Прибыли мы в пятницу, 6 августа. На автовокзале в Урумчи познакомились с двумя студентами 24 лет из Германии. Они проездом буквально по 2 дня побудут в Казахстане, Узбекистан, Туркменистан, Иран, Турция и обратно в Германию. Я их пригласил пожить у меня, во что они долго не верили, хотя я им раза три говорил о том что можно перекантоватся в одной из комнат моей квартиры:).
Ехали долго, то на Хоргосе нас заставили ждать 2 часа, попались вредному китайскому таможеннику, то с нашей стороны мурыжили некоторое время.
Родина дала о себе знать кривыми дорогами, ухабами, пресной кухней, мухами.
Думаю о впечатлениях о Алма-Ате пусть расскажут мои новоявленные друзья - Джордж и Кай.
Seventh leg: Kashgar – Urumqi – Almaty (KZ) Duration: 52h Distance: 2600 km
After a relaxed night we packed our stuff and walked to the bus station in Kashgar to get on
the overnight bus back to Urumqi. Everything worked out fine and at 11.30 a.m. we were on
our way back to Urumqi. The bus was filled with a mixture of smelly feet and “winds” from
the passengers. This was intensified by the fact that there was no air conditioning.
During a comfort break we chatted with two sinkiang-chinese police officers who greeted us
in an old fascist way, I guess you all know what that means. The rest of the trip was not
eventful at all, we arrived at Urumqi with a two hours delay.
We stopped a cab and went to the hostel in Urumqi to pick up our tickets for the international
bus going to Almaty in Kazakhstan via Khorgos. The ticket set us back 400 RMB (45 euro).
We hopped on a bus to the international bus station and got our last plate of genuine Sinkiang
noodles (yummy, yummy).
While we were waiting to enter the bus we met Askar and Aika (I hope the spelling is right), a
young married couple from Almaty. Askar is a self-employed graphic designer and his wife
an eventmanager. They told us about their travelling in China and after a couple of minutes
they offered us to stay with them in Almaty. We gladly accepted their generous offer and the
journey began. The international bus was far better than the coach we took from Kashgar to
Urumqi and we could even stretch our legs!
Being exhausted from the first uncomfortable bus trip we soon fell asleep and didn´t wake up
until we arrived at the Chinese – Kazakh border in Khorgos. The scenes we saw at the border
post seemed quite bizarre, people just threw their luggage over the border fence and various
guys offered us “VIP” border crossing service for a fee of 20 RMB each, meaning no waiting
time at the border. I was a bit tempted to try this service in order to have the experience of
bribing a border guard, but we refused and watched the crowd pushing through the gate. After
one hour we just queued at the end and were checked and could continue our way to the
Chinese passport checkpoint. No problems so far we went though rather quick and waited
outside to get back on the bus.
When we could enter the bus suddenly everything came to a halt and we had to wait for
another two hours, maybe the guards all went to have their lunch break. A mixed group of
Russians, Uzbeks and Kazakhs killed time by drinking some beer, playing cards and
exchanging obviously dirty jokes causing the whole bunch to burst out in laughter. Kai and I
talked to some guys about football, music and Almaty.
When we were finally allowed to proceed to the Kazakh checkpoint we were friendly
welcomed by the guards. Shortly before the customs inspection we helped Dias, a Kazakh
student coming back from China, to “smuggle” a bunch of new Nokia mobiles into
Kazakhstan which he planned to sell for a profit.
Having crossed the border after five hours the bus rolled on the Kazakh road towards Almaty.
Kai and I wanted to read a bit but the Kazakh “highway” crossed our plans, being merely a
giant pothole, Kai joined a cardgame and I was resting my eyes. Making our way further
towards Almaty the road condition continueously improved and it began to rain. Moments
before we arrvied Askar told us to be ready and we went off the bus setting our feet on
Unsure what we should do Askar and Aika told us to follow them. We were picked up by her
older brother Arman who drove us to their parents home and they invited us to have dinner
with them. Kai and I were overwhelmed by this gesture of hospitality and met Aika´s mom
and dad and some more of her relatives who made their home our home. Before we could say
a word we were served two steaming bowls of borsch and a delicious pea – potato soup
coming with fresh real bread. We could not believe our luck when we spotted a plate of
cheese and butter and enjoyed this wonderful meal. Bolat and his wife Daria surprised us even
more when they started speaking in fluent German and telling us about their holidays which
they spent in Germany when they were young.
We felt like being with our own families and before we left for Askar and Aika´s apartment
Bolat and Daria gave us two traditional hats and a bottle of local kognac. They wished us a
safe trip and good-bye. Arman brought us to Askar´s place were we had a beer and were
surprised to find a german national flag hanging down from the cupboard. Tired the three of
us went to bed.
The next morning we woke up and had to organise some stuff, change money, book train
tickets, etc. Afterwards Askar took us to restaurant and we had lunch in Almaty´s center. The
city really took us by surprise being green and really european-like with long alleys and
spacious sidewalks, making it a pleasure just to walk through the town. Askar excused
himself. He had to meet a client, after he walked us to the central park in which an orthodox
church and a WW II monumet were located. Strolling through the park we came across a
whole lot of couples getting married. Almaty must be the world capital of wedding planners.
Suddenly we heard a familiar voice calling for Kai. We turned around and saw Dias, the
student we helped to take the mobile phones over the border. He showed us his university, the
first one built in the Republic of Kazakhstan. We even sneaked into the building and had a
look into the classrooms. Actually it was not that different from our uni in Germany.
After that Dias left to meet up with his “future girlfriend” (as he put it☺). Kai and I decided to
continue walking through this wonderful city making our way back to Askar´s place. Taxis
work the same way as they do in Mongolia: You just stop any car and haggle with the driver
for the price.
On our way home we made a pit stop at the supermarket and purchased a fine piece of cheese,
some butter and a loaf of bread. We met Askar in front of his house and bought local beer
which was freshly filled right from kegs into plastic lemonade bottles. When he saw our bread
and cheese he smiled and could not believe our desire for these so simple seeming products.
We told him that there is literally no unsweetened bread and good cheese to find in China.
Back at his luxuriant house, packed with the latest entertainment gadgets and a massive
flatscreen TV we started drinking beer and chatting. He wanted to show us the colourful
nightlife of his vibrant city. We couldn´t agree more. After some time we were joined by two
of his friends, Albert and Alex. The night started promising and we talked about India,
Thailand, China and Kazakhstan. After a while Albert produced a small pipe from his keyring
and (mom, stop reading here) I took some drags, in this optimistic mood we got a cab to go
to their favorite nightclub (continue here).
Outside the club the young and beautiful folk of Almaty was standing in a long row. Since we
are friends of Askar, there was no need for us to queue and we could enter through the side
entrance. I was already quite tipsy and just found myself with a longdrink standing at a table
rasing my glass together with Askar, his friends and Kai, who really seemed to enjoy the club.
After we finished our glasses we went to the dancefloor and shaked our hips to electronic
music being as popular in Almaty as in Beijing and Germany. Albert excused himself because
he had to catch a flight to the U.S. and we remained with Askar and went to another club just
around the corner were a live band was playing rock music.
Amusing ourselves there for some time we wanted to check out another place and waited at a
bus stop for a taxi. All bus stops in Almaty have a small booth like a kiosk offering beer,
tabacco and other goods. While I was trying to test my Kazakh language skills, by buying
three bottles of beer, a police car stopped nearby and the officers started talking to Askar.
They checked his id card and asked for ours. It is our biggest fear to lose our passports so we
had left them at Askar´s place. Not able to identify ourselves we were “arrested” and told to
get into the police car. Askar was discussing the matter for a while and we felt really bad for
him, causing so much trouble. Maybe five minutes later we were bailed out by two boxes of
juice which Askar had bought at the bus stop.
Agreeing that it could hardly be worse we just had some more beers and walked home. The
next morning I woke up on the floor next to Kai wondering myself how I got there I climbed
back onto the sofa to sleep for some more hours. Finally being awake my thumb was aching,
the nail was squeezed and my head was heavy. Curing these aftermaths with an aspirin we
went to have some turkish kebab.
One hour before our train for Simkent left we took a cab to the trainstation. Askar took us all
the way right into the compartment. He didn´t leave until the train left and we waved goodbye.
We still don´t know how we could ever repay for what he did for us showing us around
the city, introducing us to his friends, taking us out….
So if you read this, dear Askar, thank you so much for your hospitality and say hello to Aika,
her family, Albert and Alex! Never have we been warmer welcomed than in Alamty!
We love Kazakhstan – Borat the movie sucks!
to be continued…