We have been here in Almaty for 2 weeks now and I am reminded of the last line of the Eagles song ‘Hotel California’ which says ‘You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!’. As our plans keep changing, we keep making and cancelling reservations at the hotel Parasat, not California. We have stayed in five different rooms here so far.
Two weeks in the same place for us is a strange experience after almost four months constant travelling on the road, it feels to me like we are becalmed and have lost steerage , the sail is gently moving in a very light breeze, causing the mast hoops to creak from time to time. A little strange analogy so far from the ocean but the loss of direction is like malaise that has made one feel listless and sometimes happy just to read, watch TV or sleep, although parts of our days have been busy with unexpected activities, see below.
Our friend serendipity has also caught up with us, I thought we had left her in Mongolia, but she seems keen to travel with us again. As you may recall from the last blog, we were waiting to hear back from the Turkmenistan Consulate on our visa application which we were told to call about on 31 July. We planned to leave for a week and do a loop around Kyrgyzstan and then return to Almaty until Anne’s right shoulder froze overnight and left her with limited movement and significant pain. We were lucky to be here in Almaty not on the road in a remote location, hence the return of Serendipity. We were lucky enough while seeking medical advice to be pointed in the direction of an English speaking orthopaedic specialist whom Anne is now seeing daily for some lovely shockwave therapy, not painless sadly, to restore movement to her right arm. Progress is being made.
While my writing may give the impression that we are doing little or nothing, we are walking 8-11km / 5-7 miles a day as we go to for Anne’s treatment, Costa Coffee and exploring a new location each day from the Green Market to Hard Rock Cafe Almaty to meeting ex Soviet sailors celebrating Russian Navy day (31 July) . We do feel however that we are in a bit of a ‘bubble’ here in Almaty, which is the term we also use for the Dostyk Plaza, a modern shopping centre that would not be out of place anywhere in the world where Anne gets her excellent ‘Costa’ coffee. The rest of Kazakhstan, and the more distant parts of Almaty do not reflect the environment we are living in.
Anne’s treatment is progressing better than our Turkmenistan visa application. We had the nurse at the specialist call on the 31st as planned to have a Russian speaker talk with the consulate, “no answer, call back in a week” she was told. The nurse said it was too long, “call back tomorrow”, she did, “still no decision, call back”. Today we got “нет”, “нет what” asked the nurse, “still no decision, probably no approval”. We believe we are just getting the run around after our difficult application, but it’s hard to tell. We will wait till tomorrow morning, Thursday, but leave then if there is no answer. While it has been frustrating, we wanted to try here to see if it was possible, so we could tell others YES/NO since we could find no recent attempts in Almaty. If no one tries, based on previous information, it could have changed and no one would know, hence our effort here, which has coincided with Anne’s injury. Hence Seredipity…
Amazingly, Shane, a friend from Brisbane, http://www.tiredanddehydrated.com, is also waiting to find out if he’ll get a transit visa at the same time as us and has chosen the same transit route as us – he is travelling in the opposite direction. If we are all successful, we would meet up somewhere in Turkmenistan. That would be so much fun!
While in Almaty, we also get to watch the daily world news cycle, on the only English channel here, CNN, which seems so distant and unimportant to us, but we realise the events are likely to have an impact on people. We are in a bubble in so many ways.
Yesterday, we continued our search for some vinyl to patch the holes both our seats have developed. We were recommended a car repair and detailing place. As staff are desperately trying to explain the cost of completely recovering our seats, a customer comes over to us and asks in perfect English if he can help. Almaz offers to take us to a motorcycle spares and repair place he knows. Off we go in his beautiful black Range Rover to FreeRider which also has a hostel and pub.
It was so interesting finding out more about life in Kazakhstan, and especially the difference between pre and post independence in 1991 and the impact on people. Almaz was quite a character with a great sense of humour. We appreciated his openess. And his help of course too!! Once again, people coming to our aid.
The repair man hasn’t shown up for work yet (it is 11.40am) – he had a big night we are told. The store is impressive, stocked with all sorts of spares and tyres. When we finally got a call back from Jana at 4pm that we could turn up at 10 tomorrow, we decide it was too close to our departure to take the risk of the man having another big night and we’d be left with no seats. We’ll patch up the seats with our liquid vinyl and some rubber mat we found at the supermarket.
A new experience today as we wait to see Anne’s specialist: the ground is shaking. It lasts 10 seconds. It can’t be a jackhammer outside, we are in a high rise. Did you feel that, Anne asks Anthony. Yes, he replies calmy. An earthquake? Probably. Within 15 minutes, it repeats 7 times. Quick check on Google – yes, we had a small 4.3 earthquake in the night. So these are aftershocks. Anne wants to get out. We walk downstairs to the ground floor: the exit door is locked. Back up we go. Why is everyone so calm Anne wonders? The nurse didn’t feel anything. “You won’t die in Kazakhstan today, just relax” she laughs, this happens all the time here apparently. That was enough to calm Anne down. By that time, after 12 aftershocks, we had lost count of the number. The funny thing is that on our way to the specialist, Anne had pointed out how strange it was that granite tiles on a building facade were cracked. The building must have moved she thought…
Anne’s shockwave therapy was painful but extremely effective. Thank you Aliya and doctors. For anyone visiting Almaty and needing some orthopedic rehabilitation, contact Doctor Dana Abildinova on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Almaty, we’ve had a great couple of weeks here.
What is the plan next then? Unless a miracle happens tomorrow, we have to give up on our wish to visit friends in Iran and change our route. We will head to Aktau, and cross the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan on a cargo ship. Another adventure – we hear we can wait up to aweek to get onto a cargo ship. First, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan then back into Kazakhstan.