Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Kazakhstan 2018


When I first arranged this trip last year to research human impact on water resources in the areas of the Aral Sea that lies in Kazakhstan, the schedule showed my flight from Kyzylorda to Astana (then via Almaty) as leaving in the morning.  Between then and now, the morning flight to Almaty was cancelled but a later afternoon direct flight to Astana was scheduled (but only three times per week – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday).  Consequently, I had much of the day (unplanned) in Kyzylorda before leaving for the airport at 3:00pm to catch my 5:30pm flight.

It was probably more time than I needed to see everything worth seeing in Kyzylorda, but it allowed time for a fairly leisurely three-hour eight kilometre walk around the city.

Many parts of Kyzylorda were built during the Soviet period, and in the inner city areas, five-storey prefabricated concrete housing blocks dominate the landscape, while further out, ramshackle old individual houses that also date from Soviet times dominate.  In the inner city area, the local administration has gone to great pains to modernise the appearance of the five-storey concrete blocks, mainly by painting the facades in moderately vivid colours and decorating the streets with overhead banners that glisten in a multitude of colours under the sunlight.

The results are partially successful insofar as the streets are relieved of the grey uniformity of many former Soviet cities, although the city’s heritage is still evident in the many unrenovated buildings and tell-take signs of Soviet urban planning such as the huge overhead pipes that carry hot water to apartment blocks.

Being 1st September, today marked the first day of the new school year for Kazakhstan’s school students.  It seems to be a tradition that students attend the first day in the finest uniforms, carrying flowers or other gifts for their teacher.  It was a grand sight to see so many students looking their finest for the first day of school – boys in their trim blue suits and ties, and young girls in their dresses with white leggings and huge white puffy ribbons in their hair.

My walk took me on a long loop, first west from my hotel along Tokmaganbetov Keshisi to the Palace of Culture, and then north along Kazybek Bi Street, through the Town Park (which was mainly occupied by empty carnival rides), through Victory Park (with its eternal flame and memorials to honour the fallen in World War II) and north along Ulitsa Auyel’bekaova to the Railway Station.

Perhaps surprisingly, Kyzylorda’s Railway Station was probably the scenic highlight of my walk.  Built in a beautiful classical Russian architectural style, and immaculately maintained (at least on the exterior), the station was fronted by lavish gardens that were in flower, interspersed by seats and various sculptures – although I thought the one of the man pointing a gun at the head of a female dancer while another women played her oboe was somewhat bizarre.  The main station building also featured some beautifully maintained murals in socialist realist style, but which had obviously been toned down since Soviet times.

I returned to the hotel via the Town Square that I had visited yesterday afternoon, giving me an hour and a half to rest before leaving for the airport.  A half hour drive brought me to Kyzylorda Airport by 3:30pm, but when I entered the building, there were no check-in counters, just some rows of seats with a few people scattered among them.  I must have looked a little bewildered because a young Kazakh man with perfect English came up to me to tell me that check-in would open at 4:00pm, and it would through a small door that was presently closed.

We continued to chat for the half hour, and then for another hour after check-in.  Trained at the University of Edinburgh, he works as an engineer on an offshore oil rig in the Caspian Sea and was on his way back for his next 28 day stint.  We spoke about a wide range of matters that would probably into two broad categories, world politics and environmental degradation.  It was a fascinating discussion and a great way to spend the time waiting for our flights in this scantily equipped little airport.

My flight to Astana was a fairly quick one hour and ten minutes on an Air Astana Embraer 190.  It almost looked like something from a futuristic science fiction movie as it taxied into position at Kyzylorda Airport past a row of classic Antonov An-2 biplanes that perform local and regional flights in the area.

As I have found lately, exiting from the airport was quite speedy without the need to wait for check-in luggage.  I found a taxi and negotiated the fare down from the initial 4,000 tenge to the standard 2,500 tenge that I had researched on the internet while in Kyzylorda.  Although we had no language in common, the taxi driver and I were able to communicate our backgrounds, our ages and, based on the three VERY near misses we had on our journey, the difference in driving styles in Kazakhstan and Australia.  We also made animated gestures about the weather –understandable as it was overcast, raining and just 6 degrees Celsius when I landed in Astana; quite a contrast from Kyzylorda!

Sadly, my missing luggage had not arrived as promised at my hotel when I checked in, so my first task upon reaching my room was to phone Emirates and check on progress.  It seems they had decided to reschedule my luggage to arrive on 4th September, a day and a half after I will have left.  I asked if they could send it instead to my next destination, Baku, and they will do that.  At the time of writing, I don’t have a date for its arrival in Baku.

Day 6

Kyzylorda to Astana


1 September 2018