On the Caspian Shore

Our first half-day in Aktau.

The Caspian shore in Aktau.

Although we would be spending some 5 nights (four days) in the greater Aktau area, our first stint in the city was rather short, just long enough to catch up on some emails and see the coast, before we headed onwards for our next adventure. First stop: obviously coffee.

And of course, the coast. En route, we stopped to pay our respects to a friend:

Oh, Taras, I believe you might actually be everywhere. Aktau, for the record, was called Shevchenko in the Soviet period. The airport still bears his name.

Of course, I like this picture better…

On the route down to the coast:

Victory Day — 9th of May! Traces of another past.

And the coast. Proof of sticking my feet into the sea.

Definitely approve. There was even a yurt-like structure!

Lest you forget we were in Central Asia. Also, clearly a wedding day.

And the requisite self-portrait.

We stopped into a bar for some, ahem, refreshments. Though the promised shashlyk we ordered never came, with an apology, 20 minutes after we had ordered, that they wouldn’t be able to put them on the gril for another 25. So, beers downed, we headed onwards, back to the place we were staying to make our arrangements for our return and grab a quick meal before catching a cab on to Zhana-Ozen.

Zhana-Ozen was not really our destination, but rather a take-off point for rather the coolest part of our trip, to be covered next. Zhana-Ozen, where we arrived as it was getting dark, was a sort of oddly desserted place, perhaps best known as the infamous location for a deadly strike in May 2011, crushed by the government. Things have calmed down there, luckily — though the trial had only recently taken place (I did double-check that it would be over before we were going to be there). After attempting to find food near where we were staying, by the bazaar, we ultimately hopped in a $1 cab to a restaurant recommended to us by a woman working at another. It was here that we knocked off item number two on Maki’s Kazakhstan-culinary checklist. Hello, camel’s milk.

We would have a better version of it later, but rest assured, shubat is not so bad. I actually rather like it, honestly. Like a thick but drinkable yogurt, but a little tarter and stronger. Anyway, we flagged another car back to our place, and our driver was one of the friendliest we had had to date. After learning we were foreigners who could communicate with him in both Russian and Kazakh, he noted that foreigners who came there (Zhano-Ozen is the command-point for some extremely large oil-fields, so there are some) had little interest in local society or culture. And when he took us back to our place, he insisted I take his phone number so we could call him if we had any trouble or wanted to see more of Zhana-Ozen. Icing on the cake, he absolutely and utterly refused to take the 150 tenge ($1) he had initially asked for. Though we tried to insist, he generously insisted that for “foreigners like us” it was absolutely his pleasure. And thus, we settled in for an early night, as we would be leaving bright and early the next morning.

Our dingy but adequate accommodations as we were headed out to catch our cab onwards at 6 am.

Up next? The pilgrimage to Beket-Ata, a holy site out in the bizarre, alien deserts of Mangistau. Please get excited.



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