22-Aug-2007 – This was the first visit to this confluence. It lies about nine kilometers northwest of Törtköl beyond the Arys Türkestan Canal. I
prepared for the trip by studying old Soviet military maps, which are very detailed but of course a little out of date. The Arys Turkestan Canal which follows in northeastern the main road connecting Shymkent with Turkestan due northeast runs in a generous half circle around Törtköl the surrounding fields and agricultural infrastructure. The maps showed only one bridge near the confluence where the road towards Mingbulak crosses it heading west. I figured that there must be other opportunities to cross the canal, but I could not depend on stumbling over them, so I decided to take a route via this bridge. This meant a detour of about 8 kilometers compared to approaching the confluence
directly from Törtköl town centre. I started from Turkestan and took an early bus going to Shymkent. It dropped me of about nine kilometers northwest of Törtköl at the intersection where the road to Mingbulak branches of. Right there I had a strange epiphany. I was about to cross the street when a bright yellow bus with the logo of the Austrian postal service and big German signage on the sides roared by. The Austrian postal service reduced its fleet of buses a while ago to mere remnants and merged its public transport branch with Austrian railways. Apparently some of the machines found their way to south Kazakhstan,
7000 km from home. To see a bus in the familiar design speeding through the steppe overloaded with watermelons and Kazakh Babushkas made my mouth fell open.
It was around 8:00 AM but the temperature was already at 26° Celsius and climbing fast. The moderate breeze which had been blowing since dawn was
picking up speed too. I walked the first three kilometers before someone
gave me a lift. The man who picked me up brought me right to the bridge
after he delivered some gas bottles to his customers in the
neighbourhoods nearby. I had planned to leave the road after the bridge and follow a row electricity pylons which, according to the map, lead to the vicinity of the confluence.
The GPS showed almost nine kilometers distance to the confluence when I
started out at the bridge. I had to cross a flat monotonous landscape
covered with yellow grass large patches of which were scorched recently.
There were no signs of habitations or human civilization except the
poles I followed once the canal was out of sight. I had not brought a
sufficient amount of water with me, which was an almost fatal mistake.
The sun was burning down relentlessly, but the wind had a cooling effect
that kept me going. The wind grew constantly stronger until I had to
lean against it with my full weight sometimes to keep my balance. Either
this was normal conditions for the area, or I picked the wrong day. At
midday the wind lost much of its force and stopped altogether soon
after. As much as I hated it when it blew I instantly wished it back
when it stopped. The heat (well over 40° Celsius) hit me like a hammer
once the cooling effect of the breeze wore of. I reached the confluence
2 ½ hours after I started out at the bridge. After taking the pictures
at the site I decided against backtracking and headed south towards the
canal instead. 2.5 kilometers south of the confluence at N42°58.924'E68°59.217' I stumbled over a lock with a small catwalk which allowed me to cross the canal. I was seriously dehydrated and exhausted at this point. Luckily some men
busy building a mosque in nearby settlement provided me with some water.
The last seven kilometers back to Törtköl seemed to take ages. There
were cars using the dusty gravel track I followed, but none of them went
in my direction. When I reached the bus stop at Törtköl the odometer
showed 20 kilometers walking distance.