Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Kazakhstan 2018


I arrived in Astana just before dawn this morning after travelling all yesterday afternoon and overnight from the Caucasus: Yerevan to Moscow (3 hours flying), transit in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport (7 hours), Moscow to Astana (3 hours flying).  Today’s diary entry is necessarily brief because I didn’t think it would make riveting reading to describe (a) arrival at the hotel (the Hotel Kazzhol) and having breakfast, (b) showering, (c) sleeping, and (d) washing clothes in the basin in my bathroom.

The coming week’s segment of my travels in Kazakhstan is intended to emphasise post-Soviet development, focussing on The Polygon, which is the area in north-east Kazakhstan where Soviet atomic testing was conducted.  Apparently it is the only nuclear testing site in the world that is now open to the public.  More about that later; today’s focus was exploring Astana with the group with whom I’ll be travelling.

As I did in Tajikistan, I’ve arranged this travel through Koryo Group, the reason being that (like southern Kyrgyzstan and the mountains of eastern Tajikistan along the Afghan border where I travelled last month) individual travel in north-east Kazakhstan is prohibitively expensive and prone to breakdowns, linguistic challenges and technical complications.  Koryo are excellent in opening up interesting places that would otherwise for all practical purposes be inaccessible.  The group leader is James Banfill, a young American, and the local (Kazakh) guide is Yerlan Shegenov.

The group met for the first time at 6:30pm this evening to share a dinner together at a restaurant on the 18th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel.  The views across Astana were stunning as we looked down on the evening lights come on around the Bayterek Tower, and the food was superb, the main course being horse meat.  Like every Koryo group I have travelled with, the other participants are all experienced travellers with a genuine sense of curiosity and appreciation of quirky places (as one might expect when travelling with a company whose prime focus is travel to North Korea).

Day 8



19 September 2018