explanation 2: pseudoscientific).
The lake Borovoye, which gave the name to the whole of this ‘Steppe Switzerland’, is like a pivot for all the rest of local wonders. Actually, there are not less than fifty more lakes around. Some of them, such as Tschuch’ye (‘full of pikes’), Bolshoye and Maloye Chebach’ye (‘full of Siberian roaches’), Zhukey, Kotyrkol do not yield to Borovoye both as to their size and charm. Until recently all of them were joined together with the help of channels and rivulets and formed a fanciful water body. The environmental balance being upset, water bodies cut off and became separate.
The entire space here in-between lakes is filled with small mountains and pine forests. The incredible beauty of this place is supplemented with the abundance of cliffs and diversity of mosses. Some time ago the granite mass of Kokshetau could well have been an island towering over the huge primeval sea, which would stretch from here up to the today’s Arctic Ocean. Now, it towers in the same pride manner over the endless steppe spaces. And who knows, this bitter salt in waters of many local lakes, could this be a bequest of the dried-up sea?
Monuments of Love
Borovoye is famous for its monuments created by human fantasy in co-authorship with nature. Among the most noticeable monuments of Borovoye the first place undoubtedly takes a peculiar cliff called Zhumbaktas (or Sphynx, as visitors of local health-resorts nicknamed it). It protrudes out of water right in the midst of the picturesque bay at the north-west side of the lake. Frankly speaking, this rock, inscribed al over with autographs, looks more like an archaic submarine of the Paleolithic Age. But this is not the heart of the matter.
And the heart of the matter is in the legend about the beautiful captive Kalmyk girl who asked zhighits, craving for her love, riddles from the top of this cliff. While the majority of them scratched their heads deep in thought, one smart boy solved all of them, and moreover, in order not to let his rivals doubt that he was the best, he drew his arrow and shot down an eagle perching at the top of Okzhetpes (a peak which name means ‘unreachable by an arrow’, I will tell you about it later on). And next, he was good to the Kalmyk girl: he gave her a swift-footed racer in chivalry manner and let her go to her homeland.
But as to the intensity of emotions, there is another story to be a touchstone of love stories. This is a truly Shakespeare’s drama related to another cliff called Nastassy’ina gorka (‘Nastass’ya’s hill’). Omitting all its twists and turns, I will tell you the ending only. The Kazakh batyr (epical hero) Baluan Sholak by name, a victim of dirty machination, threw his Russian darling Nasten’ka off the rock (he had kidnapped her from her father ataman to exchange her for his companions-in-arms, who languished in Tsar’s prisons). And right away he falls off this rock himself, shot down from behind. But this is not the end of the story yet. With the next shot the heartbroken father ataman slew Eugraphus, his mischief-making son. And after that he stumbled and collapsed into the storming abyss of the lake…
Okzhetpes, a boldly beautiful cliff standing nearby Zhumbaktas is an interesting object, too. In fact, why did someone have to reach its peak with an arrow? Out of pure vanity? But no!
The thing is that a prophetic eagle was perching up there (not the one that zhighit shot down while competing for the Kalmyk girl, but another one). And so, this prophetic eagle was sitting there and prophesying the truth around and above. By this it did damage the living of steppe rulers: the truth has always thrown sand in the wheels of rulers. And because the high and mighties always have had very many lickspittles eager to please, arrows flew to the top of Okzhetpes thick and fast!
Approximately the same thing happened to the prophetic camel that was killed by Kassym khan and turned into another pretty cliff nearby. This is a Camel cliff.
Actually, here in Borovoye there are as many cliffs as there are stories. Just because of them those mountains are so significant. And beautiful all the same.
Local places are veiled by aura that infects every visitor with irresistible desire to come back again. Let me assure you, if you wish thus you don’t have to wait for the crowded and noisy summer to arrive. Come to visit Borovoye any season of the year!