Saturday morning my hostel landlady made me oatmeal for breakfast——breakfast isn’t even supposed to be provided, but she has been giving me things to eat since I arrived! Then she wrote out the name of the bus depot and the name of the town that I was going to in Russian so all would be clear. I took the local bus (she listed the 3 bus numbers I could take) to the Samal bus station. The bus to Turkistan turned out to be a 12 passenger van that only took two hours to cover the distance on a wide double lane highway.
I was concerned about finding my ‘Betty’s B&B’ in Turkistan as I had tried to call the phone number numerous times and it wouldn’t go through. I had also sent them a message through the booking agency (BedandBreakfast.eu) and there had been no response. Sure enough, when I got to Turkistan all was bedlam. After much discussion using the taxi driver’s English-speaking daughter, and driving around looking for the address, more calls were made, one to the police and it was deemed a scam—-there was no building at that address.
So they took me to a hotel, which looked very nice on the outside but is pretty down at the heel inside. The young woman English speaker suggested that she accompany me on sightseeing, and we exchanged phone numbers.
The next morning I set out to find breakfast (nothing doing in the hotel) at 8:00. I ran across a half dozen places to eat but nothing was open. I tried it again at 9:00 and finally found a small samosa and tea place where I had my breakfast. I think people get a late start hereabouts. Actually they call them ‘samsa’ here, and here is the Russian word for it. (‘C’ is the ss sound). They bake them in a tandoori oven.
Since I was half way to the local ‘sights’ I went ahead without my friend. There is a huge Mausoleum here built by Timur (whom we call Tamerlane) in 1380 (remember him from Uzbekistan?) honoring a Sufi named Kozha Akhmed Yasaui. Yasaui had died in 1166 and already his tomb was a holy place of pilgrimage. Even today people worship at this site.
There were several other interesting mausoleums and baths in the area. When
my feet could take no more, I hiked back to the hotel and rested, then had lunch. I called my friend, Inara, and we made a date to go to a village out of town the next day.
In the meantime I had emailed my Astana hostel and discovered it was closed for remodeling. So I had to scramble around and find another. Being isolated in this hotel isn’t nearly as nice as being in a hostel.
Inara, my English speaking friend, made arrangements for a taxi to take us to the old Silk Road fortress of Sauren, which was out of town about 46 km. There wasn’t much left of it, but some exotic-looking city walls, and some pavements. They were reconstructing some of it on the foundations of old buildings. Imagine how many camels had passed through here over the millennia.
We stopped at the horse meat stall and watched a woman stuff sausage-like stuff into a horse intestine. There was also a big display of what I thought was cheese. It turned out it was butter (I had a small taste) made from mare’s milk! We looked at the other meat stalls, the sweets, the fabrics, household goods, etc. etc.
The markets in Kazakhstan are very clean. And the vendors are all friendly, although a few don’t want their picture taken.
Then it was time for lunch. We went to a ‘local’ restaurant that was lovely. We had talked about my tasting Koumiss, which is fermented mare’s milk. I had tasted it before when I was in Mongolia, but really didn’t remember what it tasted like. Inara thought that the restaurant would have Koumiss, but they didn’t. So we walked back to the Bazaar and to the Horse meat area and bought a small ‘Coke-bottle-full’ and took it to the restaurant. I was thinking that there was a good jolt of alcohol in it, but really, it only tasted like cold regular milk with a little vinegar in it. Maybe they sell it ‘unfermented’ and it will ferment as you have it at home.
For lunch I had some mutton, with potatoes and dill, and a little salad. The restaurant was very beautiful and was packed with locals. There were little private ‘cabins’ on the sides (behind the grill-work) where women could have privacy, this being a largely Muslim country.
It was a pleasant time. After lunch Inara needed to get to the University by 2:00 PM. We took the number 2 marshrutka (van) back to my hotel, where I got off and she continued on to the University.
That evening Inara called me and said she would like to come to my hotel as she had a present for me. She and her little brother came and gave me a lovely gift——a Kazakhstan ‘holiday’ sleeveless jacket of red satin with lots of decorations! What a lovely thing for her to do!
The next morning I got the number 2 marshrutka to the ‘Old Bus Station.’ Goodness, that is really taking a chance. I was standing with my suitcase in the very front of the van (all packed full) with not much, except the ceiling, to hang onto. Huge traffic, and the van went quite fast. If it had hit something I would have been a goner. Well, I made it to the bus station. There was an 18-passenger big van, loading for Kyzylorda. Of course one has to wait for the van to fill, which in this case took an hour and a quarter. Finally we were on our way. After awhile we stopped for a potty break—-hole in the floor—-well, I’ll spare you the details. We arrived Kyzylorda in about three hours. The van seemed kind of dangerous—-a high center of gravity made it kind of sway when it changed lanes. Oh well, this is why I tell people not to worry about my being harmed by terrorists——it is much more likely to happen in a traffic accident.
The huge double lane highway was great, but I noticed that the driver drove steadily at 100 km, which is only about 60 mph. We saw many herds of mostly black sheep, also cows and many horses. It’s a wonder they can survive on these desert plants, although, of course, it is fall and maybe this is much greener during the spring and summer.
Arriving in the bus depot at Kyzylorda, I got a taxi and handed him the sheet of paper confirming my reservation at the Hotel Vangogh. He didn’t seem sure about finding it, so I offered to telephone the hotel. I had four numbers (I had checked out one of them from Turkistan to be sure they would answer) and NONE of them answered. Well, the taxi seemed to know where it was, and yes, he did! I got checked in, with no English, and then sent to the dining room which had vodka and food. I had a very nice lunch of fried fish, rice, salad and bread. The waiter and I made do by speaking into the iPhone with the translation mode.
I am noticing that Astana, where I intended to go next, is having lows of 26 degrees F. and highs of 38! TOO COLD! So tomorrow I shall try to change my flights and go back directly to Almaty after Kyzylorda. I really wanted to see more of that city, anyway. I hope it all works out.