Why we Travel – A Surprising Wild Camp at Bartogai Lake (Kazakhstan)


I have, more or less, planned an itinerary for the next two weeks or so, focused on the southeastern lakes in Kazakhstan. I give my notes to Coen with the question to check it out while I walk to the supermarket and stock up on groceries.

“And? What do you think? Sounds like a plan?” I ask Coen on my return.

“Yes, we can certainly do this. We won’t reach Kolsai Lake today, but look what I found… There’s another lake on the way, well sort of – a side track of 30 kilometers or so. Bartogai, and it looks inviting.”

And so that’s how plannings work, it’s bound to change. Sometimes that’s a bad idea, often it works out fine or perfectly – like today.

From Almaty, Kazakhstan’s capital, a highway cuts through agricultural fields. It a monotonous drive, but white peaks lure in the distance. Once we are off the highway, the landscape becomes hillier and more scenic with greener grasslands. We stop at a spring along the side of the road, which gives the appearance of being sacred given the pieces of cloth that have been tied to a tree above the spring. A couple is washing their car with the spring water, we fill our water tank.

Travel Guides for Kazakhstan

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Insight Guides – Silk Road

Lonely Planet Travel Guides – Central Asia

Bradt Travel Guides – Kazakhstan

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Check it out: The Landcruising Adventure Water Bottle Collection

Half hour later, we leave asphalt and hit the unpaved road to Bartogai Lake. And just as sudden, we feel as if we’re alone in the world. A yurt in the distance and something that looks like a monument but which turns out to be a burial site with a huge tomb stone paying tribute to whomever is buried there.

The Land Cruiser hobbles down a trail to the shore. After a day of sweating in 35 degrees Celsius (95F), I immediately jump in the water, still in my T-shirt and shorts. What more do you need after a long drive in boiling temperatures? A swim, right?

Well, a beer would be nice to but I forgot to buy it. An espresso will do, thanks to our brand-new gadget. Well, we got it as a gadget (thanks, caffe2go) , a luxury thing for the now and then. While typing up this blog posts – 6 weeks later, I consider it a must-have for coffee addicts who appreciate espresso!

Read more: Brewing Coffee on Your Overland Journey – What System works, and why.

It’s is 8pm and we have dinner with bread and eggs. Mosquitoes seem to be immune to the mosquito coils, which may have lost their strength since we bought them years ago in South America, or that were produced to battle South American mosquitoes.

When the wind picks up, the mosquitoes disappear. Coen puts up the rooftop tent and we sleep under a clear sky and the Great Bear with a frog concert in the background.

Read More: Why we Travel with a Rooftop Tent – the Pros & Cons

Lakes in Kazakhstan - wild camp along Bartogai

We wake up in the morning calm, the hills reflecting in the turquoise water surface turquoise and smooth like a mirror. Silence reigns, until crickets sing their songs or parent birds bobbing on the water are chatting with their dozen or so little ones. I go for another swim, Coen prepares breakfast.

I climb a hill, the Land Cruiser – our trusty home on wheels, our comfort zone – diminishing into a tiny dot amidst a vast, empty landscape. The view is beautiful, gorgeous, overwhelming, and yet, in a way intimidating. Who are we and what are we, humans, doing in this immense and incredible universe?

Following the shore line of the lake that sits among grassy hills without any trees, I stumble upon wood. Roots and small branches that have washed ashore. It feels like a treat, a little present from Mother Earth. It will produce a small fire, but good enough as the evenings aren’t cold.

Recommended Books on Overlanding

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Man in the Saddle – Paul van Hooff

I Can I Will, Women overlanding the World

Overlanding the Americas – Graeme Belle

Products from Amazon

Lakes in Kazakhstan - drone sight from Bartogai
Lakes in Kazakhstan - Turquoise water of Bartogai

Who says we need to go to the Kolsai Lake today, anyway?

We look at each other over our umpteenth cup of espresso.



And so we stay, not just today but tomorrow and the day after.

This is how we travel. With a vague plan, but we let the journey decide where we go and where we stay. That’s why we need 19 years of travel just to see South America and Asia.

We have landed in heaven, a wide empty world all to ourselves.

It’s the beginning of our journey along a number of beautiful lakes in Kazakhstan over the next 8 weeks or so, but this one will remain as one of our favorites.

GPS Waypoint: 43.363753, 78.519505

Read More: Our Favorite Overland Camp Spot in Kazakhstan

Lakes in Kazakhstan - sunset at Bartogai
Lakes in Kazakhstan - campfire along Bartogai

Check it out: the Landcruising Adventure Wild & Outdoor Shirt Collection

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2 thoughts on “Why we Travel – A Surprising Wild Camp at Bartogai Lake (Kazakhstan)”

  1. Wonderful to see the long-awaited new article on your website. It makes me feel like I’m back on the road with you again.
    It has been hot here the past month. Almost all days have been in the high 90s F, with a string of 100+ days.



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