Archive for the ‘kazakhstan’ Category

Roaring camels

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Posted by Krista
Beyneu, Kazakhstan

roaring camel

There is the sound of a roaring camel in my ears. Her growls and moans are more ancient and strange than any I have heard before – and Dan likens them to the noise of dinosaurs. I wonder if she’s shouting to welcome the rain that has finally arrived in this dry and dusty desert village, or, like the scuttling people running for cover, she’s lamenting the howling wind and the storm that’s soaking her.

I think back to the last bout of rain that hit us in Kazakhstan, just two days and two hundred kilometres ago. The camels were roaring persistently then too, whilst Dan and I were forced to take refuge in a chaykhana (teahouse) because the pitted track we were taking had turned into thick clay that completely clagged our wheels and stopped us moving.

muddy wheel

At first we were upset that we wouldn’t be able to cover the 85 kilometres we’d planned to do that day. But in the end, after a pot of sweet, milky tea drunk from bowls, a plate of plov, some eggs and a bowl of cabbage soup, we were thankful for the rest – knackered from battling the headwinds and gruesome track.


Then, the next day, when the rain stopped, and the fierce wind and sun had dried our track so we could cycle again, the camels were quiet once more, seemingly content to munch on the newly watered, fresh smelling desert bushes – suddenly resplendent with desert flowers of delicate purples, pinks and whites, and bright yellows – turning their heads to stare intently at us as we laboured slowly along.

the next day...

The Turkish truckies aboard the cargo ship from Azerbaijan had warned us that this road from Aktau to Beyneu would be difficult. In the ship’s mess, while we anchored for a day waiting for the Swine flu quarantine to be lifted, we mused over maps, trying to glean as much as we could from the drivers the conditions of our proposed route. Bulent even offered us a lift all the way to Beyneu, the last village before the Uzbekistan border. But we shook our heads and instead enlisted him to help us learn some Russian words that we thought would be useful for the way ahead …

But nothing could’ve prepared us for this road… Day by day we toiled, never able to reach more than 10km/hr, eating five meals a day to make up for the amount of energy we were expending pushing against the fiercest headwinds we’ve known, the dust and sand storms, the rough track and the lack of habitation.

difficult 500kms

We sought refuge in chaykhanas, which lay sporadically along the deserted wasteland, and when those couldn’t be found, we hid from the dust and wind in drains to eat nuts and sultanas and swig on fast-emptying bottles of water.

hiding in drains

And I noticed that it was only when we stopped hoping the headwinds would turn into tailwinds and accepted our pace that the desert’s vastness, its harshness and its unending horizon became beautiful in our eyes.

And then we sang to the rocky outcrops, the windswept canyons, the giant boulders sculpted into spheres by the wind, the ancient burial grounds perched on hilltops, the huddling herds of horses and, of course, to those ancient wandering camels that roared in the rain.

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