I feel extremely spoiled meeting so many nice and friendly people on my way to Taiwan. Here again, in Kazakhstan, only spending twelve days, I could taste some of Kazakhs generosity. Thank you so much, dear Friends of the Road!… ‘Rahmat!’.
It was in Akterek that I asked some children playing where I could find water. The fountains in the street were empty, so I was wondering how people got water. Eckendir (11 – in front of the picture) instantly grabbed my water bottles and ran inside his house to take water from the tap. I asked him and the other children if they wanted to ride my bike. What a question 😉 Meanwhile Eckendir wanted to fill my bag with lots of pears from the orchard. And when his mum came outside to check who that tourist asking for water was, she brought a bag full of ‘Kurut’ (sundried yoghurtballs) and invited me for ‘chai’ (tea). In the meantime, one of the kids mentioned I had a flat tire. Eckendir brought me a bucket filled with water. And he and his friends all wanted me to help to repair. The invitation for ‘chaipit’ (drink tea) wasn’t just chai. The table was filled with all kinds of food, sweet and savoury. And also with a bag filled with tomatoes, cucumbers and biscuits for the road. They wanted me to stay there. After spending there already more than an hour and because the evening set, I decided to sleep outside under the stars, in their garden. That evening I played volleyball with the children. And while I was preparing my bed, Tolkin (Eckendir’s mum) brought me handmade wool socks. They were most beautiful. It took her three hours to make them. And therefore three days to make the wool. I couldn’t accept such a big gift. Not only I didn’t have space for it but I already received so many things. My first encounter with Kazakh generosity was one I’ll never forget #kazakhstan
A small Mitsubishi van passed by while I was pushing my bike up a steep hill. With every step I put, I was sliding down half a step. The driver (a Kurd, left on the picture) opened his window and asked if I wanted a lift and where I came from. He was incredibly surprised when hearing I cycled all the way from Belgium. Said ‘maladjèt’ (great, wonderful) several times. Asked again if I didn’t want a lift. Gave me a big thumbs up, a huge smile and waved me goodbye. A bit further his van and another car awaited me. They wanted to make a picture together and asked more questions. I like such encounters. They make the pushing much easier and the road more memorable #kazakhstan
While camping on an idyllic camp spot, next to a small meandering river in between fresh green, hilly fields, dark green conifers and lots of horses, this old man with his two little dogs passed by. Although I said I don’t understand Russian, he kept on talking. He invited me to his yurt for tea. And because he saw me preparing dinner he gave me a huge piece of Kurut (dried yoghurt). I said ‘njet, spasiba’ (no, thank you) several times and showed him all the Kurut I already got. Till he pretended, with an angry face, throwing the Kurut into the river. Then I said ‘thank you so much’ and ‘wow’. He repeated my ‘wow’, smiled and went of #kazakhstan
While pushing my bike up to a pass, I saw from afar two cyclists pushing their bikes as well. That’s right, yesterday the old man on his horse told me that. So I did understand it right. Here, on a trail on which I thought no other cyclists had been before, I met Sveta and Evgeny, a friendly Russian couple from Moscow. That was nice! Pushing was much easier with a chat. At least if there was breath left to talk 😉 #kazakhstan
I know Rik (2nd row, 2nd right) from way back in time. He also used to live in Eeklo, the town I grew up. A while ago I received a message on my trientrapt Facebook page: ‘hi Trien, I see you are in Central Asia right now. Do you want me to bring some Belgian tidbits you miss?’. I was super surprised to receive that message. That was so attentive! I actually didn’t know Rik that well and I even didn’t know he was following me on social media. This email arrived as a godsend because I was informing for prices for a courier to send me a small handlebar bag. So ‘Yes, thank you so much, Rik, no tidbits but a small bag. Is that possible too?’ It was! 1,5 months later we were planning to see each other somewhere on the road in between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. He occasionally is a tour leader for Sawadee Reizen, a travel organisation. He was going to tour with a group through Central Asia. He sent me his itinerary and I tried to meet him in Saty village near the beautiful Kolsai lakes. Miraculously, while I was cycling through the village, a bus passed by and Rik jumped out of it. Wow, perfect timing, what a coincidence! A few minutes later we arrived at their homestay (where I could pitch my tent). Rik handed me my new handlebar bag. Within that bag, two boxes. One with lots of Mignonettes, real Belgian dark chocolate from Côte-d’Or and another one full of typical candies from Ghent (‘Ghentian noses’ we call it). Both gifts from Rik. Wow! I can tell you, they didn’t live a long life… Thanks a lot, Rik! As this wasn’t enough pampering I also could join him and his group for dinner and breakfast and another dinner and breakfast the next days. And… I could accompany them on their walk towards the Kolsai lakes. I got to know a very nice group full of enthusiastic, warm and interested people. People who welcomed me from the first instance and gave me a sore throat as an extra. I wasn’t used to constantly talking anymore 😉 This encounter was one that gave me a smile on my face any many good souvenirs for the day I left and many more. Thank you so much, Rik and co! #kazakhstan
When I was cycling in Charyn Canyon it started raining. Luckily it was just at the time I arrived near the riverside. The place where people are allowed to camp. And where there is shelter for having a picknick. There I met Boris, Isaure, Nadège and Simon. Two French couples who were already cycling together for a while. I joined them at the table. The rain didn’t stop, so we were stuck under the shelter. We started cooking and continued talking about our cycling experiences. The next morning we rode together out of the canyon. There our paths split. An unexpected cosy evening and morning. Thanks a lot guys! #kazakhstan
My last night in Kazakhstan was one in the garden of Omirgali, Janyl and their son Madiar. The surroundings were extremely blank, no shelter to camp. That’s why I asked them if I could pitch my tent next to their house. Unexpectedly, I had a super cosy evening with a warm family. They invited me to their house for having dinner together. A ‘no’ was no answer. Although I said I already had an extremely extensive dinner and I was planning to explode. They served me Bishbarmak, a typical Kazakh meal. A tough one for a vegetarian. It’s a plate filled with noodles, raw onion and lots of sheep meat. Accompanied with a bowl of water where the noodles were cooked in. Although it’s hard for me to eat meat, I was very pleased with so much hospitality. Thanks a lot Omirgali, Janyl and Madiar! #kazakhstan