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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ereymentau Trip

We finally got to leave Astana today!  Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with Astana, but there are only so many shopping mall trips you can make.  Plus, we live on a dusty construction site that isn't even near those.

We signed up for a day trip to Ereymentau, which was about 2 hours northeast of Astana.  We headed out relatively early in the morning, and stopped at a small restaurant near Buyratau National Park.  The food was great, and Scott and I were talking later about how it wouldn't have been out of place in a trendy breakfast restaurant in the US.  We had fried eggs sprinkled with scallions and parsley, sausage, some sort of interesting pickled cabbage, and blinis with jam and clotted cream on the side.  The trip over also gave me a chance to reflect how uneven development is in this country.  The roads outside of the capital were in very bad repair.  Also, the restroom at the restaurant where we ate was literally a hole in the ground in a small shed outside.  Not an outhouse (where one might sit down), and not a  Middle Eastern style toilet (where the pit is in the floor, but accompanied by plumbing), but an actual pit in the dirt.

On today's trip, we saw ancient burial mounds, ancient Turkic worship statues called "balbal", Zhalshoky Mountain, and various animals.  We saw lots of steppe marmots.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture of any of them.  I saw all of them from our minibus, but could never find any when I was out walking around.

After hiking and seeing archaeological remains, we had a picnic lunch.  A Kazakhstani family was picnicking near us, and invited us over for tea.  They had been drinking kumis, and were cheerful and friendly.  Maybe a little too friendly (or at least a little too physical) with some of us, but it was still a good time.

All in all, we wish we could do something like this every week or two.  It was good to get far away from work and see something completely different.


Flock of geese near the park

Hiking to Zhalshoky Mountain

Rock formations

More rock formations

Flowers on the mountain

Some sort of lichen?

More rock formations

Balbal and burial mound

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