Several years ago, I went to Almaty for the first time. Everywhere you go in Almaty, you can see beautiful, snow-capped mountains. We took a taxi to the most popular ski resort part of these mountains, only to find out that everything was closed due to the weather. I was so disappointed.
Today reminded me of that time. The Aksu-Zhabaghly Nature Reserve is located not far from Shymkent, and when we found out that we were free for the afternoon, we decided to go there. (We didn't know the ice skating schedule until today.) We booked the same taxi driver who had taken us from the airport, he is very friendly and a safe driver.
As we left Shymkent, we could see beautiful snow-capped mountains to our right; I think Uzbekistan is on the other side.
We drove for two hours, the mountains always on our right, but slowly we got closer and closer.
Finally, we were so close we could almost touch them, and we arrived at a closed gate.
We were told to go back to the small village to get passes at the office. We went there, and went to the second floor and walked into a room full of people sitting around a powerpoint presentation on the English language.
The workers were learning how to say "wild boar" in English.
Unfortunately, they said, the Nature Reserve was closed because it's winter. They could, however, arrange a horseback-riding trip, but they needed a day's advance warning.
We pleaded with them, but the most we got was a tantalizing tour of their museum, where we learned what we would have seen had we been able to get into the Nature Reserve. Okay, we probably wouldn't have seen golden eagles or wild boars, and we definitely wouldn't have spotted the elusive snow leopard... But it looks so beautiful, with steep mountains, ravines, a canyon, glaciers, and a wide variety of plants and animals.
Finally, we got back into the car and drove back to Shymkent.
I'm not sure if I'll ever come to Shymkent again--I love to travel and have so much on my agenda, Shymkent might not make a second round.