Day 120: Go West!

Taraz Travel Blog

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Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Serik (Kazakhstan)

Kazakhstan is a big country. A huge country, in fact. It's the ninth biggest country in the world, so despite my general direction being 'East', I would have to travel nearly 1000 kilometres westbound in order to do some sightseeing. Turkistan is, as the name suggests, a Turkic city, which lies just north of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan where I was nearly a month ago. And there's actually a whole lot more Kazakhstan west of Turkistan, the country stretches all the way back to the European continent at Uralsk, on the shore of the Caspian sea. Shortage of time meant that I would have to skip all that. To illustrate the size of the country once more: my train journey from Almaty to Turkistan lasted 17 hours.

One of the stops (I think this was at Taraz, though I am not sure)


But I was not bored for a second during these 17 hours. This was exactly the type of train travel I love. Every few hours the train stopped at a station, where the platform was full of babushka's selling drinks, fruit or delicious home-made food.
The fellow travellers in my compartment were an elderly couple who didn't speak any English and a young student, heading home for the summer holidays. She studied in Almaty, but lived in Aqtöbe, which is 46 hours by train. She spoke English, but was a little shy.

On the train I met one of the provodniks, Serik, who was very eager to practise his English with me. He treated me to dinner and drinks in the restaurant carriage (staff only pay 5% of the regular price, which probably explains why normally you will only find train staff in these restaurant carriages).
One of the stops
The food was dreadful though - I would have been better off buying some food from the babushka's at the station - but fortunately I was able to wash it away with some ice cold beers. We had a very nice and interesting conversation. He too was from Aqtöbe and he tried to convince me to visit his city. He even went as far as arranging I could travel there for free, but unfortunately time was once again an issue. Despite having more time in Kazakhstan than initially planned, 16 days simply aren't enough to travel around the whole country AND pick up an Indian visa on the way.

The conversations with Serik made the trip fly by and before I knew it it was time to catch some sleep. Ah yes, how I missed this. Lying on the top bunk in a sleeper compartment, the train gently rocking me to sleep. Seriously, travelling on overnight trains is one of the highlights of travelling through the former Soviet Union.
Somehow I was sad I wasn't doing full the two-day journey to Aqtöbe.

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Endless steppe rolling by
Endless steppe rolling by
One of the stops (I think this was…
One of the stops (I think this wa…
One of the stops
One of the stops
One of the stops
One of the stops
Taraz
photo by: hyo