Trip update: Kazakhstan

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Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:06 am

We left our hero just boarding a boat to Aktau. Everything I'd read said that this was a cargo ship on which passengers were an afterthought, and that it would be pretty horrible. It wasn't. It was quite nice.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:11 am

It wasn't a cruise, obviously. But it was a vehicle ferry rather than a cargo ferry, which I think was a good thing.

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But the beds were comfortable, and the window opened so the cabin didn't get too hot, and I shared with reasonably nice other tourists rather than truck drivers. And the toilets were okay - better than any given toilet on an overnight train - and the showers had hot water.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:14 am

And the weather was pretty much perfect. Breezy to cool you down, but not enough to rile up the water.

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Wouldn't have been much fun on rough seas.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:18 am

There wasn't much to do. The boat had been something else in a past life: it had a room that apparently used to be a bar...

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...and a former game room. The machines have instructions in English; the change machine takes Deutschmarks; none of it is switched on.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by kotagiri_tea_planter » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:23 am

Very nice!

How long was the crossing?

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:23 am

I passed the time watching downloaded tv on my phone, reading, wandering the ship and playing cards with the other tourists. Asshole: giving backpackers something to since 1995!

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by dBrother » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:26 am

Cool, I've been reading about that trip, in reverse, for years now..

Good to see it's still a thing.

Couldn't really have been to much else in its former life , that ship, little bit landlocked , either USSRian or Persian if it's that old.

How long did you have to wait to get a ship?
.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:29 am

So yeah: quite nice.

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We set off shortly after midnight. It was supposed to take thirty hours but we docked after twenty-two. Even immigration and customs was fine.

Best of all: most boats recently have been going to the new port of Kuryk, which has no facilities at all and is sixty miles by road south of Aktau, with no public transport. We went straight to Aktau. I spent a lot of time on deck in the last few hours before docking, nervously checking our position on my phone's GPS, waiting for the hard turn to starboard and Kuryk. It never came.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:47 am

dBrother wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:26 am
Couldn't really have been to much else in its former life , that ship, little bit landlocked , either USSRian or Persian if it's that old.

How long did you have to wait to get a ship?
You can sail a ship to the Caspian Sea via the Volga-Don canal, so it's at least theoretically possible that it came from somewhere else.

There was barely any wait. The boat left on the first day I was looking for one. Heard there was a boat at eleven; got to the port at half two; went through immigration at half seven; departed at half twelve.

I lived a charmed life getting to Kazakhstan.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by GLimpet » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:00 am

More than theoretically possible: most big ships and oil rigs in the Caspian come by that route.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:07 am

Cool. It makes a lot of sense.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:13 am

And so to Aktau.

Aktau mostly looks like this.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Klara » Sat Jun 09, 2018 8:05 am

It's not the kind of place that makes you want to sit down and have a spritz, is it.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by dBrother » Sat Jun 09, 2018 8:30 am

didn't know about the volga~don canal, thanks, learn something new everyday.

And you are living a charmed life having the boat waiting for you to be ready like that..
.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by VinnyD » Sat Jun 09, 2018 11:59 am

dBrother wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:26 am
Cool, I've been reading about that trip, in reverse, for years now..

Good to see it's still a thing.

Couldn't really have been to much else in its former life , that ship, little bit landlocked , either USSRian or Persian if it's that old.

How long did you have to wait to get a ship?
The fact that the change machine takes Deutsche Marks suggests that it may have operated in Germany, no?

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Lost Soul » Sat Jun 09, 2018 1:30 pm

The surface of the Caspian Sea is 90 feet below sea level.

The name of the Mesolithic (pre-farming) culture of northern Algeria and the rest of NW Africa is the Capsian. They ate a lot of shelled sea animals.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ExPat From Hell » Sat Jun 09, 2018 1:51 pm

How are you doing your trip planning? Mostly on the fly? Are you doing all you need from there east online now?
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 1:56 pm

Klara wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 8:05 am
It's not the kind of place that makes you want to sit down and have a spritz, is it.
It is not.

There were restaurants with great big seating areas along parts of the lakeside, all entirely deserted. I'd blame Ramadan, but inland people were eating and drinking in beer gardens long before it got dark.

It might be because the lakeside smells.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:03 pm

I spent a fair while wandering around town, because that's pretty much what I do. Here's a ride at the fun fair.

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Here's the lakeside, at its most attractive.

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And the architecture!

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:42 pm

I tried to make it look at least vaguely pretty.

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I really did.
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But it's not easy.

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Here's the most popular beach, for example. Crunchy sand and a view of the industrial port.

Image

In fairness, I was warned. But as we've established, there are only so many ways to east Asia without flying.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by bundes » Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:43 pm

Weather looks nice at least.

How much are pints?

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:58 pm

About €1.25 in Aktau, for a half litre of draught pish. The local beer largely sucks, as in Azerbaijan; you're better off with Efes or Baltika.

Cheaper here in Uralsk - more like €0.75.

Troll Handle will be pleased to hear that I tried a derivative but decent brew called Eclipse in an expat place. It tastes a bit like Blue Moon.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Chip_Oatley » Sat Jun 09, 2018 3:53 pm

Blue Moon sucks.

So did you talk to that woman sunbathing next to a scrubby bush and a broken chair?

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ExPat From Hell » Sat Jun 09, 2018 5:30 pm

Oh I love Baltica. Is it still numbered according to % alcohol?
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by snowgirl » Sat Jun 09, 2018 5:31 pm

You're really not selling me on Kazakhstan, ben.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by leela » Sat Jun 09, 2018 5:34 pm

The bit of Kazakhstan that I'm joining him for better be an improvement on this bit.
Pass the wine...

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:20 pm

ExPat From Hell wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 5:30 pm
Oh I love Baltica. Is it still numbered according to % alcohol?
I think so. You mostly see 7, 9 and 0; I'm drinking 7, because 9 is pretty rank.

Snowgirl, the point of these threads isn't to sell you on a place; it's to point out how cool and interesting I am foe being there.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:21 pm

Chip_Oatley wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 3:53 pm
Blue Moon sucks.

So did you talk to that woman sunbathing next to a scrubby bush and a broken chair?
The one who REALLY looks like she wants to be approached by a guy with whom she probably doesn't share a common language? Nope.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by cummy » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:31 pm

the place looks lovely! ok, well, maybe not. i love your word choice when describing your pics. i laugh!

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:39 pm

Having got the boat from Baku so much quicker than expected, I had time to kill. Leela and I had arranged to meet in Nukus, in far western Uzbekistan, on the 15th - or, if I arrived earlier than expected, in Tashkent on the 13th. I arrived in Kazakhstan in the very early hours of the 5th. I had time to kill.

From Aktau, trains head to Nukus, from which I could get another train to Tashkent and maybe look around the Fergana Valley for a few days. But that's a conservative area and travelling there during Ramadan didn't sound fun. Or I could get a train towards Almaty - but I'll be covering a lot of that route with leela in a month or so.

By a process of elimination, I headed north to Atyrau, the oil company shithole.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Klara » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:41 pm

I love the pics. So Kazakhstan doesn't look very pretty at the moment, but I don't know many people who've been to these places, so this is all very interesting to me.

Masha is in Georgia these days, by the way.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:46 pm

From the comfort of my place in London, years ago, I'd liked the sound of Atyrau because it's one of only two transcontinental cities in the world. You can cross a bridge from Asia to Europe and back, or, if you're even cooler than me like GLimpet is, walk across the frozen river in winter.

First, though, you've got to get there, which means 22 hours through this exact landscape.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:53 pm

Actually, that's a lie. For ten minutes you can see some hills.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:56 pm

And sometimes you get to a station.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Klara » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:57 pm

Were you able to contain the excitement?

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:00 pm

Took me five attempts to take that photo because my hands were trembling with the thrill of it all.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:01 pm

What's Masha doing in Georgia? Are her trip updates as good as mine?
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Klara » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:04 pm

Of course not! I've only seen one pic, and it was food. Good food, mind. The auberine with walnuts thing.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:05 pm

I ate that like six times after you'd reminded my I like aubergines.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by ben_hanscombe » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:07 pm

Speaking of eating! If you want to eat an ice cream that's named after the USSR, Atyrau is the place for you.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Klara » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:12 pm

ben_hanscombe wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:05 pm
I ate that like six times after you'd reminded my I like aubergines.
What would you do without me.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by snowgirl » Sat Jun 09, 2018 9:02 pm

ben_hanscombe wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:20 pm


Snowgirl, the point of these threads isn't to sell you on a place; it's to point out how cool and interesting I am foe being there.
Oh, don't worry, I'm supes impressed.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by GLimpet » Sun Jun 10, 2018 9:30 am

ben_hanscombe wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:58 pm
About €1.25 in Aktau, for a half litre of draught pish. The local beer largely sucks, as in Azerbaijan; you're better off with Efes or Baltika.
"Tian-Shan" beer, widely available ten years ago, was known by expats as "cheap shite".

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by GLimpet » Sun Jun 10, 2018 9:34 am

leela wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 5:34 pm
The bit of Kazakhstan that I'm joining him for better be an improvement on this bit.
Almaty is far nicer. I thought you'd been there before?

Tree lined streets, trams, the Tien Shan mountains. The old winter Olympics ice arena is practically in the suburbs and can be reached by local bus.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by leela » Sun Jun 10, 2018 10:51 am

Nah, I've been to Uzbekistan, but not Kazakhstan.

I'm glad Almaty gets a good review. I'm looking forward to getting to Charyn Canyon from there.
Pass the wine...

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by GLimpet » Sun Jun 10, 2018 1:11 pm

My impressions from the early 2000s were that it resembled a city in 1990s Eastern Europe more than one almost in East Asia.

The story I was getting from locals about the capital move to Astana was that the Nuzarbayev clan didn't trust the predominance of ethnic Russian Kazakhstanis in Almaty business and intellectual life and preferred a more Kazakh ethnic stronghold far from the population centre of Almaty where there were anti-government riots in the 1980s.

In Almaty I particularly enjoyed the "Museum of Kazakh Folk Instruments" in which I was one of the only visitors and was given a personal tour by distinguished local folk musician Abylev who played various instruments and allowed me to try 2 and 3 course dombras, fretted at similar intervals to an Appalachian dulcimer. Then he sat me down in a little auditorium and played a mini-concert of various styles around Central Asia as well as Greek and Italian, then sold me a cassette, which I still have. This was around 1999-2000. I was told that Abylev could also be seen busking at the local market.

Another time I took one of the (then) two tramlines to the terminus just to see what was there. Mostly dreary apartment blocks and some miserable-looking plots/allotments.

I also got the worse case of food poisoning ever from some chicken pelmeniy at an otherwise very nice restaurant. I should have listened when they told me to stick to the beef.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Scrubb » Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:14 pm

THat landscape is what I saw between my company's site and Shimkent. I liked the odd herd of wild horses, or horses with a dude watching them. And the mosques in front of some of the villages.

That was only a 4 hour trip in a van. From Shimkent I took the train to Almaty but it was overnight and I couldn't see a thing.
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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Flora » Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:23 pm

I'm enjoying your pics, but in a sort of way seeing them is making me really glad I ended up doing an alternative trip the last time I planned this one. Doesn't look my sort of thing.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by Andrea1 » Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:27 pm

Yeh, your trip is great, I'm loving it - your photos, the commentary and the banter. I'm planning on doing some of it at some point in the future but am definitely going to cherry pick. For instance doubt I'm going to that place and wait around for a boat that might or might not turn up in the next 5 days or so.

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Re: Trip update: Kazakhstan

Post by jessica_fletcher » Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:32 pm

Flora wrote:
Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:23 pm
I'm enjoying your pics, but in a sort of way seeing them is making me really glad I ended up doing an alternative trip the last time I planned this one. Doesn't look my sort of thing.
Same. Travelling from point to point just to say I have doesn’t interst me anymore. I think it’s because I’ve become a lazy tourist.
VinnyD wrote:
Tue May 15, 2018 6:13 pm
Oops.

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