06.07.2012 - 07.07.2012
You can see I already wrote an entry about my arrival in Aral.
I was so pleased to see foreigners again and in particular a fellow cyclist that I decided to take another, yes another rest day in Aral.
Mirko and I had decided that on the first night in Aral we should go out and drink and few beers and swap stories of our trip so far. I think one beer might have turned into about five but the next day both of us agreed wholeheartedly that our bodies aren’t really cut out for consuming that amount of beer these days.
Aral was insanely hot and I spent the morning going around the small village near the old port picking up food and some delicious watermelon.
There isn’t much to see in Aral now and it makes for particularly sad reading what happened to this once booming fishing port. The overly ambitious plans of the Soviet administration meant that in the 1960s planned to divert the rivers flowing into the see for irrigation, mainly to increase cotton production has meant that Aral now finds itself landlocked and without a sea.
I’m no expert on this matter but you can Google it yourself and read about one of modern time’s most saddening and ultimately preventable ecological disasters.
It means that Aral now has somewhat of a ‘ghost town’ feel. I believe plans are in place to try to divert the water back but it’s plain to see that the prosperity of the city has suffered.
Later that evening we went over to the square nearby the hotel where it seemed the whole population of Aral had gathered to watch a performance showcasing the best of Kazakhstan both old and new. Judging by the number of people and in particular young people who turned out it does look like Aral has a future.
Perhaps the best thing about Aral was the hotel I stayed in. It wasn’t in anyway luxurious, far from it but it pumped out air-conditioning twenty-four seven and it was so nice to just go and lie on the bed and not have to worry about sweating.
Tomorrow I’m back on the bike and will head into Aktobe province. If you look on the map this looks far and away the most remote part of my journey through the steppe and Mirko has also warned me that it’s a long hard slow push through to the next major city in the north Aktobe. So 600km in front of me, supplies bought, I’m ready for the next challenge.