We started the day off slow reattaching the sump guard yet again just on the main road. Two local cars stopped by and we chatted, they tried to help, and pointed us in the right direction to a welder.
On the way to the welder, we got flashing lights from a passing car that we had a flat. It was hard to tell on these "roads". Justin hammered it in and we continued our way to the town where the welder was closed. Not wasting time we continued on which brought us to the Grand Canyon. The road actually became fairly decent and went right through the canyon, it was absolutely stunnkng. A local said there are only 2 canyons this big in the world, I'll let you guess which one is the other, so if we take his word for it, there's an item of the list ticked off.
We had to make a decision just past the canyon on whether we'd be taking a detour. Apparently there was a lake here that had trees growing out from in the middle of it and was a sight to behold. We were told it's about 100km and considering we'll be seeing nothing in Kazakhstan for the next 4 days, we figured "let's do it".
100km of shit shit shit road. Like, if it was gravel road, fine, but it wasn't even that. It was a minefield of rocks and potholes resulting in 10km/h. It took us 3 hours to get there, and only because we came to a river where we had to stop and hitch a ride the rest of the way.
Back up. We followed the one road through the mountains and ended up following a guy in a military uniform on an ATV that seemed to know where he was going. Only we ended up at a "you can't pass this gate" gate with him laughing at our choice of car. He said we couldn't come here and not make it all the way to the lake - that it was absolutely worth seeing but that we wouldn't make it in our car. We were also at a river crossing. He used a lot of "ну блин" terminology mocking us and suggested we walk the rest of the 6-7km. We debated for a while since that would be another hour each way. We finally decided to get in the car and drone our attempt through the river when an SUV pulled up with a family and offered us a ride. Thank god, seeing what the rest of the road was like, there is no way we would've made it by foot or by car. Half of it was through a river, and the other half had such deep tire prints in the ground, we would've 100% bottomed out.
We grabbed our watermelon and jumped in the car. Sweet family but zero regard for safety. No seatbelts, there were 5 of us in the backseat, and displacing the uncle into the trunk so justin could ride shotgun. But absolutely sweet, and they didn't let us pay entrance for the park. They loved our story and insisted we come back and stay with them next time.
There was another 500m hike from the parking lot but the view was amazing. We sat around for a little while then went back to the parking lot where we shared a meal. They insisted we eat bread with the watermelon and kept serving us their homemade national bread. It was actually a really good combination, would eat again! But oh my god, so much. We didn't finish one piece before there was already a new pile placed in front of us, and oh the pressure to keep eating!
Sated, we hitched a ride back with the other van that came at the same time since the family was going on to see the next lake down the "road" and we decided we had no time. Our estimated 2-3 hour detour was already 5 hours and we still had a 3 hour ride back to the main road since this was a dead end, and then anther 2-3 hours to the city we aimed to be at by today. And it was already 5pm.
The other tourist in the van was a flight attendant who got 4-5 days off in a row and travelled every month. She just came here on her own and it was quite interesting to hear her worldly stories.
We got back to our car and didn't get far before having to fix the sump guard yet again. It's amazing how many locals ask if we're aware we have something dragging and they can hear it a mile away. Also that our exhaust is capoot. Yes, we are aware, it's hard not too when the whole car is vibrating and roaring.
On the way back, justin seemed to decide he's done being careful and really took the crazy roads at a good speed. When we say the roads are like washerboards, we mean the car rattles so much the screw holding up the mirrors fell out, and as we found out when we lifted the car at the mechanic's in Almaty, so did the exhaust. It wasn't even attached at ALL, only held up by the sump guard half a foot off.
We stopped at the mechanic's around 11pm when asking what time they'll open in the morning and they insisted on taking a look right away. They fixed both the exhaust and the sump guard and wouldn't take a penny. We chatted the whole time and turns out we were the third team they've helped, but the first one to actually explain what it is we were doing since I was the first Russian speaking. We were there for much longer than we meant to be but after gifting them a few packs of American cigarettes and a moose pencil souvenir, we set up camp in the next plaza over and watched some drunk girls pee in the middle of the lot holding up a towel for each other. We couldn't laugh, we did the same thing with the bushes between our car and the main road. We've lost all regard for shame at this point considering our bathroom is everywhere and anywhere it needs to be.