But they haven't put their mittens on And there's fifteen feet of pure white snow
18.02.2007 - 18.02.2007 1 °C
After spending a few days exploring Shymkent we decided it was high time we spread our wings a little and ventured into the country side. The trusty LP had two suggestions, The Mausoleum in Turkistan and a night in a yurt in the mountains. We decided to save the night in the yurt until it was a little closer to Spring and so organised a driver to take us the 200km to Turkistan.
The trip was supposed to take 3 hours. Not with Ayrton Sennavich behind the wheel! As we sped out of Shymmy Nat fell asleep leaving me to fear for both of our lives. The first major problem is that it is disrespectful to the driver to wear your seat belt (it shows a lack of trust in their driving) and as a result seat belts are superfluous and are removed from most cars. One would think that the numerous headstones and roadside memorials we passed would make them reconsider this cultural oddity or perhaps no one has shown them the "reduction in deaths when seat belts were invented" data...
The second problem was lack of audible communication. This inevitably leads to a game of charades. The real danger starts when you pass headstones of famous sportsmen who have perished on the Shymkent - Turkistan road. Every famous person's death was commemorated in story form by our wanna-be theatre-sports driver with both hands whilst we speed along a muddy, potholed, foggy road at 100km. Firstly he would say "champion" whilst acting out whatever sport the particular person was champion of. First was a boxer then a wrestler and then a horse rider of some sort. Once the dearly departeds sport had been correctly guessed he moved onto the style of crash. The most perilous for us was the boxer who apparantly rolled his car 11 times. This was acted out with both hands revolving around each other and moving up and down at the same time. It didn't matter how many times I said Da Da Da he wouldn't stop (and take control of the car by putting his hands back on the wheel) until the prescribed number of spins / rolls had been acted out. Against all odds we made it to Turkistan alive, and Joelvi had shaved a full hour of the normal trip time.
Turkistan itself is a nothing town but it has been an important pilgrimage sight for Muslims for a long time due to a number of 1000 year old mosques and an unfinished Mausleom that is pretty awesome (although we have been told that our next stop, Samarkand, in Uzbekistan is 10 times better). It was a chilly day and wandering around some of the smaller white rooms of the mausoleum felt very much like exploring a fridge. We did find a thermometer in the main hall and the temp was a very fridge like 1 degree. With a bit of wind chill action taking photos outside became a race against time. I regretted ignoring Nat's advice to take my gloves.
The ride home wasn't quite as harrowing as the memorials had already been pointed out and the fog cleared revealing a very brisk but beautifully sunny day. We did pass some sort of horse gathering. I'm not sure exactly what it was but there were at least 200 horses being ridden around in a tight bunch. I tried to get the driver to stop but either my charades weren't up to his standards or he didn't feel like stopping as he decided to ignore my request. I should have insisted, it's often the things that you stumble upon that end up being the highlights. At least we are guaranteed of seeing some Kazakh horsemanship on the 22 March (Kazakhstans New Year) and what better way to celebrate with a game of goat polo! Stay tuned for that one.
IN OTHER NEWS
Skiing is looking more and more promising as the temperature plummets and we get a few decent snow falls. Sunday afternoon was about 15 degrees in Shym but by late that night the mercury was hovering at 0 and by the morning it was -10. It's was awesome to wake up to a white Shymkent and a flurry of sizable flakes that lasted well into the day. We had another good dump today. Unfortunately we had the contents of a shipping container unpacked on the CR car park when it started. It took 7 big burly blokes 2 hours to repack the whole thing and by the end we were all very cold wet and exhausted. On Friday we head to Almaty for a few days to get our Uzbekistan visas and to hit the biggest (of 2 or possibly 3) ski resort in Kaz. Very excited!
On the Russian front the lessons are powering ahead. We thought we were signing up for one hour two nights a week however every lesson ends up being 2 or 3 hours so it's pretty full on. I think the reason for the long lessons is that Russian is so complicated that it takes that long to cover one rule. It's ridiculously complicated and has way too many rules and way way too many exceptions to the rules. Nat is studying very hard and is endeavouring to learn all the rules. I'm taking a "I'll do it on the night" approach. No prizes for guessing who is doing better, although it turns out I have a natural ability for perfect Russian pronunciation so it's a closer race than you may imagine ; )
One of my friends (a well travelled chap) went to India recently. I asked him how he found it and his answer was so eloquent I thought I would share it with the world!
"India is a sack of sh#t. Still waking up in the morning and just thrilled not to be in India." - anon
You had...these gloves...all this time...and you never told me!?
Duh! Yeah! We're in the Rockies!
I'm gonna kill you Lloyd!
Lot's of love,
Ev and Nat