Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Kazakhstan: A Love Affair Part 2

Kazakhs are really down to earth people. I went out early with Eva, even though it was pouring down with rain, to explore parts of this interesting village we stayed at, Shabanbai Bi. Everyone we met nodded and greeted us on their way to their daily chores. One was placing cow pooh in a long line to dry once the sun was up for fuel. Cows were let out of their fenced areas to roam free. Roosters made their presence aware and we found a gigantic head statue of Lenin behind the school. For me, who grew up during the Soviet times, this was an amazing discovery. The head was almost intact, but had taking a beating on the nose. Eva tried to climb it, but I told her not to. As a kind of respect I think. I don´t know why it was still there. Maybe the villagers felt the same as me. I know after quite along time in Siberia, that village people in general don´t fully appreciate the arrival of consumerism and capitalism.

The rain spoiled Vitaliy and Jelena´s intended idea to climb Aksoran Peakthe highest point of Sary Arka. Instead we did an extra ordinary beautiful walk to a cave located 7 km:s away through a stunning landscape of autumn colors! So Eva and me set off slightly behind the rest of the group, first walking over a flat grass steppe, surrounded by round old mountains in the north and scraggy, bouldered and pancake like cliffs to the right. Our first goal was a line of the most dramatic colored patch of forest you can imagine. Vincent Van Gogh would have cut of his other ear had he seen this!

Eva made the first 7 km with no major problem. She was tired reaching the cave which was kind of hidden in a leafy bush, but I could see she was happy having made it. As the rule goes, we all celebrated with some really good vodka. I have to say the Kazakh vodka is the tastiest I have ever had. The cave in itself was quite insignificant, but for me, the major reason of enjoying traveling is people you come across. And this group was full of the nicest and most interesting of people.

The way back was a bit harder for Eva, it had stopped raining, but was still chilly and cold. But the air in this area is just so healthy and clean. A couple of the very friendly ladies who came from the busy cities of Astana and Alma Aty said the silence and the air was healing their stress. Eva and me followed a cow´s trail passing some really healthy cattle and getting nice views over the steppe and the village of Shabanbai Bi in the distance. Once back, a magnificent and very filling lunch waited for us.

Before dinner Vitalij took us to an old youth camp from the Soviet era, located not far from the city. It was used by the pioneers and as I mentioned earlier, for somebody brought up during the Soviet years, this is of course of great interest. As always I asked about the changes after perestroika and the answers were that there was good and bad with it. 

We finished off the day with a great meal, loads of great conversations and far too much vodka. But I really enjoy all the parties over here and the friendship which occurs are just awesome and of great importance. The old notion from pre-perestroika times that vodka defines who are your friends and not, still holds well today!

Next morning we returned silent, but happy to Karaganda in chilly rain and muddy roads. A great trip planned by Vitalij and Jelena!

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