Explorer Mikael Strandberg

A Wolf Hunter In Almaty

“The wolf never expects to be attacked from above! So, not only does he NOT expect an attack from above from a big eagle, and for this reason he isn´t fast enough to defend, so when he turns around to bite the attacker, the eagle just grabs him as unexpected over his jaw and holds onto it until the human hunter arrives and stabs the wolf to death with a knife or spear. This is the most advanced of all wolf hunts!”

The great hunting eagle says nothing. He sits on his masters hand, hooded to keep calm and just looks impressive. A few minutes before its very entertaining master told us this thrilling insight to hunting, he had just attacked an old wolf skin as part of the show, the skin tied up with a string and the master had ran slowly forward at the same time as the great eagle came in dead fast for an attack and before we had a chance to figure out what was happening, the eagle had grabbed the wolf skin and its jaws with his enormous beak!

“Most of the time we hunt with a falcon for smaller prey, but we also train owls and vultures here. And the smartest of them all, the hardest to train to perfection, is the vulture. The vulture just performs when it wants to. If he doesn´t want to perform, nothing can persuade him.”

The master of the birds was a middle aged Russian-Kazakh man who knew how to entertain people, but also initiate conversations about what is right or wrong. It was easy to see that quite a few of the Western visitors to this camp, which was picturesquely tucked in between the mountains, got slightly aggravated when the master fed his big birds with dead chickens, but as he clearly explained, they arrived to him already dead, only male chickens, from industries who only where interested in hens laying eggs. He knew his stuff, he had done this for over 30 years and on top of all, he was a great entertainer. Something which is very important in the tourism industry.

We left the falconry in the same weather we arrived. Rain and overcast clouds, which had to a certain degree ruined our visit to the Chymbulak Ski resort. But even if weather was bad, I was really surprised to find a modern alpine ski resort which could have been anywhere in Central Europe or Scandinavia. Same atmosphere, same buildings and same possibilities. It looked like real great skiing. Whenever snow will arrive. Since there wasn´t much we could see or do, we returned to the city and visited the museums. There are many. Almost all exhibiting in old Soviet buildings, which I used to think was the ugliest on earth, but the older I get, the more I like the size, space and authority they show. My favorite museum during the visit was the Fine Arts one. For many reasons. One, that you don´t need a guide to tell you what you see and you don´t need English signs to figure things out, plus that I really love the Old Soviet style paintings where they put enormous industrial complexes in together with stunning nature. This is unique! A must see!

Otherwise, visiting museums ain´t the most fantastic of experiences, for a few reasons. Except the Museum of Kazakh, it is all the same set up which just ain´t that interesting in a modern day era where one can use modern tech to make a visit more interesting. Items are put there just to exhibit, not to teach, entertain and explain. There´s hardly anything written in any language and if, not in English. And if it is in English, it is just not good enough. The language is complicated and hard to understand. And on top of that, the people who work there, are guards and know no English or seems to know little about the exhibitions. Their only job seems to be to guard the items of display. There presence is very bothersome. Time to modernize the style how to run a museum! And, in most of them we couldn´t take any photos, which is kind of awkward considering we were all there to promote Kazakhstan

We returned to Chymbulak the following day. Blue skies and sunny and a great day. Chymbulak which is set at 2260 to 3163 meters above sea level was incredibly impressive. It really felt like a visit to the Swiss Alps! This ski resort offers absolutely everything for the advanced skier. And the beginner. Well, the whole valley is impressive in its beauty and for its resorts. On the way down we stopped at Medeu, a mountain complex for winter sports, which was equally impressive in its freshness and size.

For me, the main reason to visit Kazakhstan are two, the stunning nature and its equally impressive people. Both world class. After having visited this impressive gorge of the Zailiyskiy Altau Mountains, we returned to the city and visited a jeweler in its outskirts. Whilst it was interesting the see how he worked and did his jewelery, the high light was sitting in the warm and cosy kitchen whilst the lady of the house made baursak, these global sponge balls to be seen almost everywhere. They were incredibly tasty with home made jams and tea straight from the samovar. This is the best of travelling in my mind and being a tour guide myself, I know these visits to the normal life of local people, is highly regarded by most tourists.

For once it was really interesting, and important, for me to be on the other side. By which I mean I wasn´t the tour leader, but part of a group.And not any group, but one of tour operators and guides! Which must be the hardest of all groups, but our guide, Sholpan, did a tremendous job to keep everyone happy. A professional guide who would do an excellent job anywhere. The group in itself was by the day getting closer and friendlier, but it is always hard not to get groupings. People who know each others from before or have the same background. A very good experience for me. Eva, woow, she is getting to become my favorite travelling partner. Always happy, doesn´t need attention and fits in everywhere. And she is only 4 years old!

We had lunch this day at a popular place for tourists, Kaganat, queuing up with students and taking part of their day, another hit. The more local, absolutely a success! Me personally, I think the people in Kazakhstan are the most interesting and hospitable on earth!

Thanks to Tourism Department Of Alma Aty City. And my friend Zhana Rahmatulina at Turan.Asian for making this a reality for Eva and me!

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