Trans Eurasia travel

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Kokaral Dam

A trip to the dam which has helped reverse the fortunes of the Northern Aral Sea is a lengthy one. To get here, take the main road south from Aralsk towards Kyzylorda, taking the signposted right turn to Kambash after 80km. This puts you onto a rough road, passing Lake Kambash on your right. You reach the village of Amanotkel after 44km, and then the once coastal village of Bogen after another 25km. Some 21km further on you cross the Syr Darya by means of a rusty pontoon bridge. Thereafter the road takes you across the flat former seabed, now populated by salt-resistant plants. You head towards an area of higher ground: this is Kokaral ('Blue Island'), the peninsula which separates the northern and southern parts of the Aral Sea. The Kokaral Dam lies to the east of this, a 16km dyke running across the Berg Strait, which lies between the Kokaral Peninsula and the eastern shore of the sea.

Some 26km beyond the bridge across the Syr Darya you reach the spillway of the Kokaral Dam. The reedy Northern Aral Sea stretches north of this, fringed by a white beach composed largely of pieces of sea shell. A few small boats sit on the beach. A rectangle of concrete on the beach just to the west of the spillway is the helicopter pad built for President Nazarbaev's visit to the dam in 2005. The water from the spillway forms a river which heads south towards the receding Southern Aral Sea. The pool beneath the spillway is rich in carp, evidently trapped.