Eight kilometres east of the Aktau-Kalamkas road is the Valley of Balls. Locally known as Torysh, the valley lies on the north side of the Western Karatau Range and features hundreds of spherical sedimentary rocks up to 4 metres in diameter.

A series of spherical rocks in a grassy desert field in Torysh Valley.
© Mulderphoto

Researchers believe they’re concretions –formed by mineral-rich water flowing through porous sedimentary rock– or megaspherulites, which are volcanic ash-formed crystalline balls exposed through many millennia of weathering. 

From Torysh, you can see the red and white cliffs of Sherkala mountain (323 m), and the ancient ruins of Kyzylkala are nearby too. Similar-looking rock balls include New Zealand’s Moeraki Boulders, California’s Bowling Ball Beach, and Stone Mountain on Planet Mars.

Port Abasta Film Set

Four kilometres north of the Torysh Valley, just off the unnamed road leading to the northern Buzachi Peninsula, is an old film set. It was here that “Waiting for the Sea” was shot in the early 2010s by Tajik director Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov, together with an international crew from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Europe.

The full-length drama centres around Marat, a skipper recently released from prison on manslaughter charges after the deaths of his wife and crew in a storm on the Aral Sea. The film set served as the fictional Port Abasta, and was inspired by Moynaq fishing port in Karakalpakstan. Dotted around the location are rustic-looking wooden fishing boats and a few run-down buildings stood in the middle of a desolate stoney desert, so it’s a worthwhile detour if you’re in the area and looking for a quirky photo opportunity.

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  • Torysh Valley (RUS—Торыш долина): 44.3236, 51.5986
  • Port Abasta (RUS—Порт Абаста): 44.3979, 51.5700