Travel Letters

Dependent - Independent Part One

Hotel Aigai Kum

Bashi Village

Altyn Emil National Park

Almaty Region

Republic of Kazakhstan

October 11, 2018                                 

                                         Nyet! and Da!


I refuse to drive the 50 kilometers (31miles) to the “Singing Sand Dunes.”    I anticipate the “road” will be uncomfortable, uneven and rough.  In addition to my back brace, I will need a dental mouth guard.

I am thinking, “How many sand dunes do I need to see?   I have already climbed the dunes in seven countries.  I don’t recall if any of them ‘sang’ or even ‘whistled.’   Regardless, enough is enough.”

“Ali,” I suggest to my driver, “Please take the afternoon off.”

Boszhira Valley

Boszhira Valley

Mangystau Region


October 18, 2018

I couldn’t find the appropriate words to describe my visit to Boszhira.  My only reaction was, “This is another planet.”

Here are excerpts from

Many people think that Kazakhstan is one huge flat steppe.  But there are places in the country that are true natural wonders.

One example is the tract of Boszhira, a mountain range located on the Ustyurt Plateau on the Mangyshiak Peninsula in the Mangystau Region in south-western Kazakhstan.  It is one of the most beautiful places in Kazakhstan

Giant Stone Balls

Torysh Valley



Торишская долина, Казахстан

October 21, 2018

I was privileged and fortunate to have visited Torysh Valley or the Valley of the Giant Stone Balls in Kazakhstan.  At first I thought they were unique.  But I learned that these formations appear in other parts of the world. (See the essay below for locations in California, North Dakota and Ontario.)

Please take your time to read the essay below and to view my photo galleries and videos of this astonishing site.

Valley of Castles

The Peninsula of Mangystau


October 20, 2018

Hello from the Valley of Castles,

Here are excerpts for an official Mangystau publication:

The system of small remnant mountains is known among the local population under the name of Airakty-Shomanay.

In 1851, the great Ukrainian poet and artist T.G. Shevchenko was in exile here. These mountains so impressed him that he made a series of drawings under the poetic name "Valley of Castles."

Chalk Cliffs and Salt Basin

Tuzbair Cliffs

Ustyurt Plateau



October 19, 2018

The Tuzbair Chalk Cliffs of Mangystau extend for twenty-four kilometers as they face the Great Salt Basin.

Nature sculpts and gouges an infinite variety of chalk-limestone cliffs and crevices, carvings and statuary that gleam with intensity and grandeur. 

The salt in the basin crackles beneath my feet.

Paratethys Sea



West Kazakhstan

October 20, 2018


I am standing on the rim that overlooks the ancient seabed and salt basin of the Paratethys Sea.

Even this rim on the edge of the plateau was likely covered by antediluvian waters.

Thirty-five million years ago Paratethys extended as far west as the modern Atlantic Ocean.  The seas covered the land masses east through the areas of the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, across the Caspian Sea and west to the Aral Sea.   Eventually Paratethys flowed into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.