18 Oct 2009

Алматы - Мангышлак (Almaty - Mangyshlak)

After an almost all-nighter (with Princess Bride, Napoleon Dynamite, Banana Splits, pasta with Heinz tomato sauce!, noodles, chocolate, the one month of russian love song :D and a bunch of packing) Ruslan picked us up and took us to the Almaty 2 train station where we met a whole bunch more people who had come to say good-bye.

Going around saying goodbyes. Everybody kept giving me more and more gifts and things to take along. I had just spent the night weeding out everything that was unnecessary so I could get my bag closed, and now I had to find space for all the new stuff. But it was sweet and much appreciated :)
And so it began.

It was good to be traveling with Aizhan. She knew how things worked, she could translate into Kazakh for me and it's just more fun to travel with someone. She found this little heartbreaker named Aslan in the compartment next to ours, so he came over for many visits during our three days together, always happy and laughing. There was another baby as well who would waddle around with a huge grin on his face. Asset's friend called him Shrek's child :D I have to agree that there was some similarity there.

During the day it's hot and sticky in the train. During the night the windows leak cold wind. But in general it's not too bad. In summer it might be too hot and in winter it is probably too cold, but September was quite pleasant.

I found a new extreme sport: squatty potty on a shaky toilet seat in a moving train. Fun stuff.

Oh, and garbage disposal... I was shocked when Bazargul threw her trash out the window. Conscientiously I took my own rubbish to the bin near the hot water heater. That is, until I saw the conductor walk over to it one day and chuck the contents out the window as well. So much for keeping the environment clean...

But the hot water heater was a nice thing to have. People were constantly traipsing past us to get more tea water.

The only thing I missed having was a shower. Especially when it was hot and sweaty. But it was ok. Just made me appreciate my first shower in Aktau more :)

These are the people I traveled with. Serik (in the yellow) played алты (six) with us every evening. Bazargul (the lady) kept feeding us more food. At one stop on the second day we came to a place where there were just heaps and heaps of melons. Bazargul bought a few and we ate those for the rest of the trip. My stomach would be full to the point of feeling sick and still they would give me more. She says I look like a stick (holding her pinky in the air) and I need to eat more. Haha.
Asset (in the purple shirt, also known as muscle man) was traveling with his friends back to their post in Aktau.
For the most part we all just hung out and talked or ate or slept. It's like a huge slumber party that lasts for 3 days. Everyone walks around in pyjamas or other comfortable clothes. Then, before getting off at their stop they change back into jeans and high heels for the outside world.

The scenery was rather unvaried. Described in one word, it would be FLAT. The only thing that changed was the type of bushes or dried grass along the tracks. There was the occasional brown village, or herd of horses or camels, or a row of electrical poles. But that was it. I don't think I've ever seen so much flat in my life!

I can still hear in my mind the rhythmical clinking and clanking of the train on the endless tracks. It was so relaxing to fall asleep to at night :)


AmalJaiwarra said...


We are two Canadians who have been traveling for over a year and are soon to cross over Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan on our way to SEA... We plan to take the train from Mangyshlak to Almaty but the website info we have makes it seem more expensive than is possible (almost 3000 Euros)... We came across your blog looking for info. We'd like to ask you a few questions if you have the time! If you could contact us at macrochondrie@gmail.com (or you can find us on couchsurfind with the user name AmalJaiwarra), we would really appreciate it!


Lahja said...

Hi guys, I just sent you an email. Hope to hear back from you!