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Video Fiesta

Posted July 30th, 2008

Here goes with another bunch of movies from the road. First in the list is a cooking video. We had an idea in Central Asia that it would be fun to do a series of shows about the food we cook on the road so this video is the first attempt. With so much good and cheap street food in Southeast Asia we’re unlikely to do another one in the near future but let us know if you like it and if we should continue the series in Australia and New Zealand.

The second video is a rather funny one about what we found when we tried to seek shade in a bus shelter in Kazakhstan and we also have a video about our first day rolling in Kazakhstan. Happy viewing!

The bumpy road to Karakol

Posted May 24th, 2008

672km Taldykorgan-Karakol

Rolling hills. Are we in England??Where to start on a journey that’s taken us across some of Kazakhstan’s more remote and beautiful places over the past eight days and through the back door into Kyrgyzstan, where we sit now on the edge of one of the world’s largest alpine lakes. How about with the sound of two hundred hoofs thundering on the ground around us as a troop of at least fifty horses, their glossy coats gleaming in the afternoon sunshine, raced past us in a high mountain pasture?

Or maybe we should begin with thunder of another kind; thunder and lightening that chased us over bumpy dirt roads into Kyrgyzstan where we dashed for shelter under the eaves of a farmhouse. As the rain poured down from the heavens, over the edge of the roof and into our shoes, we found a local teenager standing next to us, eyeing us up with surprise and a smile. Apparently they don’t get many tourists in his tiny village.

Then there was the lady who insisted we come in for tea when we arrived in her shop to buy some food. “Chai, chai,” she said, beckoning us over with a wave. Out came two cups of tea accompanied by bread, sausage, cookies and candies on the small and rickety table in her crowded kitchen, which served doubly as her bedroom. (more…)

Towards Taldykorgan

Posted May 16th, 2008

368km Almaty-Taldykorgan

Ready to marchAfter nearly a week in Almaty it was time to hit the road again, although we were slightly reluctant having had the good fortune to meet such a generous host as Abe, who let us crash in his apartment for our extended stay. This is really one of the great delights of our trip, meeting such wonderful people as we go. Abe not only restored our bodies with a place to rest for a few days but also had plenty of stories of his own to share from his experience bicycling from Korea to Kazakhstan and years of backpacking. We wished him all the best for his tour of Central Asia this summer and set off to tackle Almaty traffic for the last time.

Drivers here are exceptionally impatient. We had one going mad behind us, honking his horn and gesturing wildly, to try and get around us despite the fact that a fire truck was going through the intersection with sirens on full blast. Where we’re from this means all traffic stops until the fire truck is safely on its way but not in Almaty apparently. It was a long drive out, made even longer by the fact that we got lost and ended up putting ourselves a day out of our way. This didn’t put us in a great mood, our nerves already worn a little thin by the intense heat.


Road to Almaty

Posted May 7th, 2008

575km Taraz-Almaty

Ready to marchWhat a week it’s been. In the past seven days we’ve been treated to Kazakh culinary delights and indulged in a little too much Kazakh cognac with our cycling friend Michel. We’ve pedalled alongside a stunning snow-capped mountain range, stopped to watch horses and their newborn foals grazing in green pastures and even dipped briefly into Kyrgyzstan, without a visa no less! Nearly every day we found a fresh mountain stream to wash in and every night we camped in a peaceful setting, watching shepherds on horseback drive their flocks home as the sun sank below the horizon.

Several hundred kilometers of blissful cycling later we reached the tree-lined streets of Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan before the government moved to Astana. Here a kind-hearted American named Abraham opened his one-room Soviet apartment to us for a few nights. We’re very grateful for his generosity. We’d probably have avoided Almaty altogether without Abraham’s help since Kazakhstan’s elite are present in large numbers here and finding a cheap hotel room is a difficult task indeed. Almaty on normal terms would simply be beyond our reach.

For the most part our impressions of Kazakhstan have changed a great deal since we arrived but one thing hasn’t shifted. We still feel very much the poor cousins, with obvious displays of wealth all around us. From our observations on the road, it seems at least one out of every three vehicles is a brand new SUV. On the city streets, men and women parade around in immaculate suits and we often see expensive electronics like flat-screen televisions as we peek through office windows. (more…)

New friends in Taraz

Posted May 1st, 2008

192km Shymkent-Taraz

Andrew, Michel and a mystery benefactorThe well-dressed fellow at our table didn’t look like your typical alcoholic. With his well tailored suit and fancy watch he seemed more like a business man waiting for a meeting. But in the few minutes since we’d been at the cafe he’d already ordered three pitchers of vodka and a large beer. Four plates of meat and french fries also appeared along with bread and salads at our table but this seemed more for our benefit than his. He barely touched his meal as he downed shot after shot of vodka and rambled on to us in Russian.

In fact the man was already taking a great interest in our friend Michel when we arrived. We’d only just found Michel after being separated when we stopped to register our visa in Shymkent and he carried on down the road. We vastly underestimated how long it would take to work through post-Soviet bureaucracy and our hopes of leaving Shymkent to catch up with Michel by noon were quickly thwarted. “Come back at 5pm,” the man behind the desk said. By the time we left Shymkent on Monday the evening call to prayer was already ringing out over the city. (more…)