Apr 25, 2010
Nov 10, 2010
It's all worth it, just to be somewhere where I can understand the language and see at least one familiar face of an old friend. And apart from that it's great to be in this city, with its wide avenues lined with autumn-coloured trees, beautiful sunshine, snow-capped mountains in the distance, and the best apples in the world!
My westward push continues, and I'm in Kazakhstan. It wasn't without some effort, as the border crossing from China took six hours. The Chinese customs turned my rucksack inside out, and the infallibly polite Kazakhs sent legions of troops and officials down the train to check everything you can think of. We then had another two hours to wait while the wheels on the train were changed from Chinese to former Soviet gauge, in the bleak, windswept settlement of Dostyk. Had my first bowl of Russian soup, and a plate of plov, the famous Central Asian rice dish. We then trundled across the empty Kazakh steppe, much of it dead flat - this time I was sharing with an old Kazakh woman. She spoke virtually no Russian but had the sweetest smile.