Sunday, 16 February 2014

Kazakhstan–a Welcome Detour


I popped into Kazakhstan back in 2012. I say popped in because it was such a brief detour, for only two nights.  Whilst Kazakhstan neighbours both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, it's not part of the Silk Road and wasn't initially on the itinerary for the trip I booked.  With some unrest in the Fergana valley on the Uzbek/Kyrgyz border, the route we took went north into Kazakhstan, spending a night at a homestay in Zhabagly and a night camping under the stars at Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve.

Crossing over from Kyrgyzstan didn't prove difficult but it was hardly quick either.  Travelling in a group can slow this down some but equally, having someone who has done it before can make things easier. For this border crossing, it was me the group were left waiting for. The immigration officer I had on the Kazakh entrance was particularly personable. Smiling and stamping those before me, Borat (not joking, that was his name) became obsessed with the idea of me meeting his brother. Apparently his brother would love some Australian children. Eventually though, once he'd had enough of practicing his English and trying to arrange an introduction (also not joking, he kept trying to call his brother), he stamped my paperwork and I was allowed through to Kazakhstan. Our driver, who was waiting patiently with me, was equal parts amused and frustrated. Frustrated for the unnecessary delay, amused at the cause.

We arrive at our homestay in the small village of Zhabagly just before sundown so after quickly making use of the facilities, a few of us headed out on a walk and wonder, stopping for very many photos.  These photos are what you see below.  Zhabagly, a small village, lies a the foot of the West Tien Shan ranges where an life exists at a slower pace and smiles were never too far away.

After the walk, we were treated to a delicious multi course meal at the homestay.  Like Kyrgyzstan, community based tourism (CBT) is prevalent here. It often means paying to stay and eat in people's homes and I can't recommend it enough.

Have you ever had any interesting border crossings? or thought of heading to Kazakhstan? I’d love to head back one day and see more of the country, especially Almaty. And any positive detours? I love it when things don’t go to plan but work out even better than you could imagine.


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