Les STAN font FORd :)

     After a long adieu with our "second family" from Tbilisi, we decided to fly to Almaty in Kazakhstan. Firstly because even though the idea was attractive, our budget is limited and crossing the caspian sea by cargo (which we could have been waiting for 1 week + in a dodgy place) was too expensive.
Secondly because the Iranian visa was so expensive too and we wanted to know about the Stan countries.
Et voilà. We applause for the smooth take off. It's 4am and the golden mountains smile at us...exciting. it's already 23 degrees at 9am.

After a long walk to the centre of Almaty, 2 angels host us for 10 days! Dennis and Adissa. We enjoyed his birthday cake...
Dennis has done very special things like falconry and cycle touring in the US. he deserves his own website:............................

    Would you imagine that in Kazakhstan they talk russian?  Even some young people don't know kazakh! Well I guess we were ignorant about the influence of soviet union till nowadays. In the past Kazakh was'nt even beinwg taught in the schools but now they are trying to change the language.
Although russian gvt does not seem to agree....
Also, you cannot take a photo of some buildings like embassies and official buildings. It really feels to me like a "hidden colonialism" which everybody agrees with! I think about this example of a frog put in cold water and slowly boils without knowing she is dying. Well if it carries on that way I think that the kazakhs (and kyrgyzs) will loose their culture slowly. (Big brother stinks).

Thanks to this long break in Almaty, we chose to buy bicycles. An alternative means of transport when most drivers ask for money while we try to hitch.
We decided to hitch around in search of a good bike. We did not know until too late but we ended up buying shitty but cheap bikes in a place called Zharkent close to the Chinese border. Very kindly a family helped us to fix them. New friends with whom we celebrated sunday mass in their home church! They have a huge house and a huge family. The rooms in kazakh houses are so clear and spacious because the beds are simple mats called Tushuk and during the day they are tidied up in a wardrobe. Time to go.
For a trial we attempt to cycle back to Almaty.
    It's hard but we are invited by Ali's traditional muslim family. The main dish: horse with pasta, is cooked on a stove outside. The bread is cooked in a cob oven. The house is built by the men. The kids play ........... with bull bones. The wise man with a designed white kazakh hat called Kalpak introduced us to his horse and his donkeys. Which one do you think he rides ? The tiny donkey of course ! I feel pity for the donkeys who are around 1m 20 high. The horses are mostly ridden by shepherds. They say in central asia that children learn to ride even before walking. It is strange to see that kazakhs eat them when they are the second means of transport and when they develop a strong relationship, as we would do with our pets. As a vegetarian it is hard enough to see animals being killed. Even more when I think that my dog or my horse could be eaten.
Anyway we did not recover this night as the boy cried a lot and the toilets are outside.... (try to see in the dark without waking up the whole family).

The second day cycling. Failed.

    My bike is a real pile of junk and I can't get very far. I get sunburnt. The wheel burst and it's impossible to repair as we didn't buy a spare innertube! Wesley has a saddle that doesn't fit him and prevents him to go a long distance. Well... we hitch back to Dennis' s thanks to another truck driver's angel. The next day In Almaty, I exchange my bike for a perfect mountain one. Wes can't find a bigger saddle but changes part of his gear system.
Et c'est parti! En avant pour le Kyrgyzstan! After cycling on these looong steppes we are happy to see the charyn canyon which is like a small version of the grand canyon but as we are tired, a driver takes us and we enjoy the canyon's river, eating some walnuts, offert par la maison.

We say goodbye to the cheesy samsa, one of the best vegetarian junk food we could find. The nearby village called close to the border has a market that allows us to get 2 days of vegetables and bread for fairly cheap. Almaty was as expensive as france !

We reach the kyrgyz border by Karkara valley which is a fairly recently opened crossing dotted with horses and yurts and beautiful scenery,  our first taste of Kyrgyzstan. 

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1 comment:

  1. Merci pour ces magnifiques photos. Bonne route à vélo ! attention à la descente... avec tout mon amour.


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