DAY 76 Wednesday 1st August My right knee and the front ball of my right foot decided to play up during the night. I woke up with a hobble and 9 inflamed mozzy bites on my left arm. This ‘one mule town’ had no shops, no Internet gaff’s….nothing!. I have stared at the World Map […]
Wednesday 1st August
My right knee and the front ball of my right foot decided to play up during the night. I woke up with a hobble and 9 inflamed mozzy bites on my left arm. This 'one mule town' had no shops, no Internet gaff's....nothing!. I have stared at the World Map long enough now that I have it imprinted in the mind... I drew my own out.
The landscape so far In Kazakhstan has consisted of flat grassland...( the grass varied between 4 to 8 inches long). Spotted sporadically on this grass were telegraph poles the odd patch of sand dunes, desert, road, trains and their tracks, yak's, wild Horses and the odd bush or tree. Ravens and Eagles hovered above and that's about it. Atyrou is my destination and their is a good 500km of road before it forks off.
A lovely mother figure appeared to me at the Train Station who pointed me in the right direction. A taxi took me to the edge of town. This time the Thumb conjured the Kazkh boys in blue. To cut a very long story short despite my attempts I got escorted back to the Train Station.
The Silk road officially starts in Turkenstein these days and is a section of the journey I had been so looking forward to rolling along, all be it to drop into conversation to the Grandkids...
" Aye...back in the summer of 2012, Queen Elizabeth had her Diamond Jubilee...that Flotilla,'al tell ya'. England got knocked out the Euros again, Murray got to the final of Wimbledon, bless his efforts, and by God! London held the greatest Olympics ever!. Where was ya Grandad... hitching along the old Silk Road in Kazakhstan missing the lot!"
" Whats the Silk road Grandad "
" Welllllll! sit ya self down"
But No! I can't do that now because the cops put me on the Trains. Not a threatening scenario by any stretch... just plain weird.
I could pontificate on these happenings at great legnth yet weird sums it up best for now.
I couldn't break a smile out of these 'boys in blue' with the fantastic hats, they smiled and giggled between each other when they thought I wasn't looking, yet when i was looking they acted mean as hell...
" You in Kazakhstan now, no England "...
I was well aware of this. No one spoke English and it was harder to get things done than in China. Their was a tangible attitude to the younger generations that suggested a nationalistique, competative streak... like they were showing off or they assumed I thought Kazakhstan was rubbish, so they resented me a little for it. I wonder if 'Borat' was the reason.
" You U.S.A? "
" No English... Great Britain "
They would lighten up after this.
Down the rabbit hole we went as the rigmarole of buying a train ticket began. The cops stood either side of me the whole time ensuring I got tickets taking me to the Russian border... insinuating I will be checked at every station.
It transpired that their would be no trains for 5 days to Atyrou. I showed them my passport with the rigid dates specified on the Russian transit visa.
It took me 2 hours to explain that getting different trains along the inter-connecting route is also a viable option. Its simple things like this, the notion of alternative solutions that have proven very difficult to come out in the wash across a lot of this journey. We eventually sorted it.
The first train would leave Turkenstein at 4pm today, arriving ( and Im'e not even sure about this 'kapcakban, sonds like- Kandergas) the following day at 4pm Thursday. The next train leaves Kandergas at 20;20pm arriving at Atyrou 9am friday morning. With a 12 hour wait then the 21:20 train to Astrakhan (Russian border) arriving at 05:30am Saturday morning.
That evenings train was fine, I was in a 4 birth room. Everyone on the carriage glared at me like was from outer space, but once one brave soul cracked a smile out of me they all wanted a piece. Twas a nice hive of activity once we were chugging along, everyone had their doors open, intermingling and chatting away in the carriage corridor. I chose the company of some hard looking miner lads who invited me in their room for some Olives and Vodka...they had noticed my guitar when I got on the train and insisted I play for them. I kicked off with a nice instrumental picking piece, it evoked a sullen reaction. Not wanting these boys upset I pulled a masterstroke out the bag... I opened up with a whistle to the opening bars of ' Wind of Change' by the Scorpians with a slight steady tap on the Guitar to nods of stoight approval... then with a deep opening strum of the only chord I knew...
" I FOLLOW THE MOSKVA"
followed by a bellowing chorus of...
" DOWN TO GORKY PARK "
" LISTENING TO THE WIND OF CHAAAAANNNGGEEE "
Nothing like an Iron Curtain classic anthem to win the Ruskie crowd over. No change in their choice of song though...they made me play it 4 times.