Monday, 13 July 2009

And to Kazakhstan

Well... I'm now in Kazakhstan, and feeling pretty happy with life too. Russians and Russia are both pretty cool, but even before the imbeciles at the border made me unpack all of my belongings prior to LEAVING the country, I was looking forward to getting here... Kazkhstan and northwest China are the two places I've been most looking forward to in this first part of the trip... the heat is madness... it is, by and large, a desert out here, and the towns, presently, are an average of about 60-70miles apart, with some much further.. so it's quite tough logisitically... I'll probably be starting to ride later and start earlier sometime soon, the wind also seems to drop at the day's extremities... I had wanted to try riding 200miles tomorrow, to mark Bastille Day, which is always a big day in the ongoing Tour de France... anyway, I'm going to shelve that plan for the moment, Kazkahstan would eat me alive if I tried it... there's just not enough water and too much heat to be had.

Anyway, the people are warm, it's amazing every time I get to communicate with an Azeri or a Tartar or a Kazakh using the (to an extent) mutually understandable language of Turkish... with better Turkish it would probably overlap a good amount more, but still.

Countryside definitely rules over anything resembling towns... I ride through miles and miles of nothing, and eventually come to some odd, ramshackle cafe, with rusting tankers and railway sleepers and sleeping dogs piled up outside... And I go in, eat some borsch, watch the road, do some writing..sit about with truckers... and there's just something very nice and straightforward about it all.... In towns, on the other hand, I have my bank card blocked, eat substandard pizza at inflated prices, and continue in my ever-failing quest to find an Irish person in an Irish Pub in some second-world city. That was the case in Russia at least, I have three weeks of Kazakh wilderness in front of me, so a little bit of the urban might not come off quite so bad now and then.

OK... my photographic offering for this update... I have, as I twittered a couple of days ago, taken to wearing long sleeves and a turban, which was an excellent idea that I should have embarked upon a while ago. Rather fortuitously, the turban I bought some years ago in Morrocco is a shade of red not entirely dissimilar to that of my merino wool top, and so I don't even have to trudge into Kazakh headwinds looking totally uncoordinated.... The other photo was one of my first sights in Kazakhstan this morning, some old fellow, in a baseball cap and a heavy jumper, riding over the hill with his herd of horses in front of him... amazing animals, they all looked so much healthier than Romanian horses... I'm not going to endeavour to do it justice in words in an internet cafe, with little streetkids shouting their English obscenities in my ear, but it was a pretty awesome sight...... Finally... I bring to you the Biscuit... I ate three kilos of these in three days in Russia.... and never before has something so mundane-looking come to appear so loathsome... at first it was ok, they weren't squelchy, had some sugar in them, once even some raisins, a little crust, and they gave me energy and sustenance... To emphasise the humility of this little biscuit, I even photographed it next to rocks on the roadside.... see how well it fits in? Anyway... somewhere round about the second kilo things fall apart, I got desperate for a little texture, some flavour, some succulence ... only to find shops full of fat with salami on it, grey cheese, and margerine that you can taste the vegetable oil in... Slavic lands have grim dinnertables.

Welll.... as usual, a week of blog writing in my head has materialised as something entirely different in the blog, which is fine... you'll all just have to buy whatever book comes out of this affair.

Not sure from where I'll next write... Almaty is about two and a bit weeks away, but there is also a possibility that the Kazakh youth, in the nation's smaller cities, have the internet amongst their favourite pastimes... Killing terrorists and exploding aliens, how quaint.

And the images didn't even work.... oh the irony.

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