Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tying the ribbon round the trees

To the north of Uzbekistan lies the immense country of Kazakhstan. Here a few hot springs can be found, in the mountains bordering Kyrgyzstan and China. 

However knowing that there are hot springs does not mean that they can be highlighted. 
Take for instance the hot spring located near Chimkent (Shymkent). Just the one mention:
'hot spring health spas'.
That's not much help. Some respite comes from the recent website of edgekz where a page by Alex Lee explains Kazakh hot spring culture. Winter is the season for hot springs. And:
'Springs are sources of healing and spirituality in many cultures, and near Kazakhstan’s hot and cold springs, you can still see ribbons tied to trees, which locals have tied there when they make wishes on the magical waters'.
So there's more.

Alma Arasan is located just south of Alamty. Alma-Arasan:
'There are 51 groundwater springs, many of which are used for spa therapy purposes. The Alma- Arasan hot spring water is similar in its chemical composition to French mineral waters of the Pyre-nean type (Aix les Bains, etc.)
The temperature of major springs constitutes 35-37 degrees centigrade. With regard to water content, temperature and radioactivity the water is similar to Tshaltubo Springs [famous hot spring in Georgia, the country]. The springs have a good influence on people who suffer from rheumatism, metabolic disease, diseases of peripheral system and blood vessels, as well as on the diseases of women and on the people who were poisoned with copper, lead and other metals. Every year Arasan-Kapal Resort accepts around 2000 patients'.
I also learned from a now defunct link that Alma was established in 1886. This link also notes the following:
'The resort’s medicinal features include warm springs of lightly mineralized water with silicic acid used for baths'.
Somehow some confusion exists as Alma Arasan can also refer to the public baths in Almaty itself. If you want to know more, take a look at the great entry into the Steppe magazine by Rebecca Beardmore.

On Zharkent Arasan which, by the way, was established in 1967:
'The main medicinal factors are: nitric, chloride-sulphate, sodium water (36C) which contains fluorine, organic substances used for bath and shower'.(source), oh no, another broken link)
Zharkent is located northwest of Almaty, quite a distance away from the former capital. If expecting a nice rural bath do note that Zharkent is another of the over-medicalized baths which seem to treat soaking as a necessary way to treat illness, rather than something which be pleasurable let alone the above mentioned way of a spiritual experience. Here is the link to the bath house / hotel, all in Russian alas. Note that this hot spring has the added benefit of radon ...

Kapal (not (?) to be confused with Kapal-Arasan) possesses (broken link) a mineral spring with a temperature of 25-28C, not quite soakable?

Aktau lies on the Caspian sea coast which may possess a salty miracle hot spring as proved on youtube with this description:
'A small warm bubbling hot spring, a little ways off-the-path from the road between Karagiye Depression (-132 meters below sea level, 3rd lowest spot on Earth) and Aktau city in Mangystau Province, Republic of Kazakhstan'.
Wikitravel mentions the existence of Radon hot springs ("facilities are very primitive") in the Aktau travel guide with nearby mud baths, possibly the same as above?

On the Partido y regreso blog there is entry on Aktau hot springs and mud baths. The following picture illustrates the soakability of this hot spring:

Remojándonos [= soaking!] un poco. Está calentito

An avid visitor to the shores of the Caspian takes his wind-cycle to the hot springs and notes that the route along the nuclear power plant is picturesque. Once there: 
'After all of the amazing scenery, I finally got to the hot water spring! Beautiful and well attended spring is extremely hot — 50-60 degrees! It is recommended not to bath more than 15 minutes at a time. Some people take mud bath'.
An odd experience is revealed by Jennie Vader on a visit to a banya slash hot spring near Turkestan:
'... and I went to a banya in the middle of the steppe about 30 minutes from Turkestan. The banya is a dome-like structure (called the egg) built over a natural, underground hot spring. We all went into this huge egg and then into our own room which consisted of 2 shower heads and an old bathtub. Basically, you seal up your room and the hot water runs constantly, steaming everything up. You shower like usual and sit in the bathtub of really hot water'.
Then there are the hot springs of Chundzha. Edgekz notes:
'Chundzha is located 243 kilometers east and a four-and-a-half-to five-hour drive from Almaty in the Uighur district of the Almaty region.  The area is home to a whopping 140 mineral springs'. 
It names Mirage, Tumar, Derevushka, Omur Su and Premium spa resorts, all located more or less near Chundzha.
'Hot spring pool at Chundzha
The indoor swimming pool at a Soviet resort in Chundzha in the eastern part of the Almaty Region in Kazakhstan'.
The above picture accompanies an article in the Steppe Times by Jonathan Newell. It links to an article which oddly doesn't mention then hot springs themselves.

More recently mentions Dobyn:
'Experts say the hot springs at Dobyn village are enriched with minerals and contain small amounts of nitrogen. The waters contain silica and trace elements of radon, providing the thermal springs with unique medical and healing qualities'.
It goes on to mention how the wellness industry in Kazakhstan is shaping up. Twenty three health centres have been established since 2000, with 13 under construction, among them a Premium Spa Resort (see above). Two-hundred thousand visits were reported in 2011.

There are also mentions made of the following hot springs in Kazakhstan: Tamshaly, Ayak-Kalkan (hot spring 180 km from Almaty, in the village of Baseit), a so-called Mountain Thermal Water Resort.

Edgekz then mentions Rakhmanovsky Klyuchi resort:
'The Rakhmanovsky springs are named for the man who discovered them. Legend has it that Rakhmanov, a local hunter, once wounded a Siberian deer and followed it as it ran into a mountain spring.Rakhmanov discovered that the water was warm and steamy as he continued to track the wounded animal in order to finish it off.But as he approved the stag and aimed for a final shot, he witnessed what he thought was a miracle: The nearly fatally wounded animal lying in the hot mineral waters was suddenly healed, rose up and ran away.Rakhmanov was paralyzed by what he had just seen and couldn’t pull the trigger. Since then, locals have called the healing hot springs after the stunned hunter. To this day, despite their remote location, the Rakhmanovsky springs remain popular and many still believe they offer healing benefits such as reducing pain and improving cardiovascular health. The springs are also thought to help spark regeneration and slow aging.
The major resort in this area is the Rakhmanovsky Klyuchi Resort, which opened in 1964 and can accommodate 80 people'. 
Little other references though.

Finally, a flickr photo reference to a hot spring in their Kazakhstan set. Have my doubts though.

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