Three things was wasn’t prepared for when entering Kazakhstan.
- Terrible roads
- Flatness of the landscape
- The ridiculous number of beautiful girls
My first stop in Kazakhstan was a little town called Atyrau. The western part of the country is a major oil and gas producing region so naturally there is a large expat population. It took me about 2 minutes in the first bar to meet a couple of these guys. They had both been living there for 10+ years, married to Kazak women and had great incites into the city. Before we left the first bar they warned me that the next place we were going to was going to be like my high school prom all over again. I laughed and told them I think I can handle it. Fortunately it wasn’t like my high school prom, there were about 30 girls and 3 guys on the dance floor. The ladies were dressed slightly different than the girls at Unity’s prom. Needless to say, I had a good night dancing and meeting the people from Atryua. Before taking off the expats, Mick and Perry, invited me to join them for an “Atyrau Yacht Club” get together the next day.
After sleeping in the next day I headed to the AYC get together and spent the day grilling, boating, knee-boarding, wakeboarding and water skiing. It was tons of fun and something that I never thought I would be doing while in Kazakhstan!
Later that night I was out on the town and met Gulmira. We talked for about 2 minutes and when she found out I was a traveler and not one of the expats, she immediately invited me to her grandmothers house warming party the next day! Haha she was cute so I said yes. The next morning I picked up an extra helmet and motorcycle jacket from my now expat buddies, headed over to pick up Gulmira and we headed about an hour north of Atryua to a small village were her grandmother still lives. One thing you learn if you spend an extended time in Kazakhstan is that they love to eat! There were about 50 people at this house warming party and I heard they had been cooking for the past 3 days to get ready for this. We went in the house, sat down, and ate and ate and ate for the next 5 hours. Sitting on the floor and eating traditional Kazak food with your hands is something I will not forget. I was the guest so they made me and Gulmira sit at the head of the table. It’s also tradition that the guest gives a speech or five while we were all eating. The problem was that Gulmira and myself were the only ones that spoke English! So I would speak and she would translate for everyone. It worked great but was very draining for her I’m sure cause then all the questions that would follow after.
One of the other highlights on my route through Kazakhstan was getting to see a space launch at the Russian base of Baikonur. Cindy had emailed me a couple of days before the launch and said they had a friend(or a friend of a friend) that was actually going to be in the rocket heading up to the International Space Station. Seeing a rocket launch into space was on my list of life goals so it was something I couldn’t miss. Sitting in the middle of the desert at about 3A/M. when the rocket took off was an incredible experience. It lit up the entire sky and then about 20 seconds after the light you started to hear and feel the rumble. As it climbed higher the light started to fade and the bright vibrant stars started to come back. Unfortunately, my pics turned out terrible but I will not forget the images in my head.