Zhezkazgan Travel Blog› entry 59 of 83 › view all entries
Once in awhile I look at a map and find a place with a name that's so catchy or unusual that I feel compelled to go there. Plunked almost exactly in the center of Kazakhstan, Zhezkazgan fit the bill. Actually, it also appeared to be a convenient way to get from Kyzylorda to Karaganda, as it is almost exactly halfway between the two cities. Otherwise I would have to backtrack the equivalent of two days or take a 20+ hour ride on a train, neither of which I was wanting to do.
Gabit drove me to the bus station and there I saw the bus that would take me 10 hours to this remote outpost I'd chosen as my next destination.
The road was decent for about the first 25 minutes. Then we continued for the next 425 kilometers or so along a road that had more topography than the surrounding landscape.
We continued along the road, which was actually paved in several stretches of the route, but because the asphalt was not well maintained we drove almost exclusively on the dusty shoulder. Still we managed to run into several bumps, and each time plumes of dust poured in through the cracks along the edges of windows and through the unbolted hatches on top of the bus. Everyone was hacking and coughing, and once when we stopped I heard a noise that I swore was a moaning cow until I realized it was emanating from one of the large women on the bus. Throughout much of the ride, however, I was able to maintain a sense of comfort due to the padding of the seat.
About 20 minutes south of Zhezkazgan, cell phone reception resumed and everyone grabbed their phone and started calling and texting. Eric had told me he had friends here too, so I told him I was nearing the city. We pulled into the modern bus station around 5pm, which was actually an hour early. I entered the station and asked about connections to Karaganda, and while I waited for Eric to get back to me I saw a sign for qonaq uyi, or hotel in Kazakh. When I asked how much, the receptionist said 600 ($5). At first I thought I didn't understand the Russian, but sure enough it was true, and I quickly decided to just stay at the bus station, which would be convenient for catching the bus to Karaganda the next morning.
As sunlight faded, I boarded a bus to the center of town. I got out near a small square and the headquarters of Kazakhmys, one of the largest copper mining companies in the country. I continued walking about three blocks before I came to a large intersection and what was clearly the center of town: a wide square featuring a blaring television screen, a statue of a Kazakh hero and an enormous government building. On the other side was a boulevard and park that led to another major street and a nightclub. At the end of the park was a dull metal statue with a spiky orb on top, supposedly representing copper ore. Back at the main square I noticed a Russian Orthodox church a short walk beyond the government building.
I took a taxi back to the bus station for the equivalent of a couple dollars and entered the bus station to go take a shower. The lady who had checked me in stopped me to ask if someone else could stay in my room since I had two beds. I didn't really feel comfortable leaving my stuff unattended with someone I didn't know, let alone having to deal with communication so I gave my best uncomfortable face and it worked. During my shower a persistent Russian woman knocked on the door repeatedly but I have no idea what she wanted. It was pretty clear that I was taking a shower and couldn't open the door without exposing myself. But she left and then it was silent. I was glad to be able to set my alarm for a half hour before I needed to be on the bus. I fell asleep happy with my decision to go to Zhezkazgan. There wasn't much to see but sometimes those are the best places for me.