Why we Travel Overland – The Tuzbair Salt Lake in Kazakhstan


Under a pewter grey sky the world looks dreary, drained of any color. No contours of clouds to be discerned, let alone any ray of sunshine. At least it doesn’t rain. We count our blessings.

We take a turn from the main road and hit an unpaved trail that meanders across a rocky, hilly surface to the edge of the world where part of the world once collapsed (or so it feels).

Deep below us stretches a flat land of clay, partly covered in water. There are no clouds to reflect on the surface of the lake. Only when standing from another viewpoint, the tips of cliffs will mirror themselves.

Even though we’re in the Mangystau region, which can be home to fierce winds, we step in a totally silent, wind-free world (listen to the deafening sound of silence in the video clip below). It can’t get more silent like this. We stand in awe, gobsmacked by this landscape that feels ancient, timeless.

Recommended Books on Overlanding

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I Can I Will, Women Overlanding the World

Travel the Planet Overland, Field Manual

Who Needs a Road – Harold Stephen

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Why we Travel Overland

This is why we travel overland, why we love our home on wheels. To drive to the heart of the middle of nowhere, to places no public bus can take you and across landscapes where few people travel.

At times we find ourselves without steering, without headlights, without functioning batteries or, in this case, without brakes. But with some TLC from Coen (and mechanics when needed), the Land Cruiser is back on the road once more and takes us places like this.

Read More: Kazakhstan Travel Guide – Travel Information for your Road Trip

Mangystau Region, Kazakhstan
Drone shot of rock formations in Mangystau Region

Travel Guides for Kazakhstan

(click on the images to look inside)

Insight Guides – Silk Road

Lonely Planet Travel Guides – Central Asia

Bradt Travel Guides – Kazakhstan

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Overland Camping at its Best

These are the places we love to free camp. Granted, we’d preferably do this under a clear, starry night in temperatures that allow for sitting outside with a nice bonfire but that’s not happening in December. We appreciate what we do have, the place all by ourselves.

I marvel at the art of Mother Nature and the magnificence of our Planet Earth. I absorb the beauty of this wild landscape and, in all this splendor, I feel how small and insignificant we are as human beings.

Here I am in tune with the rhythms of nature; I am at home.

Sor Tuzbair (Tuzbair Salt Lake)

The salt lake is formed from rain and melting snow and is part of a larger salt marsh that consists of saline water and deserts, lacking any water sources. Sor Tuzbair once was part of the sea, and apparently you can still find shark teeth among the limestone formations.

Just imagine what this must look like under a clear blue sky! The best time to travel here is in April/May. While dry in December and not freezing, it was cold.

This view of Tuzbair is some 7 kilometers inland from the road between Beyneu and Shepte, in the Mangystau region (southwestern Kazakhstan). It is a short detour when coming from the ferry across the Caspian Sea (from Azerbaijan) and you’re en route to Uzbekistan.

(Or, if you don’t want to drive yourself, check out Sergey’s Jeep tours that start from Aktau).

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