+ another 20km riding around Kyzylorda looking for a place to kip
Its interesting camping on sand as when you wake up in the morning you can see the footprints of some small animals that have obviously come to take a wee look at what inhabited their environment.
You also become more familiar with all variety of insects and bugs and it was here that I experienced some particularly over aggressive ants. I also had a small run in with a scorpion like creature who was once again notable for his fearless nature. I was packing up the panniers and getting ready to leave when I noticed it. He was having a good old sniff around the bike and bags and I made a couple of attempts to shoo him away yet he just kept coming back for more. One of the panniers lay on the sand open and before I had time to turn it upright my worst fears were realized as he scuttled his way in. This led to me having empty out the entire contents of the pannier onto the sand and try to locate my ‘new friend’ He’d managed to wriggle his way in and was curled up inside the scrubbing pad I use to clean my pots.. Naturally he was ejected and sent flying off into the far away desert. The last thing you want if to put your hand in a bag is to find something like that unexpectedly waiting for you.
Lets be having you
I planned a short ride today and was looking forward to the prospect of arriving in Kyzylorda. I’d spent the last three nights out in the open and thought I’d take the opportunity of a relatively large city by Kazakhstan standards to find an actual bed for the night. I was however to be disappointed. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I arrived on a Friday but all the hotels, or those in my price bracket were totally booked.
As I’ve previously mentioned hotels here are expensive and few and far between. I wasn’t having much luck finding a place and was quoted prices anywhere from 6000T to 18000T (£25 - £75)This was obviously way outside my budget, some days when I camp and cook myself I can spend as little as 700T. I rode around the city picking up a few supplies here and there but very early realized that there was little chance of me staying there and that I should make my way back out into the sand. I was a little downhearted as I’d been looking forward more than anything to the prospect of a warm shower but once I’d made my mind up to leave there was no going back.
Just passing through.....
I found a small restaurant outside of the city and thought I’d try my luck asking to pitch my tent there. I was greeted by three local guys, one a burly Ukrainian truck driver called Sergei and two other gentleman one of whom was obviously the boss judging by the revered manner in which his companions treated him. I took the opportunity to order some food; I find this works best as you then have some leverage in making a request to camp at their place for the night.
While I waited for the food, the older of the three took me for a small guided tour of the area around the restaurant. It was quite a nice restaurant and had some beds and tables outside with colourful drapes over them. He led me to a small cage right out the back where he introduced me to two small wolves they’d captured. The poor little things looked very harmless.
Whenever I mention the world wolf to a local they always mime the action of shooting with a rifle. The hunting of wolves is apparently very common practice here. I’ve also heard rumours that sometimes they are caught and then bred to be used in savage and disgusting act of dog fights.
The restaurant didn’t have any of the foods that I usually order so I basically gave the waitress free reign and she appeared ten minutes later with a large plate of dumplings dripping in oil. I was so hungry that I didn’t care what it was, I just needed some food. I knew however as I ate them that there would be problems later!
In the end I decided not to ask if I could pitch my tent there. I just had a feeling that I didn’t feel that comfortable in that place. The boss seemed to wield his power over his employees and a couple of them seemed genuinely scared of him. It made for an altogether uncomfortable experience and one that I didn’t fancy spending the evening around.
When I first came to Kazakhstan I was bowled over by the level of hospitality I met from locals but my mind often goes back to the young guy I met on the first night I was in Kazakhstan who told me to be weary of trusting everyone. I should point out that I’ve only had good experiences of people but you learn to put up your guard a little more as time goes by. As a general rule I tend to look for the presence of a family if I’m going to camp at a restaurant or house.
One thing I have learned though is that you will always find a place to sleep. It was one of the main concerns I had when I set out on this trip. The constant question that would keep cropping up in my mind ‘where will I sleep tonight’ after a while this becomes less of a concern, it may not be the most comfortable place in the world but you can always find shelter somewhere.