KAZAKHSTAN

The land of Cognac, Vodka, Camels and Steppes

THE BORDER

The Kazak border at 2am!

The Kazak border guard, Ainur, who smiled as she let us over the border telling us that we were the first British people to cross in ONE year

PETROPAVLOSK - 80km from the Kazak border

The Kazak spread that welcomed us at Nadieshda and Shemil's house in Petropavlosk at 5am. They met us at the border and then guided us throught the beaurcracy of border crossing and got us some insurance - the whole process only took 3 hours!

Nadieshda and Shemil, our hosts and escorts down to Karaganda

A musical interlude (between vodka and cognac) with fantastic guitar playing and russian folk songs

Alexis and Olga after a few cognacs...

Shemil is a traumatologist and a part time guitar maker and managed to take off the end of three of his fingers with his blade about 5 days before we arrived

Greg attempting to create smoked ham with Shemil's brother-in-law. The ham is left hanging overnight dangling over the banya coals

Adriano visited the first school in Kazakhstan for disabled and orphaned children. They require lots of help and investment in order to keep them running. They need wheel chairs as well as $30,000 in order to finish their complex which will take care and rehabilate them as well as look after all their needs for life - Adriano can tell you how you can help if you would like to donate money.

Greg filling up on the road south - a petrol tank cost us £20 (not bad for 100 litres of fuel!)

On the road to Burabay and Astana, sheet ice lines the road

The Kazak police (they smile!!)

The entrance into the "Little Alps" surrounding Lake Burabay

The dried fish market at the side of the lake. Dried fish is a popular snack for driving...

The sleeping hedgehog on the road into Lake Burabay

Stopping for a spot of lunch Kazak style - grated carrots with paprika and garlic, grated beetroot with garlic and mini toasts with mayonnaise and cheese and of course garlic!

ASTANA

Astana - the new capital. The capital was moved from Almaty in 1997 due to the unstable geological forces surrounding Almaty. A lot of foreign investment is being put into the city as it rapidly expands from 500,000 people with the intention of constructing a multi religion church, governmental buildings and a cultural centre by 2007.

This towering egg is 107 metres tall with a platform at 97m (97 to signify the year of moving the capital from Almaty to Astana - 1997). This platform has the handprint of the president and you can make a wish to touch it!

Everyone who gets married in Astana goes to the tower to make a wish for their future together

Our escorts and our hosts whilst we were in Astana

External temperature of -31.6oC about 5 minutes before it dropped to -36.1oC....

The Kazak Steppe.... pretty cool at -36.1oC. A flat grass wasteland that stretches from the north to the south of Kazakstan a distance of 1000km. It is home to herds of wild horses, camels, foxes and a few nomadic people.

We met Father Christmas on our travels - Rudolf had changed slightly but was very grateful of some chocolate!

Father Christmas on the steppe

Wild and herded camels are found across the steppe. This herd was about 200 camels.

Our accelerator cable snapped in the middle of the steppe at - 30oC at 9pm with no garage within a 100 mile radius. We fixed it initially with a piece of cable and then resorted to string... Travelling for 400km on cable and string we staggered into Almaty before it snapped.

Petrol stations on the deserted Kazak steppe are protected by security guards with machine guns....

The sign for snow tyres

Almaty in the distance - a broken accelerator cable and 400km later!

The appartment market - if you are anticipating staying in Almaty for more than 2 days it is a good idea to rent an appartment. This is the place to barter for the most central appartment with all the mod cons.

Decorating the Christmas Tree

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM KAZAKHSTAN!

First attempt at Christmas dinner

Second attempt at Christmas dinner, a lot less carbonised and the completion of the challenge set by Alexis's mum

The view from our flat on New Years day. The Altau Mountain range surrounds Almaty and usually can't be seen due to the enormous amount of smog the covers the city from the heavy industry surrounding the town. The Clean Air Act is yet to kick in!

The national instrument of Kazahkstan - a two stringed ukalele

Marat and the lads who helped us to get our accelerator cable fixed and then reattach it. Not an easy task!

Marat and his family

A beastly adventure to the snow capped ski resort of Chymbulak, the ski resort 40km to the south of Almaty approximately 2650m altitude and where our lights decided to give up on us. The low ratio gears got their first test run and we managed to steam up to the top - unlike all the passengers who were thrown out as they were "too heavy!!"

The Chymbulak piste routes

Snowboarding kings

Images of Adriano as an older man

Some things are so familiar yet you can't quite place them!