Published: June 6th 2012May 27th 2012
The Kyrgyz-Kazach border crossing was like a human traffic jam. People with full bags of something smuggling through the gate to sell it in a Big Brother neighbour which is the job destination land for many of ex soviet countries. The queus were messy, and everyone tried to be smarter than his neighbour to get in first. Soon after passport control we could observe another pretty site. One of the officers accidently stops people with no matter larger or smaller bags, and the caught-ones soon give their ‘tax’ – some money pushed quickly whilst shaking hands with finally happy looking officer. We seemed to be innocent as he waived and shouted something like welcome to Kazachstan in Russian. Corruption is a big thing in post sovietic countries. It is unwritten rule when in Kyrgyztan or Kazachstan if a policeman stops your car, you already have a prepared set sum of money. People do not question it, and so officers happily collect all day long. The corruption in higher levels is even harsher, and so the distance between rich people mostly in the cities and poor in the villages is very remote with little chance to be improved in the near future. Kazachstan is generally a rich country. They are proud of oil and gold, and Almaty is clearly a financial hub not only in Kazachstan but in the middle Asia too.
Tranzuojant į Almatą. � While hitching to Almaty.
We entered the country with no expectations at all. We knew we have no chance of making it properly through steppes in the West, and the only part we will be crossing is through Almaty then towards the East. But once we got into the country it surprised us with its cleanliness, mild bright green rolling hills and people finally understanding what hitch hiking is all about. So getting a lift was easy and we had seldom to remind them we had no money for the hitched ride.
The driver who was going to Almaty was ready to get us there immediately but we asked him to stop before getting to a big city. Soon we saw some more interesting canyons, and we knew we had to stay overnight over there. The smell of fresh grass reminded us of home country, and the entire atmosphere of going on the good quality road whilst listening to overly romantic driver’s playlist tunes made us quite nostalgic.
Almata � Almaty
You can certainly feel the massive progress in this ex capital of Kazachstan. The traffic would not differ from any other European country apart from the fact that in no European country you would be able to see so many seriously-massive-the latest models-4×4 vehicles driven not only by business people but by young ladies too. The slightly older Mercedes looks already unfit to otherwise super perfect site of traffic.
Generally the city atmosphere was pretty western too. You may find French or Italian coffee shops, and people chilling in the parks. The actual sight seeing is not too impressive – we managed to walk around the city in few hours. Our attention was caught by brightly coloured Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Ascension which looked like just like a cake freshly made from candies. The church was full of people with long candles celebrating the Easter festives happening a week after the fellow Christian one.
In the nearby Panfilov park the massive Soviet monument to WW II heroes reminds of the great past that Kazachstan holds onto despite the fact they got their independence from Soviet Union 20 years ago. It feels that Russia is still a Big Brother to this country too.
The Big Almaty lake
Everyone whom we asked what else should be seen pointed at the mountains surrounding the city. A big time traveler Denis from Krasnoyarsk recommended us an alpine lake up in the mountains. We liked the new option and set off to the mountains the very next day. Our 15 kilometres hike was actually more worth than the view itself. Despite being set in the middle of mountains and being a source of a drinking water, the site was picturesque enough and very much visited by locals. Nevertheless we became more enthusiastic about a nature-culture accident we discovered on our way up. One pipe was broke in the middle, and the water leaking from it was caught in frost on the way. So the blue ice was building up like an upside down icicle. Breath taking natural colours.
Miegant plačiuose Kazakhstano laukuose. � While going to sleep in one of those boundless Kazakhstan's fields.
Off to China
It seems we had just about enough with exsoviet countries and Middle Asia too despite the fact we enjoyed their hospitality to the fullest. The bus loaded with Kazach people convinced the driver to give us a lift from one border to another, as walking across in not permitted. Soon they overloaded us with happy questions, and even joked they have to get our signatures now until it is too late when we become famous after our adventures. We were excited about what China might be able to offer us.