~ The beauty of nature lies in its imperfections ~

Thursday, January 25, 2018

SG - China - Kazakhstan : Part 4

From Chinese to Russian... are we all Communists???

After 26 days of China, we finally rode out of "Motherland", left Kevin (The Fixer) behind at the border and we were finally on our own.  Just the two of us :)  Special mention to Kevin, who stood at the China gates until he saw our passports endorsed with Kazakh entries before he left... and so, we rode 7.2km to the customs checkpoint.

Almaty = just 314km away!

Whilst we rode along the major roads leading from the border to the capital city Almaty, it struck us how the quality of the roads had changed so much.  In Kazakh, the tarmac was layered by varying decades.... whereas in China, it's (either) tip top smooth or as torn as a construction site!

We headed into Almaty Sapar, the guesthouse we had booked via Air BnB, unloaded the bikes and headed to the first pizza store we could find!  (26 days of just eating tomato & egg omelette + salty pork rinds with sauteed cabbage took it's toll)  We followed Google Map recommendations and wound up in Dostyk Plaza, a hyper modern shopping mall that looks like a whiter & glossier version of Vivo City.  We had pizza in the food court, our first western meal in 26 days and it tasted GOOOOD :)

Settling down, we then contacted Aigul, who was introduced by Philip.  She offered to meet us for lunch the next day; to chat on possible things to do in Kazakhstan.  It helped lots that she is part of the Kazakh Geograph Society and they run expeditions such as drives to the North Pole, snow leopard watching, etc...  it all sounded real exotic!  Lunch was in a richly decorated Kazakh restaurant, with a menu loaded with traditional dishes.  We had horse meat sausages, delicate roast lamb ribs and other hearty tasting dishes.  Pity none of this is served in Singapore...  I miss that robust & simple food.

The conversation went well and we mapped out a series of activities to keep us busy for a week!  Museum visits, walking around the city to see the Russian monuments, a night on Kok Tobe, a hill top amusement playland for the city folk and more.

Visited a musuem

A War Monument

We sought out FreeRider KZ, a motorcycle workshop as the NC750X needed some work on the rear shock.  Apart from some suspension issues with shock oil leaking, both bikes ran flawlessly, didn't miss a beat and returned fantastic fuel economy!  The Africa Twin consistently at 22 km/l, while the NC750X with DCT ran at 28km/l or better.
After turning up at a local workshop, word got out that 2 riders from Singapore had rolled into town... This reached the ears of celebrity biker Petrushkin who insisted to meet us for dinner.  He contacted Aigul and (poor girl) had to be translator the whole night.  Turns out he had ridden around the world on his BMW K1200LT and wanted to share his trip story with us too!  Left us his contact details and said we could contact him if we ever got into 'trouble'...  When we shook hands to part, I swear he had the biggest bear sized palms!

After dinner, we took the opportunity to grab a few snap shots of Africa Twin, against the famous Almaty Hotel as a backdrop!

Next day, we walked into Green Bazaar, guided by the ever energetic Aigul!  This was the most interesting market and we wished we could buy foodstuff to send home to friends!

Beautiful Fresh Fruits

Immaculate display of dried fruits.  They lure you with free samples :)

Yep, horse meats... it has a distinctive dark red color, redder than beef!
As Almaty is at the base of a mountain range, there are hills to wander upwards into...  one of these forms Big Almaty Lake.  It's a man-made lake, feeding the hydroelectric power station serving Almaty.

We have Mount Faber in SG.  Kazakhs have this, just 30 mins drive from the City Center!

With our first week out of China, we saw a stark difference.  One country was so rude and coarse in manners, while the other was full of friendly & helpful people, it was hard to believe they both had communist roots up till awhile ago.  Where did it start to deviate?

The friendliness of the people was most apparent when Aigul brought us hiking up Kok Zhailau.  It was a 2.5 hour hike but led upwards to a dreamy plateau where a poet could sit and write for hours & hours!  All this while, we met other locals on the trail and despite being strangers, all manners of pleasantries were exchanged.  Wish I could understand a bit of the local lingo!

Like those flowers on Ricola packs...  Except these are REAL!

With the week quickly passing, it was time to roll onwards to Kyrgyzstan where another country lay ahead of us.  The plan there was to start in Bishkek, work our way southwards toward Lenin Peak and then back.  But things will take a twist...

Onward to Bishkek!  Just 260km to go!

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