Almighty Almaty

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Today we arrived in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan. they lost that title in 1997 to Astana, but they never lost their joie de vivre it seems. Some people call it the Paris of Central Asia and it’s easy to understand why. Tree lined streets filled with coffee shops, terraces and cafés bathing in abundant sun shine. Coming from the north the first thing you’ll notice first 100 kilometre away is the long stretch of snow topped mountains towering above the city. We were lucky to arrive with clear blue skies and temperatures of 30 degrees plus.

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We read horrible stories about Kazakh roads especially from the Russian border to Almaty, so we were prepared for the worst, but found the roads actually pretty drivable. Sure, they were bad, but nothing like Mongolian ‘roads’ . Some stretches were filled with pot holes and there was a lot of road construction, but it was pretty easy to drive we found. The only annoyance is the traffic police in this country. Probably highly corrupt they like to pull cars over for fun. They did it to us four times in two days, but never managed to get any money from us. Leave that to Mirian!

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The first time they pulled us over, I was driving and just kept driving, ignoring their stop signal, since I did nothing wrong. Besides, they were trying to stop my from the other side of the road, which I found a bit weird. Apparently, they were not amused and came after us with sirens to stop us anyway. We did and after showing our documents they let us go. The three times after this, they said we were speeding, but after Mirian said we weren’t, we didn’t have to pay (-; The speed restrictions are so ridiculous that we diced to ignore them after we found out they would never fine us anyway.

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Along the road we saw a lot of cemeteries like the one above, where the graves were beautifully modelled.

The border crossing from Russia into Kazakhstan by the way went very smooth. The Russian guy inspecting our car was extremely friendly and funny and the Kazakh side was even more smooth. The immigration officer was very friendly and even stamped our immigration card twice, which means we don’t have to register within five days in Kazakhstan. That will save us a lot of hassle.

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The scenery along the way  from the Russian/Kazakh border to Almaty was pretty monotonous compared to what we were used to in Russia and Mongolia, but we found a beautiful camping spot anyway. After setting up our tent and cooking equipment, a couple of cars entered the area, one of which stopped to talk to us. A young guy wearing sun glasses stepped out of the car filled with young men tried to make conversation but after learmning we couldn’t speak local language decided to leave again.  He then drove a couple of hundred meters further where another car was parked. After a couple of minutes another car arrived and joined the other ones.

So here we are in the middle of nowhere but with three cars just hundreds of metres away and about ten young men who were now drinking. We didn’t feel comfortable any more and decided to leave our beautiful dinner spot. At least we had a nice home cooked dinner. After driving for another hour and a half we found a very clean and nice little hotel in a small village.

Yesterday we slept in Taldiqorghan, a couple of hundreds kilometres north of Almaty, where we watched Germany slaughter Brazil. Tonight we will watch the semi final of Oranje against Argentina in a pub called Shakespeare and then this weekend hopefully the final against Germany. In the meantime we’re gonna enjoy Almaty to the fullest by visiting terraces, arranging our Uzbek and Tajik-visa and going outdoors to some mountains and turquoise lakes nearby. Yesterday we also got good news about our Iranian visa request, which has been granted. Very good news, since we probably don’t need a guide now to drive through Iran, which apparently is a new rule since very recently.

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3 Responses to Almighty Almaty

  1. Dr H Baatjes

    Dear Bert & Mirian

    What a pleasure to meet you yesterday. I envy the places and stops you have had thus far. Kazakhstan remains to me an undiscovered gem whith many wild camping possibilities.

    I wish you a safe and adventurous trip up to your end destination.

    Mooi loop!!

    Groete

    Heinrich

  2. Marie Anne

    Heerlijk huiselijk tafereeltje met een pan met eten en twee flesjes grolsch. Het is hier heerlijk rustig nu Nederland eruit ligt. Met blij gemoed gaan we zondag Duitsland Argentinie kijken. Nederland zal een fikse afstraffing van Duitsland niet missen.
    Heeft Mirian de burkha voor Iran klaarliggen?

  3. Remco Verhaaf

    Mirian, Bert,

    Superleuk om jullie verhalen te lezen! Geweldige manier om terug naar huis te komen… veel plezier en goede (veilige) reis verder!

    Remco Verhaaf

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