Friday 3rd March 2017

We have travelled overnight for a good 22 hours to arrive in Almaty, formerly known as Alma-Ata, in Kazakhstan. We left Tashkent yesterday on train 369, Tashkent to Novosibirsk service, and after only 25 minutes of travelling we endured 4 hours of security and immigration checks at the Uzbek-Kazakhstan border.

The dull proceedings were enlivened by a lovely young couple who were sharing our compartment. They shared homemade food and amazingly sweet coffee and apples (more about them later) and even insisted on making our beds!! They were en route to Novosibirsk but appeared to have everything bar the kitchen sink with them. Last night it clearly showed in carriage 2 that we were really travelling light! Haning left security at 10:30 p.m. we moved one hour forward and soon fell asleep.
It was 8:15 a.m. today when we woke to snow capped steppe which was seemingly endless, only broken in the last couple of hours by the desolate ‘badlands’ landscape of strip mining for coal and the resultant erosion as the landscape was left as wasteland following the extraction of the coal.

We arrived in Almaty under a threat of snow following a day’s melting. The streets were awash with slush and water as, in the case of Volgograd the surface snow melts but so does the frozen land. The city has a backdrop of the snowcapped Zailiysky Alatau, though because of the cloud and the snow that is falling as we write we have yet to see them. Having checked in to our central hotel we were having two Chinese chicken dishes and beer in a nearby restaurant. The menu was wide ranging and inexpensive. Our dishes were delicious but a member of the party was tempted to have an entree of ‘flogs legs’! This is just one interesting translation into English that we have experienced. For example, in Central Asia everyone answers the phone by saying ‘Hello’ but in Khiva we overheard ‘Hello, Alykum an abbreviated form of Salom Alykum (Peace be with you) in Uzbek.
It is below freezing and slowly crisping up outside.

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