In Aralsk, the husband and I had a heart to heart talk. Kazakhstan has been one bust after another and our next destination was 24 hours away by car. To date, in the past 11 years, we have traveled extensively via road through: the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, small parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Croatia, San Marino, Belgium, Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Benin, Uzbekistan, China, and now a pretty good portion of Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan was the best holiday I can remember having in years, Kazakhstan has just been getting worse and worse by the day. I was feeling a bit bummed about everything ending going home until today one final thing happened that just made me say fuck the rest of this trip. The rest of my travel in this country will be by air, directly there and directly back. At least, that’s what I say now. Let’s see what I say next June.
You have to pay to use toilets here. I have no problem with that. Toilet paper and maintenance costs money. No big deal, but the sign said 50 tenge. The kid paid with 500 tenge and the lady didn’t give her any change. Now… in the big picture… should I really be angry she swindled us out of a dollar? No, I shouldn’t be mad… but it’s the principle of it. It’s “just a dollar” to me, but to her? she stole 450 freakin’ tenge from us and thought she was going to get away with it. Nope. Husband went storming over and demanded our change. It just sums up how everything seems to be going for us these past 72 hours. I’m ready to go home.
So, from Arlask 2 days ago, instead of continuing our journey west, we turned the car east and started heading home. I’m writing you now from back in Turkistan. But this time we chose a fancy hotel. We’re staying in our first, and only, 5 star hotel of the trip. it’s still affordable, $80 a night. Most of the hotels we’ve been staying in the whole time have been really nice places and have been $15-20 a night. We’ve scoffed when we’ve had to pay any more than $30, but I know for most of you the idea of staying in a 5 star hotel for $80 a night is unheard of, and if really is a 5 star hotel. It’s a nice place.
And they have a very strange idea of what an Irish pub is. The name of the bar here in the hotel is Irish Pub but it’s the most opposite of an Irish pub as I can imagine.
Oh! remember a few days ago when I complained we tried to find an old fortress called Sauran and wound up in a rural village? We found it!!!! And we found out why we couldn’t find it before. There is a rural village called Sauran and there is also an old fort called Sauran. Someone has put pictures of the old fortress AND LABLED the village as the fortress in Google Maps. I’m sure it’s an innocent mistake, but once again, Google will not accept my edit because they tell me: cannot verify. In addition, the only access to the fortress from the highway is from the eastbound road, so we couldn’t have gotten there the other day even if we had known where the correct location was. It was super cool! We were really happy to have found it and also really happy to have Donkey because we did some off roading to get out to see some of the walls.
We’ve spend almost a full 48 hours just chillin’ in the hotel. We drove 11.5 hours straight to get here and we’ll drive 12 hours to get home tomorrow. We did take one field trip today. We drove an hour away to see another archeological site. This one is called Otrartobe. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and they’re in the process of rebuilding it. There were workers on site and it was neat to see them. We also saw what appeared to be broken ancient pots lined up on a wall. I’m guessing they had dug them up while working.
While we were driving out there we saw the biggest dust devil I’ve ever seen in my life. It was scary. I lived in New Mexico through most of my twenties, I know desert, this dust devil was scary. I even looked up some stats. People have died from dirt devils, roofs have been ripped off, and more. It’s not common, but it happens. This one scared me. So, of course I told the husband to pull over so I could take a picture. It doesn’t look quite so scary in the photo, but believe me, it was moving fast and it was big. For size perspective, that small animal in the photo is a camel.