Wednesday, 27 May 2015

1600 Miles To Go

What city is 1600 miles away from Atyrau, located in the mountains and a former capital of a CIS country?


That's right folks, I am heading to Almaty next year (barring any unforeseen circumstances)! I am still working with the same school system just in a new, and more exciting location. I have traveled to Almaty twice this year, and absolutely love the city. It has a really nice vibe, especially in the spring, and it is nestled at the food of the Tian-Shen Mountains. It is an eclectic mix of soviet style buildings and modern architecture. 

I can't wait to explore more of it and discover everything that it has to offer! I am so excited to be excited about the city I am living in. Here is to a new chapter! 

It is very close to the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, where my friend Lynelle is living so that will be really nice to have my hiking buddy so close! Two friends from Kuwait will also be moving to Almaty, which is almost like worlds colliding but still really fun! 

Here is to my next adventure!

Did you know? Tulips are native to Kazakhstan!

Downtown Almaty

Church that legend has it, was built with no nails

Green Bazaar 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Thoughts on a Train

There is something so romantic about taking the train; I love to sit and gaze out the window. I love passing the little villages, that still have homes made out of mud and outhouses in the back garden. I romanticize such a simple life. In the hustle and bustle of living in even a small city, I miss the wide open spaces that we can find at home. I miss the smell of grass.  I miss looking at the stars. What must it be like to live for subsistence? In the harsh and unforgiving steppe it must be difficult. How do they do it? Why do they do it? I know many flock towards the cities for work. What about their family at home? Who is living in those huts? What do they do all day? Why do they still have camels? Sometimes I want to give up my material existence and simply live life for the sake of living, maybe not in Kazakhstan. I think that I could do it in Canada or the States, live remotely, off the grid, produce all I need to survive, preferably with a family. As the train rolls on, past miles and miles of empty steppe, my worries seem to fade into the horizon. All the stress of the last weeks of school fade away with the chugging of the engine as I stared out the window. These are just a sample of my thoughts on a train.

Sunset returning to Atyrau

Sunset on the way to Aktobe

Camels on the Steppe

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Weekend in Aktau!

Ever since I found out that I would be moving to Atyrau, well really since I applied to work in Kazakhstan, I have wanted to visit the Caspian Sea. I mistakenly believed that Atyrau was on the sea, well it certainly looks like it is from google maps, when in fact it is about 30kms away from the "sea" which at the northern tip is marshland. Ah well, we finally had a long weekend with warm weather so we made the hour long flight down to Aktau to see the sea.

It was beautiful! The air was that perfect sea salty freshness, with a cool breeze coming off the sea. It is exactly what you'd expect from a Kazakh Seaside town. Wide streets, interesting statues, parks everywhere, a lovely boardwalk along the seaside. Truly truly beautiful. 

Plus there is a lot to do outside of the city! Tons of cool things to see, like mosques built into the caves, canyons, depressions and much more! We went with a tour company, because you are literally driving through the steppe to find these places, I would highly recommend them, their contact information is at the bottom of the page. 

There is also a hot spring! Now, I guarantee that this is unlike any other hot spring that you will experience, just look at the photos to see! But, it is incredibly relaxing, it was nice to see many locals out and about enjoying the spring.

All in all a great weekend!



Sheep's head on the grave of Sultan Ahmed


Mosque built into the Cliff Side

Valley of Stone Balls



Radon Hot Spring

Partner Tour:
If you e-mail in English, I would google translate to Russian for their benefit. However, you will receive a reply in whichever language you send. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Georgia: The Caucasus Mountains

Lynelle and I love the outdoors, so it was an absolute MUST for us to visit the Caucasus Mountains before the end of out trip in Georgia. As I live in the Steppe, I was in desperate need of some time in the mountains with some fresh air and beautiful scenery. I always feel more centered after a good hike.

Master trip-planner that I am, I found a hike that was popular enough to have a marked trail, and information about it online. After that it was a simple matter of finding a Marshuka (shared taxi) to get us out to the mountain town, and head off!

The bus station in Tbilisi is really easy to navigate, there are plenty of people telling you which way to go to find the bus or Marshuka that you need. Unfortunately, we were the only two heading that way, so they sent us in a private taxi instead. The cost difference was about 5 dollars, so neither of us were too bothered. He also stopped at many places a long the way, including a cute little town right in the wine making district.

The trip should have taken about 3 hours to Kazbeji, however we were delayed on top of the mountain for 3 hours due to bad weather conditions, and due to the fact that they only allow one direction of traffic to cross the path at once. Good thing we had Pitch Perfect to entertain ourselves and our driver. We kept ourselves in good spirits and went for a walk in the beautiful falling snow. Eventually we made it through the pass (albeit a few near-death experiences later....our diver was a little bit crazy), and were welcomed with peirogy and tea at our guesthouse, after a long day of exploring and driving we were happy for the warm tea to put us to bed!

We decided to get an early start on our hike to St. Gergeti Trinity Monastary, as we were planning to head back to Tbilisi in the afternoon. We had to hike across town and up the mountain, the total altitude  gain was  2500 m and as far as we could tell it was about 6k round trip (it would have been 12 if we had taken the road). Lynelle and I decided to mountain goat it (take shortcuts straight up the mountain), and made it up and down in about 3 hours. The hike was gorgeous, though a little snowy on the way down, which induced much slipping and sliding on my part as I did not have proper footwear. Two words to solve this problem: bum slide!

It was a beautiful experience and I cam down the mountain feeling much more centered than when I walked up it!

Cows in the Villiage

Caucasus Moutains!