Bayqonir – Jangagazali 95km
I really wasn’t at the races with today’s ride, I have no idea why but as anyone who is cycle touring will testify there are simply days when you just look at the bike and think ‘I don’t want to ride today’
I waved goodbye to the young girl and her mother in the morning. It turned out that they were from Kyzlorda and that this was how the girl was spending her summer holiday exiled as it were in this barren land, separated from her friends and working it seemed extremely long hours. I felt a real sense of sorrow for her. Was this anyway for a 15 year old to be spending their vacation? She had still been hard at it serving people in the restaurant when I went to bed last night at around twelve yet here she was again at eight in the morning and still working. I don’t know anything about her life but I know for certain that there are plenty of fifteen year olds back at home who wouldn’t fancy the idea of such a life.
Once again it made me think long and hard about what I’m doing and how unbelievably lucky I am to be doing it. What were the chances I wondered of this girl or anyone else in this region for that matter being able to do what I’m doing? Very slim I would suggest. Not for the first time it made me feel a certain sense of guilt. What must they think of people like myself who can just do this and travel in all these other amazing countries. I think this was a contributing factor to my solemn mood on the bike.
I couldn’t shake this mood all day. I thought about all the things that we have back at home or in the Western world and simply take for granted, running water, electricity, 24 hour Internet connection. I don’t want to come across as all ‘worldly’ now just because I’ve crossed some countries but the truth of the matter is that we have it so good. I know this isn’t the case for some people in the West who also have tough upbringings but for most of you reading this and I include myself I think we do alright I think the key word I keep going back to is ‘opportunity’ and this is something that I’ve seen through this trip that just simply isn’t available to everyone in this world.
I remember speaking to an American guy in Urumqi China about his experiences of travelling in Africa and he said that he would find it extremely hard to go back there to travel simply because of the abject poverty that he witnessed people living in each and every day. He said that at times it would literally bring him to tears. For this reason alone I don’t think I’d be able to cope with seeing such things. Kazakhstan as a country is still in relative infancy and of course there are people living in poverty here but I hope and pray that their future is brighter. From what I have read about the current administration is that they are making efforts to develop these more rural areas. The question it leaves me with is ‘what can I do?’ ‘how can I make a difference?’ It’s something that I’ve unfortunately not found the answer to, I hope I will.
The days scorching hot weather did little to lift me and after about 80km on the bike all I could think about was finding a place to find an ice cold drink. I experienced dehydration once on the bike in China on a previous short trip and it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all. Today I had water with me but the fact that it had been heated all day long by the sun meant it did little to quench my thirst.
I often find myself talking to myself throughout the day but I will often take the opportunity to pray to God while I’m on the bike. Some of you out there will be unaware of the fact that I became a born again Christian last year. I won’t give you all the details now but perhaps will post up something in the future in how my faith has helped me on this trip. Praying is obviously an important aspect of worship and I know that praying is not simply about asking God to give us things to make our lives better; however on this day I couldn’t help but pray to God that he might make a small shop appear so that I could get that cold drink that my body so badly needed at that time.
A couple of minutes after this I didn’t as you might expect find a shop but a white Toyota land cruiser passed me and then pulled over. I was in half a mind to speed on past and didn’t fancy the prospect of another broken conversation of ‘where are you from?’ A well built man walked towards me on the road and much to my disappointment he wasn’t holding a nice cool refreshing drink for me. As he got closer though I could see that he was holding something in his hand. It turned out to be a 2000T note (about 9 pounds) I was, as you might imagine slightly dumbstruck by this unexpected turn of events. He said nothing except for the usual greeting of ‘Salem’, nodded, turned around and went back to his car leaving me open jawed at what had just happened.
Now for those of a more cynical nature might just say that this was a random act of kindness by a passing motorist who took pity on a rather bedraggled looking cyclist insanely trying to ride in furnace like conditions. For me however I choose to see it as the workings of God, he couldn’t provide me with that drink that I so badly needed but perhaps just perhaps he sent this man who then provided me with the means not only to buy one bottle of cold drink but at least fifteen bottles of cold drink! I decided that I needed to keep a little of that money back in order to also share it with others I might also meet along the way who are in need.
Eventually another ten kilometres or so down the road I came across a restaurant on the outskirts of another non-descript small town, Jangagazali. I handed over 150T of my new found wealth and gulped down the contents of an entire bottle of ice cold Pepsi in no time at all. I cannot even begin to describe just how good that drink tasted.
The owners agreed for me to put my tent up around the back of their restaurant. What had started as a tough day out on the road with some rather dark thoughts had ended with two acts of kindness from complete strangers and that once again confirmed to me that human beings despite what we read on a daily basis in the media are for the most part good. Praise be to God.