It’d been six years since we packed everything we owned into six suitcases and flew across the world.
Three kids and many many more suitcases later, we still had yet to see some of the sights beyond our city.
We decided to remedy this a couple days ago and took off for Charyn Canyon.
Guided by a blog post (complete with photos of which roads to take since there are no signs) and a sense of adventure, we packed the kids in the car and even decided to invite along a few friends.
My friend (who also happens to a mom of two young kids) said, “I’m so glad we’re going with someone who knows how to get there.”
My husband: “Uh…. we have some directions, but…. ”
Living in Central Asia requires a certain amount of, shall we say, flexibility.
Google maps told us it should be about four hours but the last time we relied in Google maps in the former Soviet Union, it took 10 hours instead of 4.5.
But we enthusiastically set out to see what we could see.
Charyn Canyon, I’d been told, is really hot and resembles the Grand Canyon except for being much smaller.
Most of the trip was uneventful. We got pulled over by a policeman wanting a bribe who decided to let my husband off when he insisted on speaking English. But everyone knows to expect corrupt police outside the city.
Before we knew it, we were embarking across the steppe on an otherwise unmarked road.
It’s kind of eery, really, since none of us had been there and there was no shade or anything else (except a few distant mountains) as far as the eye could see.
Undeterred we made it across the 10 km to the park entrance and then on toward the canyon itself.
Getting everyone out of the car, I remembered that safety is usually not a priority in this part of the world.
I’ve only been to the Grand Canyon once, but I do remember fences.
There were no fences here. Just cliffs with steep drops. And five active kids all under the age of 7. Who had been cooped up in the car for four hours!
We got them in an overlook area and had them sit down to eat so we would at least know where they all were.
Then we decided to get a little more scary.
Thankfully a family friend had come and we had adult for every child. Our family and her headed into the canyon to get a closer look.
It really was beautiful, and we took pictures and marveled at God’s handiwork.
I think we all imagined that pretty soon we would encounter a barrier or place too steep to go down.
There wasn’t anything and as we climbed down rocks and through holes that resembled caves I started singing, “We’re going on a bear hunt.”
The kids were thrilled.
My middle son kept telling me voluntarily that he loved me.
Then we saw the water.
All parental caution was thrown to the wind and without words we all united toward the goal of getting there.
A few times I looked at my husband and even asked, “how are we going to get back up?”
No one had an answer, of course, but we went anyway.
At one point, there were five of us on our bottoms sliding down the mountainside (the baby was laying on top of me) because it was too steep and slippery to do anything else.
And then we made it.
The water was glorious and we all knew we had really accomplished something.
We soaked it all in, sadly realizing we couldn’t stay long since we had left our friends back at the car.
Heading back we found a wide, gentle road that would take us back to the car. It was a long, long, long walk.
We even asked someone if there was another way, and they shot back, “With kids? This road is the only way!”
We laughed. If only they knew.
Emerging from the last cliff, we even started singing our own movie soundtrack and walking in slow motion.
We had survived! We had overcome! We would never, never forget.
I’ll tell you one thing. The bumpy dirt road seemed like nothing after that.
Here are some photos: