Kazakhstan tourist day two
Picked up outside the hotel at 8 am (after a small but filling English breakfast) Kati says we need to get food for lunch, which it should have spotted as a clue for where we were going but I didn’t. We scoot off to a supermarket which from the outside looks very ordinary but upon entering it is like Aladdin’s cave it is as good as any shop I have seen anywhere the biggest problem is the amount of choice there is and the range of products. They even have a bakery so we get coke, water, crisps (chips), chocolate and some of those local meat filled pastries and are soon back on the road.
We are heading South out of town and are soon in a traffic jam mainly due to the road works for the upcoming winter games than the time of day. There is a 4 lane section of road reduced to one lane which is a particularly difficult spot to use and. There is not a lot of coordination between groups on these things and never any though about the impact to drivers. Exactly the same thing happened in Moscow the other week when bridge repairs closed 6 of 8 lanes on Leningradsky prospect stopping traffic for a couple of days until the president ordered them to open more lanes. The effect was to delay travelers to Sherementyeve airport leaving thousands stranded. (Aeroflot are suing the city council but doubt they will win).
We crawl out of the city eventually and an hour or so we are heading out on the main highway towards China. Not that we are going there but many of our fellow travelers are. Lots of large trucks some looking rather overloaded are mixed with cars of various ages from Lada’s to Lexus’s with a few carts pulled by small donkeys. This leads to many opportunities for issues as the speeds range from 5 miles an hour up to 80. The road itself is wide but uneven with no markings it has grass verges and a double row of mature trees on either side all with the bottom 2 meters painted white which I assume is so that in the dark people will not run off it. I think this is the original “silk road” used by Marko Polo now moving less exotic goods around but still functioning fairly well.
Every now and again there are vendors set up selling fruit and at this time of year Melons. Whatever else they have they all seem to have melons. Some individually and some in groups of up to 15 stalls but all selling basically the same things. What you find in the east is that things are more seasonal so ther are great gluts of things based on when they ripen. In the west this is less pronounced as if you want Strawberries in December or Apples (Did I mention Almaty means apple) in April then they are available. This is because we can import them from different parts of the world so we need never run out which I am beginning to think is not a good thing, granted it is convenient but not sure it is good. Food here also comes in different shapes and sizes. You might think that is obvious but check out you supermarket. EU Regulations or FDA requirements really means everything has to be a particular size shape and color, I challenge you to find a product which does not conform to a “standard” well we don’t have this here. I think there is a price to pay for food all being the same uniform standard and it is probably taste.
There is not much of a view yet, the land is fairly flat although there are hill in the distance we are driving through semi agricultural land, a few sparsely populated villages where knots of people and houses break the monotony. After a few hours I ask for a coffee stop so we pull over at a little shack (I can’t think of a better description) with a sign “Kofe & bap” and Kati inquires about a beverage, the answer is “niet”. I remind them that the sign says “Kofe” as assertively as I can without being rude and suddenly they remember they have some. On reflection maybe it was a mistake as we sit down at one of the 3 or 4 tables are take stock. It is small room and the tables have plastic tablecloths which are sticky. The chairs don’t match each other; there are some Christmas decorations up with look like they may have been there for several decades. At one end of the room there are 2 very large speakers on stands, so large I wonder if they would make the whole place shake when used. On the table there are a few condiments with a sugar bowl covered by a tissue which is doing an effective job of keeping the flies off it. These insects really want to attach themselves to the flypaper on the shelf however it is full and I mean full not a scrap of paper can be seen but hundreds of stationary flies can. Mmmm, coffee arrives and I assume as the water would have been boiled it will be ok although it does look rather weak it is a little too late to back out.
Quickly finished Kati says she will use the facilities and enquires is I plan to use the toilet. I say no thanks I will use the wall outside as it will probably be more hygienic.