Again today started very early with my plane landing at 0315 in Astana, Kazakhstan. Having filled in a landing card on the plane I only needed to describe my itinerary and where I was staying and I was stamped into Kazakhstan, my 67th country. With no luggage to pick up I went via the information desk to ask about busses and then went outside.
The number 200 bus runs every half hour between 2200 and 0600 so I wasn’t anticipating a long wait. After I had been waiting 10 minutes a middle aged Kazakh man came and sat next to me. First he spoke to me in Kazakh then he spoke English after my reply of ‘sorry I don’t understand’. He proceeded too tell me that he had a cast just round the corner and could take me into Astana. I politely refused as I didn’t want to have to pay a taxi fare. He persisted and said that it wouldn’t cost me anything. Still being very dubious about his intentions I decided I would go with him.
He was called Artym and was a military pilot. His daughter turned 6 yesterday and his wife is a “small child teacher”. He drove me in his Russian, Lada towards Astana whilst we continued to chat then he offered me a cup of tea, not wanting to seem rude to this generous man I said yes. He the turned off the road saying this was where he lived then turned down a dirt track which had no lighting. We went found a corner and I was feeling a little bit of trepidation until he stopped in front of a garage and said it was his. He opened up and made us each a tea which was then topped up twice before we were back on the road. He then took me on a driving flour of his village, showing me where he and his wife lived and also his parents house.
After this hospitable stop he took me on a driving tour of Astana, pointing out all the landmarks in the New City and then we crossed the river into the old city before I reminded him my hostel was in the New City. We made a U-turn and he took me straight there. When he dropped me off at 0615 we shook hands and said goodbye, true to his word he still didn’t want any money. It was such a positive, friendly way to start my time in Kazakhstan.
Knowing I wasn’t allowed to check in until much later I still made use of the WiFi to work out where I was going. Astana’s New City has predominantly been built in the last 10 years and is full of incredible architectural designs which all look impressive and create a unique skyline. My morning walk took me around the main area (about 14km), virtually every building was photo-worthy.
Back at the hostel I did some catching up with friends back home before checking in. It was lunch time so I went looking for food. I had found it strange early on that there were very few restaurant anywhere, there also didn’t seem to be nearly enough people for the number of offices and flats, it seemed as if they had built a city for the future, a city where their population was twice the size it currently is. The only place I found nearby was a burger place which did the job, I had a mushroom risotto with a beer which came to £7.58.
Having managed just 2.5 hours sleep the past 2 nights I was in desperate need of some sleep, I returned to the hostel, showered (again much needed), made my bed and crashed, setting an alarm for 1800. It wasn’t the best nights sleep ever but it doubled the amount I had had recently.
Although in had booked a hostel ($5 for the night) I wasn’t actually staying there. Instead I had booked an over night train to Almaty, the old capital city, in the south of the country. I used the WiFi for the last time in 17 hours and then caught the No. 37 bus to the train station, half an hour later I was there. Knowing I would need food to have for dinner and breakfast I bought 3 pasties, they were filled with potatoes and a meagre smattering of meat. Still they tasted good and I know I had burnt off the calories that day by walking. I also bought a bottle of peach juice for some vitamins as my diet so far had been somewhat lacking.