Atyrau was both a blessing and a worry. We made it with relative ease, but saw how dramatic the gap is between the rich and poor. We tried finding a hotel, but the cheapest was over $120 a night (yes, US Dollars), and even that price didn’t guarantee hot water or working internet. We stopped in a restaurant boasting wifi where a women fluent in English was extremely helpful, trying to point us to hotels and letting us sit in a corner on the internet trying to figure solutions. The first night we ended up having to roam the more empty parts of the city for camping, and we got out our bivvys for the first time since Poland. The next day we returned to the restaurant hoping to be able to check into an apartment, which with more great help from restaurant lady and a friend of hers (amazing people!) we managed to do by late afternoon. A bargain compared to hotels ($50 per night with kitchen and internet, no hot water), we headed straight to the place and set up shop, only to find more problems.
So yes, sorry about the blackout for the past couple of months, internet is basically non-existent in this part of the world. Unfortunately we fear it may be another long time before we get to blog again, especially as with the state filtering doing any kind of blogging takes a very long time. Remember you can subscribe via email and follow us on twitter, a lot easier than having to check back here all the time.
Thanks for reading :)
Overview of Kazakhstan so far.
It’s an actual desert, sand and everything, and it’s actually flat. Snooker table flat. This makes camping very difficult, particularly with the wind and even more so with being visible. There was a day which really caused worry, as two very rural men (one in a balaclava, neither with teeth) pulled up in a car and walked over to us as we packing away, and then, ignoring our attempts to converse, stood silently, in close proximity, watching. It was very unnerving and really made us feel quite unsafe, fortunately we have since met other much more friendly people.
There’s no vegetation or surface water out here, and we’ve been extremely lucky to have entered an area with a couple of rivers because there’s no more of them until past halfway through the country. This means we are in part relying on passing traffic being charitable, which is also unnerving.
No one lives out here. There are hardly any shops or cafes, which means we have to carry food to last for weeks and water for as long as we can. It also means there is no wifi. We have had to rent out an entire flat in Atyrau to get some, and we only pass through one other place as big as this in Kazakhstan so blogging will unfortunately be a rare thing (remember to subscribe via email!).
There is apparently a wolf problem. Frequently when chatting to people we get asked about how we deal with wolves, and hear stories about people walking between villages and disappearing. No experiences yet.
Everyone is Asian. But everyone speaks Russian.
There are wild camels and horses.
You can buy horse meat.