Day 131 (1): Halfway point
Almaty Travel Blog› entry 176 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Nicolas (France)
Today I am exactly at the halfway point. 131 days on the road and 131 more to go. And, by sheer coincidence, today is also the day when I break my own no-flights rule. There was always going to be one flight in my itinerary, flying from Almaty to Delhi. I will be travelling with my friend Ed in India and how else can you get from Kazakhstan to India? Though the distance Almaty - Delhi is not much greater than Almaty - Astana (as the crow flies), it would take me about a week to travel the distance overland, as there is an awful lot of desert and Himalayas in between. And the only feasable international border crossing in the Himalayas, between China and Nepal, is one I plan on taking in the other direction.
Besides, the weather is also something to factor in. Ed and I wanted to visit the Ladakh region, which is best visited before September. Statistically speaking that is, because in recent weeks the entire Ladakh region has been flooded, prompting us to cancel our plans to go to Ladakh and forcing us to look for alternatives, which is no easy feat as it seems to be raining everywhere.
It's ironic that protests (Iran) and civil war (Kyrgyzstan) could not deviate me from my original itinerary, but a bit of rain can. In all honesty, if it hadn't been for Ed I probably would have cancelled India altogether and would have stayed in Kazakhstan a bit longer and possibly would have travelled to China from here.
I left Kazakhstan feeling rather down. What had seemed such a good idea all those months ago, seemed like cheating now.
Ah well, nothing to do about that now. It is what it is and I am flying to India. Even though Ed and I don't have the faintest idea what to do when we get there now that Ladakh is off the cards.
Before I headed to the airport Nico saw me off with a 'proper' French farewell. Not knowing whether I would find any proper coffee in India, I wanted to pay one last visit to Coffeedelia and have one of their excellent espressos. Nico bought me an espresso and a croissant. “French tradition” he said. “you can't leave on a journey without having a croissant”.
We said our goodbyes and I headed to the airport, feeling, well, weird. Everything felt weird today. For the first time in nearly 5 months I set foot on a plane, it is almost as if I am starting a new trip. Well, I suppose I am, actually. No longer will I be travelling along the Silk Road, but instead I'm heading towards another route of the past: the Hippy Trail.
Almaty airport is surprisingly small. I'd expected the country's most important air hub to be a bit bigger. At least that it would have a place where you could sit down and have a drink (i.e. a bar!). Ed called me on my Kazakh mobile to discuss our plans for India. In five days he will be flying to Delhi and we still don't have any idea where to go.
The original plan for me to spend the five days before Ed's arrival had been to do a trip from Delhi to Agra, to see the Taj Mahal. Now that all mountain destinations in India's west are flooded (after Ladakh we contemplated the Himachal Pradesh state instead, but here too the weather was just awful) Ed figured our best shot would be west. He had deviced a route which would take us a week to get to Kolkata, after which we could try and get to Sikkim and Darjeeling - weather permitting.
So he advised me to spend my days before his arrival visiting Amritsar, on the Pakistani border, instead. That way we could visit Agra on the way to Kolkata.
It sounded like a good plan. In my original plan I would visit the state of Rajasthan after Ed's departure, so I had to figure out a way to get from Kolkata to Rajasthan. Perhaps I would fly after all, but maybe I would skip Rajasthan altogether and stick to eastern India. Heck, perhaps this would even give me a chance to visit Bangladesh. Suddenly I liked my options again.
The flight to Delhi was uneventful. The service and food on Air Astana was quite good and the views from the plane were stunning. We flew right over the western Himalayas, the region which I wouldn't be visiting. Or at least, I told myself it was the western Himalayas. Looking at the map it might just as well have been the Pamirs, the Tien Shan, the Hindu Kush or any other mountain range in the region. I didn't care, I was happy.