We have cycled into Astana, Kazakhstan. How strange to have my legs get the wobbly burn of lactic acid going up hotel stairs! Is that because we have just been on a flat steppe with very, very lonnnng inclines?
Our arrival in Astana seems like a perfect time to give an update on the expedition and let you know what adventures are coming next.
1. What now?
Lee flies back to Whitehorse, Canada for his son’s wedding and will return in 8 days. Yes. Eight. Crazy but love is like that. Why else would one buy a suit in Moscow and cart it all across Kazakhstan?!
Then we meet up again in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Fitting given ‘Alma Ata’ was one of the Polish army bases the exodus of deportees were flowing towards.
2. Announcing… New Expedition Member
Say hello to Bonnie Murrell! Bonnie will be joining our cycle from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She has all the right qualifications – curious, superb humour, courageous and enthusiasm galore. So delighted and grateful she is crazy enough to join us! Welcome aboard Bonnie. Wahoooo.
2. Favourite Relax
On entering a home or restaurant a Kazakh will often say…’oddychajcie‘. How lovely is it to be reminded to exhale. To breathe. This has to be one of the most beautiful invitations to relax ever! Balzat was the cafe host here and I took her welcome very seriously. Completely melted into those ruby cushions and hand stitched rugs and hangings. Spasiba Balzat!
3. May I Take Photo?
There is never a shortage of Kazakh people who wave us over, drive beside us to chat (disconcerting when eye contact means not seeing potholes or glass), want our photo, or just hang out to watch. In the tiny rutted mud road village of Zhaltyr a curious man declared we were like Aliens from outer space. I’ll bet aliens don’t smell as bad as cyclists.
And then there is the sequence of six questions, commonly in this order:
- Where are you going? (Iran. Yes, you did hear that correctly)
- Where are you from? (Canada said with accent on the KaNAda)
- How long are you travelling? When did you start? (6 months beginning In May from Poland. At this point they often whistle and shake their head)
- Are you married (No just friends making a film)
- Where do you stay? (Camping or hotels if we need a clean up or are in big cities)
- May I take photo? (Ofcourse. Please join us).
4. From My Heart
The generosity and gentle curious nature of Kazakhs has been so delightful. Just as the Polish deportees were greeted with compassion and understanding by Kazakhs decades ago, we too have received beautiful offers of gifts. A request for a smaller amount of green onions and suddenly the store keeper in Yesil disappears. Minutes later- a bag of onions and aromatic dill just picked from her garden. A cafe owner insisted we take a roll of paper towels. A bag of sausages, sauce packs and two fresh picked ogorki was produced after the six questions routine in Zhaltyr. This ball of ‘qurt‘ (dried sour milk) was given to me by a man on the highway who pointed to his heart with big wide eyes of wonder. Namaste. (I would taste it but the strong tobbacco smell is a tad off putting).
5. Worst Cycle Day
Nasty cold has me coughing and weak. The heat unforgiving. It is an endless long horizon. We gratefully pull into a truck stop. My skillful dismount turned into a graceful kabam! Down she goes! I am grateful for the helmet that protects my noggin as it cracks against a truck gas tank. Ok. Got it loud and clear. Stop now!
6. Best Cycle Day
After the previous days’ 2 hour headwind battle only to get 15 km, this was a dream. The tailwind was whipping hard at 30 km/hr. Temperatures cooled. Smiles widened. The Kazakh cowboy and his horses were just a big bonus to a 100 km day of wheeeeeeee. Superb!
And so…we look forward to leaving the grassy steppes and heading south into the mountains! The second leg. We shall see what kind of lactic acid burn will be happening on the stairs of Kyrgyzstan!
Note: I invite and encourage you to comment on any of the posts. The comments and personal family stories on our Facebook site have made this trip so much richer! I feel very honoured that people have shared. Dziękuję.