Tag Archives: Shamalgan

Kazakhstan: The Samuryk Flies Again

19 Jul

The Samuryk, a phoenix-like bird of Kazakh legend, is taking flight once again – this time in the form of the Samuryk Paragliding club, which meets in the hills above Almaty to evoke the spirit of this mythical bird.

A paraglider takes to the skies at Ush Konyr

Most weekends Almaty’s paragliding fans gather at Ush Konyr, which is located just outside the village of Shamalgan, to soar into the skies off the steep escarpment that towers above the plain that is home to Kazakhstan’s commercial hub. The site is famous across the former Soviet Union with paragliders and is home to many competitions in season.

The Samuryk and its nesting place play a key role in Kazakh mythology. One of the most famous landmarks in Astana is Bayterek, a 97m-tall observation tower built at the centre of its main drag. The glass ball at the top of the structure represents the Samuryk’s egg.

Bayterek, Astsna, Kazakhstan

According to legend, the Samuryk returned every year to lay its egg, representing the sun, in the upper branches of the tree of life known as Bayterek. This egg was then devoured by a dragon, symbolising the eternal rhythm of night replacing day and winter following summer.

Returning to the modern-day Samuryks, this summer will see various competitions taking place at Ush Konyr with it hosting stage 4 of the Russian Open Paragliding Cup 16-21 August, the Open Kazakhstan Championship 22-27 August, and the Open CIS Cup 28 August – 2 September. 


Kazakhstan: Heading for the Hills

2 Jun

Yum yum ... horses grazing at Ush Konyr

It’s that time of the year in Kazakhstan when people in years gone by would have made off for the high pastures with their horses, cows and sheep in the annual migration to the rich upland grazing land known as the zhaylau. The summer months would be spent fattening up the animals – and the humans – on the riches in the mountains in preparation for the long, cold winter.

Wild flowers in Ush Konyr

Soviet-era collectivisation put paid to this nomadic existence and few people in modern-day Kazakhstan still follow the wandering traditions, but come the weekend and many city-dwellers still feel the call of the wild and take off to the mountains in their 4x4s for a spot of communing with nature and to get their supper by picking wild mushrooms.

Mushroom mania

Last weekend Kazaxia joined the exodus and visited Ush Konyr, which is easily reached from Almaty – head for President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s home village of Shamalgan and then follow the track that winds steeply up to the 3,000 metre pastures. In no time at all you’re in the rolling grasslands where President Nazarbayev spent his early years. He had such fond memories of this carefree existence that he penned a song about it. See it performed here by Kazakh band MuzArt.

More wild flowers in Ush Konyr

The smog and noise of Almaty feel light years away as you breathe in the clean air and concentrate on foraging for edible mushrooms and admiring the rich covering of wild flowers. You’ll see packs of horses grazing as you hike around and the occasional paraglider taking flight, but not a great deal else will intrude to spoil your peace and quiet.