Road Trip to Turkestan...

Trip Start Apr 26, 2012
Trip End Oct 31, 2012

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Flag of Kazakhstan  , Ongtüstik Qazaqstan,
Thursday, July 5, 2012

We probably didn't get up quite as early as we thought we would, so by the time we had breakfast it was already getting pretty warm. We checked with reception that it was the same local bus mentioned in the Lonely Planet to get to the bus station. That part of the journey was easy as the bus station is right by a very busy bazaar.

We wandered through the bus station deciphering the Cyrillic on the signs until we found one with the equivalent of Turkistan written on the front. By now it was 10am and it was getting very warm. The guys shooed us off to buy a ticket from an office up the back and Tim braved the line to do the purchase. 400 KZT each ($2.70) and we even had seat numbers. The only problem…it didn’t leave for another hour. Oh well, get some cold water, find a shady spot and wait.

We crowded onto the bus with all the other passengers at about 10 to. It was quickly obvious there was no aircon. Lucky for us there was a skylight thingy just above our seats. Hopefully we would get a breeze going once we started.

The road out of town was a disaster area. Most of it was torn up and we had a multitude of detours to negotiate. The heat in the bus rose rapidly as the day wore on. We didn’t have enough speed up to get a breeze going and as usual there is always room to pack more people into the aisles. That in conjunction with the bumps and turns soon had my gutz doing backflips. I barely had the co-ordination to pull out my new friend "Smecta", mix it in some water and slowly sip it to quell the urges. Thankfully within half an hour all was under control again….Looooovvvvveeeee SMECTA!

We finally made it in to Turkistan at about 2pm and got dropped not far from the Yasaui Masouleum. Built in the 14th century, it’s the largest and most important pilgrimage site in Kazakhstan and resting place of the first great Turkic Muslim Holy Man…Kozha Akhmed Yasaui.

Unfortunately quite a bit of the building was covered in scaffolding which didn’t make for great photos. The outside was quite impressive, tall mud brick walls topped by blue dome. The interior was somewhat less so. Under renovation the walls were stark white and the interior was full of scaffolding. A number of rooms surrounded main chamber, many of which were closed off. Some contained small artifacts but on the whole the overall significance was lost on me. I guess it was one time when a guide would have been handy but I’m pretty sure there was a lot of stuff missing because of the reno’s.

Outside the sun baked down, not a cloud in the sky. We headed of down a side road in an attempt to find the museum which we had heard was quite good. In a fairly new building it wasn't bad with a very comprehensive history of the area, over three floors, covering everything from BC Turkistan through to the modern day. Some of the exhibits were subtitled in English but even the ones that weren’t were generally obvious enough to know the gist of what they were about.

That sorted it was about 3.30pm. Time to find transport back. That consisted of a short taxi ride (200KT) to the Mashruskas (800) and then a 2.5 hr ride back through the back roads to avoid all the road works. Back at the bus station we jumped on another local bus and by 6.30om we were sat up at a restaurant having Turkish Pide and icy cold coke.

Was it worth it…Hmmmm. We can tick it off and can say we have experienced most of the forms of public transport available in Kazakhstan. So that taken into account I guess it was. The tomb itself was OK but I’m sure it will be far more spectacular once the renovations are finished (In 2013 apparently).
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