Ustiurt’s national park

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Usturt is a standart for the  flatness and monotony. And a lifeless. This part of the caravan road to Khorezm, which was used for centuries to get faster from Volga to Central Asia, was considered the most difficult and dangerous. An uninhabited and waterless plateau, stretching from Mangishlak to Amudarya and Aral Sea, had no slightest landmarks and led travelers by the familiar signs – the bones of their predecessors.

This means that when someone says he or she was on "Ustiurt", it requires verification. There is nothing to do there. A different thing is the cliff Ustiurt. It is a huge cliff, which confines the plateau from the Mangishlak side. A vertical ledge with 200 meters in height (or depth, depends, where to look from) and several hundred kilometers in length; it is broken by gorges and corroded by "natural agents", flanked with miraculous "towers" and "bastions" - it is a real sight!

Ustyurt national park was organized in the most remote area of the current Mangistau region in 1984. One of its tasks was acclimatization of the cheetah, which had disappeared from this part of its former distribution. Cheetahs did not appear there, but the national park remained. Today, it is the most neglected and careless area of all national parks in the Republic, which I have seen. But the most original. It guards the desert.

...700-kilometer march from Aktau was in the cloud of scorching dust, through the mazes of cracked rocks and mountains ground down by washouts reflecting in unreal waters of molted fata morgans; through devious lens of the melted air over the salt-marshes that opened when a car approached. August in this area is a death sentence for the traveler.

This route is remembered by a fire; a fire under " pajero". A dry grass got under the exhaust pipe and lit up like a match, filling the air-conditioned salon with the acrid smell of smoke. We jumped out of the car and started to put out the fire with everything we had and the remnants of the water supplies. Sun was laughing at its luckless guests– blunderers...

...The "Three Knights" appear in the sultry haze before the end of the desert. Earth pyramids tower over salt cavity Karynzharyk, the bottom of which is occupied by a vast sand ridge Kendirli. At other times, Knights reflect in a salt-march, like a mysterious island inhabited by monsters, who survived the Flood. But not now. Now, the whole landscape is dissolved in the melt quivering vapors rising from the womb of the hell‘s pit.

Another two earth pyramids could be seen near the cliff Ustiurt. Which one is more picturesque? I get out of the car and walk towards them. Although, deep down, I understand the worthlessness of this idea – August is a bad time for such walks in such places.

There is nothing around, not even a bush, only a cracked clay - tokyr. Feet fall into the warm dust up to the ankles. If the Americans wanted to shoot a remake of their landing on the moon, it would be hard to find a better place...

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