Journey Through Eastern Kazakhstan, Part I

Trip Start Mar 13, 2007
Trip End Aug 10, 2007

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Flag of Kazakhstan  , East Kazakhstan,
Friday, June 1, 2007

The trip from Almaty northwards back to the Russian border took us a full five days, mostly through a classic Kazakh steppe landscape of endless rolling grasslands with a few lower ranges of the Tian Shan mountains visible in the distance to the East.  During the first few days we passed through a mostly empty landscape with only a few small impoverished cities and the disintegrating remains of the Soviet empire - abandoned buildings, rusting metal, crumbling concrete, derelict factories and former collective farms.  Some towns like Georgievka seemed almost entirely abandoned, perhaps previously populated by Germans or Russians who've returned to those countries since the fall of Communism.

We stopped for lunch and for cook groups to go marketing in a small city with crumbly Soviet-era concrete buildings named Ayagoz.  The town had a big mosque and an apparently rather religious population with many women in long robes and covered heads and men wearing skullcaps, something we hadn't seen much of yet in Kazakhstan.  We also stopped to watch a traditional Kazakh horse race going on outside of town, quite a wild event with bareback riders doing five laps around grassy track that must have been at least a mile in diameter, a real test of endurance.  Kazakhs had been nomadic horsemen on the steppes before most were forced into sedentary lives on collective farms during the Stalinist era.
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