Thursday, 19 June 2008

Eastern Kazakhstan is a different desert

Having been entertained by the embassy staff in Astana (Rhys and Bernie, you are legends thanks for a great night), we headed off towards Karaganda and our next case study. Through some friends from Astana we found two lovely young Kazak ladies (thanks Nastya and Ira we had a great day) to help us with our interviews and had a lot of fun with another crazy farmer.

After this the next stop in Barnaul in Russia via the ex-nuclear testing site at Semey, that should all be easy, we are only entering the most lawless part of Russia. After camping outside Karaganda we set off and had a fairly easy day, the only event was a little bit of black market diesel buying.

So, as we will be leaving Kaz in a couple of days what did we think of it? None of us have ever been anywhere where there is more space, it is truly indescribable, and certainly 1500 miles of western Kazakhstan is totally featureless. They are also not about to run out of wind, people used to get exiled to the Kazakh steppe and apparently the wind drove them crazy. Fortunately we were already pretty crazy, so there has been no perceivable affects. Having said all of that, we have seen some truly stunning countryside and have loved driving through the empty plains.

The food is very different, with some things being very interesting (fizzy alcoholic milk), but most things being fairly plain. We tend to eat a lot of cheese, but that is all there is to say about it, it is just generic cheese.

But the best thing about this country is the people. We were told lots of horror stories and every one we spoke to said "take a gun". They could not have been more wrong. Everyone we have met has been amazingly friendly (except the cheeky little .... who stole my phone). We have very little Russian, and never know where we are going or exactly what we are looking for, but people will always help us, even as far as driving 200 miles with us so we did not get lost. It has been an amazing experience and we want to thank everyone we met. It would be great to come back in 5 years time to see how things have changed, there is a lot of money here and it will be interesting to see what they do with it.

We will probably talk to you next from Russia, if we get in!

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